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Society - Written by on Friday, November 27, 2009 14:07 - 6 Comments

Gautam Lamba
Journalism coming full circle?

When talking about the impact of Web 2.0 on the newsmedia and journalism, there is a tendency to view blogs, search engines, wikis etc as disruptive technologies that have shaken up an age old order. I would argue that is not at all true, in fact, I would argue that the now commonplace blogs, wiki and citizen journalism concepts are Web 2.0 tools that are returning journalism to where it began…the crowd.

Observing and discussing the events of everyday life has been in existence for a long while. In the Mughal courts, Akbar held a Diwan-i-Aam, where the common man was more or less free to put forth their concerns and hear about the rules that governed them. In fact up until, newspapers arrived in the seventeenth century (Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien,1605) reporting and observation were simultaