The Future of Journalism:
Challenges and Opportunities
By JOHAN JAAFFAR
School of Multimedia Technology and Communication (SMMTC)
Universiti Utara Malaysia
16th May 2016
How things have changed.
It has been nothing short of a cataclysmic change, one that has defined the entire media industry; in doing so, the world of journalism.
The Internet has changed everything, redefining the vocation of people like me and of many of my colleagues – forever.
And perhaps even changing the prospect of your desire to join the fraternity of journalists in future.
The film, All The President’s Men, was made in 1976 based on the book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The two reporters tenaciously investigated what seemed to be a “third-rate burglary” at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters at the Watergate office complex to expose a conspiracy of the highest order in the White House.
The reporters proved the involvement of very senior officers at the White House in covering up spying activities on the Democrats.
President Richard M. Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, took responsibility and resigned on 9 August 1974, the first American president to do so.
Investigative reporting has a new face.
The scandal – “Watergate” as we know it – became part of contemporary lexicon in politics and the media.
Watergate rewrote the rules of journalism, in fact, the rules of engagement between the establishment (read: those in power) and journalists.
More importantly, Watergate showed the profound influence of the Free Press.
If the media could bring down the most powerful man on Planet Earth, imagine what it could do to other politicians, corporate and other public figures.
Be afraid, be very, very afraid of the Press.
The myth of the powerful Fourth Estate was solidified.
The Fourth Estate or Fourth Power is a force to be reckoned with. It is a societal or political force that is “outside” the so-called official construct or establishment. It is referred to as the media or the press.
The term was made famous by Thomas Carlyle who, in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship,mentioned the term initiated by one Edmund Burke back in the 18th Century.
According to Burke, there were three estates in Parliament, but the fourth one were those at the gallery, who were reporting the goings-on in the British Parliament. The other estates were the Lords Spiritual (the bishops representing the Church of England), the Lords Temporal (circular members of the House of Lords) and the Commons (the “Others”, the ordinary people).
Among the French, the three estates were the Clergy, the Nobility and the Commoners.
Even in 1787 the power of the press had been acknowledged.
When the burglars were caught at the Watergate Complex on 17 June 1972, I was in Lower Six at Muar High School. When Nixon resigned in 1974, I was in my first year at the University of Malaya. When the film came out in 1976, I was in my third year.
I never aspired to be in media or to become a journalist. I was a writer, a dramatist and an actor. I was aiming to work at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) to join the glittery world of language and literature. Watergate changed me forever. I spent most of my years at DBP in its magazine division carving a name in “journalism”.
In 1992, I was parachuted into Utusan Melayu as the Chief Editor. I was an accidental journalist, one can say. But journalism enthralled me, inspired me and started a new career path for me, one that I never dreamt of.
By the grace of Allah, I became the Chairman of the largest media company in the country – Media Prima Berhad (MPB)– for six years until my resignation last August. MPB, as you know it, has TV and radio stations, is involved in outdoor advertising, and owns the New Straits Times Group, which publishes the New Straits Times (the newspaper published some 170 years ago), Berita Harian and Harian Metro. It has a very strong online presence and a hugely popular video portal that has more than 4.5 million registered viewers.
The newsroom of Washington Post in the movie was that in the 1970s. Since the filmmakers were not allowed to shoot in the actual newsroom, they created their own. According to Wikipedia, “the filmmakers went to great lengths for accuracy and authenticity, including making replicas of phone books that were no longer in existence. Nearly 200 desks at $500 apiece were purchased from the same firm that sold desks to the Post in 1971.” Even boxes of thrash from the Post were gathered and transported to sets, recreating the newsroom on two sound stages where the movie was shot.
That was then.
Now we have a modern newsroom.
The young reporters in the movie were using typewriters. News-gathering was a tedious process. Just like the reporters in the movie, we rushed to scenes, took notes in our notebook (scribbling furiously actually), rushed to the nearest phone-booth if it was a news-breaking event, queued in long lines, filed the story and hoped that the grumpy news editor on the other end got it right. It was tough, even stressful.
But journalists are made of these – tough individuals who believe in getting the news straight to you. We report. We face consequences for our reporting. We annoy people. People hate us, some people though. We are ridiculed, shouted at, even spat on. But we are reporters and journalists. People’s angst is only part of the day job. It is its occupational hazard.
I was threatened with bodily harm by some people. I got bullets as Chief Editor. My reputation was smeared, I was bad-mouthed. And as the Chairman of Media Prima, I took responsibility for every reporting on our TV and radio or in the print media within the Group. I was accountable for every report published or aired in our platforms. I took the bullet.
But I was undeterred. So too were my colleagues.
And journalists get killed doing their job as well. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, since 1992, 861 journalists have been killed in action, most of them in Iraq. Would that deter them? Nope. War zones are dangerous but it can also be addictive to journalists. They are, after all, notorious risk-takers.
When my colleagues, Wan Omar Ahmed and Mohd Ali Zakaria of Dewan Masyarakat, and I stepped foot in the Kunar province of Afghanistan in the Spring of 1989, we were fortunate to be the guests of Hisbi-Islami, the most organised of the Mujahiddin groups, led by the Gulbuddin Hekmateyar.
We visited their Jihad University, where they trained young commanders for wars while preparing them for the future with proper education. We were shown carnage caused by Russian bombs, the types of guns used, even familiarised ourselves with the sounds of mortars and gunshots.
An American-made M16 rifle, which fired 5.56x45 cartridges in a 550-metre point range, could pierce through most military vests. They showed us how landmines worked, especially the notoriously dangerous “Bouncing Betty” types that would bounce up to your waist and cut you into pieces with its shrapnel.
Even that did not prepare us for the real thing. Mortars lobbed by both sides were ear-splitting as well as bone- and morale-shakers. You wouldn’t know that a bullet had hit you until you felt the numbness,that is, if you survived at all.
The Kunar province was littered with landmines, even to respond to the call of nature would be a dangerous thing. That was why Sher Mohamad was our saviour.
He was a 14-year-old boy who carried a Russian-made Kalashnikov everywhere. He would be walking ahead of us while his friends cheered him on.
Wear a vest? Snipers would love that. In fact, we were forbidden from even wearing our glasses. Afghans don’t wear glasses. We donned the salwar karmeez and put on the pakol (Afghan cap) and tried very much to look like them. If we did not, we would be easy target for snipers. They loved foreigners. And journalists were targeted to hone their shooting skills.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, when we were there with the then Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohamad, the “snipers alley” in Sarajevo was still “unsecured.” Tun Mahathir was perhaps the first head of state to visit Sarajevo after the war. Buildings were in ruins and the hotel we stayed in was testimony of the carnage. My room was next to a big hole, the result of mortar fire from across the hills. The windows had a few bullet holes, directly aimed at the bed I slept on. I felt safer sleeping on the floor for the days I was there.
People of my generation went through that.
If any of us died, so be it. No regrets.
For we believe we have a role to play. We believe, first and foremost, in our responsibilities as journalists during times of crisis as well as peace. We believe in the role of the media. We don’t shy away from our responsibility to ensure the check and balance. We provide that voice for the people. We are truly the Fourth Estate.
Back in 1979, I was attending a seminar on book publishing in New Delhi when a young Indian technocrat spoke about the future of “talking computers.” He was stopped short by his boss, a politician, who believed he was watching too many science fiction movies.
In 1982, I was the proud owner of a Commodore 64, probably the hottest personal computer in the world at that time. It had, as the name suggests, a 64-bit memory.
But that was then. When I joined Utusan Melayu in 1992, computerisation in the newsroom was just beginning. We had discarded our typewriters for desktop computers. We were not using carbon copies any more to type our stories, sending out copies for news editors or editors to go through, and later painstakingly retyping the corrected pieces, using four layers of carbon copies.
But,unfortunately,it was a “half-system” – grossly incomplete, notoriously inadequate. The printing process had yet to be computerised. We still needed galley proofs, sub-editors were still rushing to do the layout manually before it was made into plate and sent to the printing complex. Newspaper production back then was labour-intensive. Technology in the newsroom was still in its infancy.
My first “mobile phone” was fixed to my car. When the office called, the horn started blaring, indicating I was wanted. My real handphone came many years later. Information technology was still finding its face. The Internet was still a muddy, uncertain, unpredictable river of information.
How things have changed.
When I was the Chief Editor in 1992, social media was eons away. Short-messaging-service (SMS) was a decade away. WhatsApp was two decades away. Twitter, FB, Instagram were as alien a concept as landing on Venus.
We are living in a different world today.
Our vocation is being challenged as never before.
It is a wake-up call for those in the media and those who aspire to join the media fraternity. But, more importantly, for journalism school and related disciplines.
I am here not to alarm you but to remind you of the REALITIES of today’s world. To talk about the world of journalism – the challenges and the opportunities. I am basically an optimistic person and I can assure you that I am always brimming with enthusiasm when I speak about the world of journalism. My exuberance, if you like, is irrational on the matter.
But I want to be realistic.
Let me say this, the world of the media is changing. Perhaps not for the worst.
We are not living in the world of Mudhalvan.
I always use this movie as an example of the era of romancing journalism, the era when journalists could do no wrong. In fact, they were revered.
The film directed by S. Shankar is about a TV journalist, Pughazhendi (played by Arjun), who while interviewing the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (Raghuvan) was challenged by the minister to take his post for one day, since Pughazhendi was asking tough questions.
To cut the story short, in one day, this journalist did a remarkable job, thus changing the state for the better.
Can a journo do that? Verisimilitude aside, this is an interesting movie indeed.
Can journalists walk the walk and talk the talk? They write about wrong-doings, scandals, failures and other people’s mistakes. Would they commit the same wrongs, if given a chance?
Imagine the sacrifices made by journalists of my generation. They endured harassments, even incarceration. The late Pak Said Zahari lingered in jail under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) for 17 long years. He was the editor of Utusan Melayu in 1961. He, among others, masterminded the Mogok Utusan Melayu in that year, believing that Utusan Melayu must not in any way be controlled by any political party.
The late Said Zahari paid a hefty price for his principles but he had no regrets for what he did and never wavered from the belief that journalistic independence is paramount for any democracy.
You think that being an editor is part of the glamorous world of journalism? Think again. I famously lost my job in 1998. Tan Sri Zaunuddin Maidin, my predecessor, was fired in 1992; so too Tan Sri Mazlan Nordin, Tan Sri Melan Abdullah and Said Zahari. Again, it is an occupational hazard.
Do we have any regrets? I can’t speak on behalf of my fellow editors who were fired or even incarcerated in jails, but the answer is an unequivocal NO.
We are an unrepentant lot, as you can see.
But that was then. The world of the media has undergone massive transformation. It is almost a world beyond the recognition of the journos of my generation. And the change is just beginning. The world of the media, as we see it, will be changing more drastically in the future.
We agree that the Internet has changed how things get done. It has changed how governments run their business, how societies interact, how we communicate, how businesses are conducted, and how entertainment is being presented. We know the Internet has made possible what we think happens only in science fiction. Back then, Marshal McLuhan was talking about a “global village”. He was not only right but his notion today has taken a different dimension. We are not just talking about a border-less world but a world unbelievably connected.
The digital realm is a revolution unlike any other in the history of mankind. It is redefining humanity. It is not just a conceptual realm, it is a cluster bomb blowing apart, changing everything in its wake. We are inexplicably part of that, whether we like it or not. We are part of the new dynamics. It transcends race, borders, even age. It is changing us as never before.
No one knows what the future holds. Seriously.
This is one area in which today’s experts become irrelevant tomorrow. You don’t know too much now but tomorrow, whatever knowledge you have becomes obsolete.
Take the case of the trailer of the movie you just saw. When Woodward and Bernstein were looking for paper clippings for reference, they requested from a librarian. They went to the Library of Congress to get information. They did research manually, shifting through piles of documents.
Today, Wikipedia is the ultimate reference. What you need is just a finger away. Have finger, will get knowledge these days. Even libraries have become redundant. Who needs to go to the snake temple to get information? Informasi kini di hujung jari.
What the future promises is something that will set the destiny of our vocation. Aspiring journalists and students of journalism must understand the new dynamics of the world of media.
It is not what you envisioned anymore.
It is no more the world of All The President’s Men or Mudhalvan.
Neither is it the world that I used to work in together with my colleagues.
So, it is not business as usual.
The Internet and the digital realm are both a boon and bane for journalists. It is changing the way we do things. It is changing the way we work.
It was Justin Timberlake who kept me thinking hard about social networking. Yes, that Timberlake – songwriter, singer and actor. It was the character, Sean Parker, that he played in the 2010 movie,The Social Network, who pricked my consciousness about how addicted I am to social media. The fictionalised version of the President of Facebook famously said, “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we are going to live on the Internet.”
The movie about the drama, intrigue and betrayal involving Facebook’s founders was anything but astonishing. The tagline for the movie: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”
Today the number of Facebook users is a staggering 1.3 billion, or equivalent to the population of China. Every single day in June 2014, there was an average of 829 million users in the world. There are 645 million registered Twitter users today and another 500 million WhatsApp users worldwide.
And many have all three accounts.
The Internet is now home. Social media is where we live now. We are not defining the way we communicate. The Internet and social media are redefining us. The online social revolution is changing the world and us. The dynamics of communication is undergoing massive transformation, so too how we live in today’s world.
But are we more informed? Are we more enlightened? Or are we a lot friendlier to start with? The debate will rage on. Detractors are finding fault with social media. “Ban them!” some would argue. Supporters believe it is the greatest creation by mankind after the invention of the wheel. We are inundated by facts and figures by the billions – information that is, in fact, choking us. The Internet is the river of knowledge as well as trash.
We are fast becoming a society unsure of what to do with the loads of information that descends upon us every second. We become the “Forward Generation”, not in our forward thinking but for the penchant to “forward” everything we receive, even if we disagree with them. Trash begets trash. This is a world where nothing is sacred nor sacrosanct. Everything goes. It is a lawless world.
Are we really “sharing” what we should? Or is it true that, despite our connectivity, we are becoming lonelier than ever? Is there such a thing as the politics of privacy or has privacy gone with the wind? Is no secret secretive enough to remain a secret, as in the case of the Wiki leak phenomenon?Is the age of privacy over?
We need better understanding of the brave yet frightening new world that we are embarking into. The maturing of society took a long winding road back then. Now, we are being painfully reminded of the overload of information to inform, educate and entertain us. We are simply forced to mature. Societies are in disarray, social norms are things of the past, even children are dazzlingly embracing everything online. What kind of society are we expecting in the future?
The social media revolution is here to stay. We are being coerced and seduced to embrace it. The argument is, we can’t stop it. It is with us. The young are using it. We need to embrace social media to reach out to them. And one simply can’t fight the digital tsunami.
I am not just talking about the print media but the electronic media too.
YouTube is The Thing. It is a domain that warrants attention. It is a vehicle of mass usage and of massive influence. Ignore it at your own peril.
Back in the 1960s, TV was BIG. TV was IT. But even now, TV in its traditional format is under threat. TV the medium is being challenged as a domain for news, entertainment and information.
What is happening OUT THERE is beyond our imagination. Yet, we simply can’t ignore it.
Information is free-flowing these days. No one has a monopoly on news. Back then, a helicopter crash near Sibuyan in Sarawak would only appear on TV the next day, probably 15 hours after it happened. Or you watched it on TV3’s Buletin Utama in the evening at 8.00pm. Or on 24-hour Astro Awani’s news channel a few hours later. Or perhaps on CNN, BBC or Al Jazeera as breaking news.
But information is no more rigid. You get news real-time. You get it via WhatsApp. Or Twitter. It was unsettling at first. What you get on social media is not usually the truth, but news you get. It has a life of its own. The term is, it goes VIRAL. One guy says it has been found. The chatting gets furious from then on. Official acknowledgement usually comes in very late. Citizens are making reports. Even the search and rescue personnel contribute by sending photos via smartphones of debris or victims found.
An accident somewhere in Sintok will be viral in no time. Someone takes a picture and posts it online.
Four days ago there was a massive flood in some parts of Kuala Lumpur. Within minutes the social media was full of images of the flood.
Citizen journalism is shaping the world of news. Everyone is a journo now. It is what they call participatory journalism or public journalism. Cortney C. Radsch defines it as “an alternative and activist form of news gathering and reporting that functions outside mainstream media institutions, often as response to shortcomings in the professional journalistic field…” In short, it is about people who were formerly the “audience” employing press tools to inform others.
Who needs mainstream media then?
Digital news is making its impact, not by professionals but by PEOPLE,ordinary people, citizens updating, improving-upon, changing, moving and developing the story by the minute, if not second. It is an ongoing conversation among people. Everyone is involved. It is a collaboration amongst total strangers. It is a living thing, evolving, without limit, without a time frame.
Say goodbye to the solid, conventional format that we are used to. The traditional print media is hours away from “real-time” now. Real-time reporting is now real.
For hundreds of years, information and knowledge as we knew it were contained, controlled and pigeon-boxed into formats that we were used too. Not anymore. We have come full cycle. The post-print media is now a world that reminds us of the era of oral literature – based on gossips, rumours and conversations – but the medium is now the social media.
Thomas Pettitt, who came out with the concept of the “Guttenberg Parenthesis”, said, “The new world is in some ways the old world, the world before print.”
This is the environment that we are working in. The world that you have chosen perhaps as your career.
What does the free-flowing world mean to us? We have to make an assessment of what is going on in the world of today’s journalism. We must be asking tough questions on the position of journalists in such a world.
In short, we have to adapt.
Change or be changed.
Adapt or you become irrelevant.
We have seen all around us how the digital revolution is taking its toll on conventional media.
Everyone is fearful of the future of print media especially. Print is dying. The naysayers are saying that the demise of newspapers is inevitable.
The newspaper has become an expensive product to keep. And even more expensive to love.
Who needs newspapers when you can scroll thorough Twitter feed, WhatsApp, FB or Instagram for the day’s news? News comes from many sources. And news is free, above all.
We are living in real-time now. The “public sphere” as we know it is taking a new form. Personal web is taking news dispensing to a new level.
The last two decades have been a depressing time for newspapers. Many newspaper companies have floundered, some spectacularly. They are losing readership and advertisements – without advertisements, a newspaper is as good as dead.
We are seeing the collapse of the old newspaper business model.
Some say the demise of newspapers is grossly exaggerated.
But perhaps newspapermen have been taking newspapers for granted. We take it as part of our daily life. Nothing can go wrong. In the case of Malaya, we saw the publication of Jawi Peranakan back in 1876, believed to be the first newspaper in the land. The history of Malay periodicals has a lot to do with Malay consciousness and nationalism.
Utusan Melayu, a newspaper published in 1939 in Singapore, labelled “Suara Keramat” for the Malays, was a force to be reckoned with. In an era of linguistic-nationalism,Malay periodicals were assertive, bold and critical. The New Straits Times has a 170-year history chronicling many decades of turmoil, successes and failures, from the time of colonial rule to that of a fledgling independent nation until today.
Perhaps we believe newspapers are a part of us. It was a business that made money, lots of money, enriching media companies and catapulting them to become darlings of investors and speculators at the bourse.
It has played a critical role in nation-building, but more so as a check and balance, to be our eyes and ears, to speak on our behalf, in fact, our civic alarm systems.
But then the Internet came and many newspaper companies are facing a mortal threat.
All newspaper sales were down by up to 25 per cent in 2008, and the numbers are not improving.
Going online is not a solution apparently. The Net is perceived as a free medium. To monetise an online newspaper is a challenge. Online newspapers are struggling to make money. And for most newspapers, the dilemma to go strong online has the danger of cannibalising their existing traditional readership. It is a Catch-22 situation for them.
There are even newspapers that have eliminated the print-run entirely.
Back then, there were more than 50 major media companies. During the greedy era of acquisition and mergers of the 1990s, there were 50. Today, very few of these mammoths can survive unless they diversify.
Should we care?
Yes, we should.
“The digital age has given us many more tools to create journalism than we had in the 20th Century,” intoned Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.
Easier said than done.
The truth is that the proliferation of technology and devices is not only challenging the newsroom but disrupting our profession!
But then, there were bright spots to be learned, some areas that warranted positive vibes in the industry. The story of transformation at Financial Times is one with perhaps a happy ending. The FT is a global business newspaper based in London. It is a 127-year-old publication. It is one of the first publications to embrace the advent of the Internet. Currently it has more than 750,000 paying readers, of whom two-thirds are digital subscribers.
Recently it was sold to Nikkei, a Japanese media company for a staggering $1.3 billion (RM5.4 billion). There must be a reason for Nikkei to acquire FT.
For one, the business model adopted by FT must have been the right one. Perhaps its audience is niched and they can afford it. When FT pioneered “metered paywall”, it was a bold move.
Other publications unashamedly copied it. But FT has since abandoned the metered paywall, which they believe is not beneficial to the newspaper and readers alike. Instead of giving free access on a free trial run, FT is charging a nominal sum for an agreed trial period. The whole idea is to “create a habit” but with responsibility.
FT is accessible from desktops, tablets and smartphones. And it is alive.
There is something to be learned from the FT saga.
- What is given free is normally not appreciated.
- A nominal sum is a marker of “seriousness” to try.
- Customer engagement is critical,thus the setting up of a audience-engagement team.
- Content is king. Content matters.
- Tailor-made for discerning subscribers – “Fast FT” is created as a news-and-commentary service for those on the run.
The way I see it, all is not lost, despite the threats. But media companies must make amends. Understand this:
- We are no longer the all-seeing, all-knowing journalists.
- The audience matters more now than ever before.
- We need engagement, not just delivering words for a passive audience.
- The Open Web is allowing the democratisation of knowledge and information.
- Your readers are not stupid. Perhaps they know more than you.
- You are exposing yourself to be scrutinised by an informed audience.
- Call outs matter – you must sell your stories for you are competing with a thousand others for attention.
- Curation matters, not just the material.
- Be part of the Web-Ecosystem. In short, embrace it.
When I met a group of UUM lecturers recently at my house in Petaling Jaya, I told them of the need to look at:
- The economics of media
- Redesigning the curriculum.
More often than not, students are not aware of the economics side of the vocation. To them, it is all about getting employed and working. Even if they opted to work elsewhere, the economics of their vocation is never in their agenda. It matters little to them the real cost of publishing a newspaper or producing a news item on TV. They assume the account department should worry about that.
I have always argued a case for entrepreneurship in journalism.
Under present sentiment and challenges, the economics side of the equation must be understood by media practitioners. I made the same mistake too when I joined the magazine division of DBP. It mattered little to me because the money was always there. But as Chief Editor of Utusan Melayu, I was concerned about cost, about wastage, about KPIs, about revenues and profit and loss.
As Chairman of Media Prima Bhd for six years, I had to answer not only to my board but also to shareholders and stakeholders.
That needs another lecture at another time.
The part about rethinking the curriculum is critical for the faculty and students.
Having heard the horror stories about the media and journalism so far, it is advisable to look at the entire orientation of journalism school. We have to accept the fact that journalism schools are pressured to adapt to the changing landscape. It cannot be business as usual. Students must be taught about the new realities out there.
The business aspect of journalism is one thing, but it is more about how journalism is taught in journalism schools. Perhaps it is a good time to re-look at how students must treat these new realities. It is no longer the old traditional concept of news-gathering and disseminating but more about focusing on the Internet as the medium.
Students must be taught new skills in reporting, writing, editing and producing stories across platforms. Digital journalism skills are critical for students today.
I am a believer in “backpack journalism”, where a journo can operate individually rather than as a team. Who need five people if one person can do everything. After all, there are tools that can help them to operate as a single unit. We are entering a realm of story-telling in journalism.
The Columbia University School of Journalism in the US has revamped its curriculum to embrace technology. According to its website, the walls that once separated students pursuing careers in print, TV and radio journalism are blurring. Students must be exposed to multi-skills needed in a modern newsroom.
There is also a demand to update equipment in their faculties to reflect the reality of news-gathering and news-processing out there. What is needed is the concept of convergent journalism to incorporate multiple-media platforms in news-reporting and processing.
But equally important is the mindset of educators, teachers and lecturers in dealing with the new world of journalism.
I have largely discussed the challenges and opportunities for journalism in the future. A pessimist I am not. I am a believer that, despite the challenges, the future is still bright for journalism. It is the business model that needs to be addressed. But good-old-journalism, as we know it, is intact; in fact, strengthened.
I believe in shaping new journalism, in redefining what we do and should be doing. People of my generation have gone through nothing less than a revolutionary change in the way we do business.
I certainly would encourage students to ask real questions pertaining to our vocation. Something like: What’s Next in Journalism.
We live in a very exciting but scary transformational shift in journalism. Every one is a journalist now, not unlike everyone can fly. New sectors are emerging beyond the traditional set-up that we know.
Reading Nicco Mele’s book,The End of Big: How the Digital Revolution Makes David the New Goliath, gives me the jitters. It is as thought-provoking as it is scary. We will never look at technological advancement the same way again. This is a book that has changed our perception of how we use technology. Mele is asking if it is now the end of “Big.” He makes very compelling arguments on how our new-found connectivity is affecting the media, governments and politics, but more so businesses.
But it is his argument on “the thumb-drive is mightier than the sword” that warrants attention. Mele wants us to think hard on how radical connectivity is pushing power to individuals and away from established institutions at an alarming pace. Yes, there are promises and hope. He admits he wrote the book with a dark view of the future. He sees trends that are both powerful and dangerous and many among current leaders are oblivious to them. But he believes that the power technology has given us can create something new, something different.
We must heed his warning about not allowing us to be cowered by technology but to embrace it to build a better future.
Perhaps that is where the future of journalism lies – in real connectivity now. In people. In the audience. It is about engagement now. No more about what we believe what the readers, listeners or viewers want but what they REALLY want.
I believe it is about putting people at the heart of everything.
I agree we are privileged to see the transformation right in front of our eyes. We are redefining journalism in our own way.
The future, the way I look at it, is unpredictable, scary but exciting. The very least we can do is be part of the whole new meta-narrative we label as journalism.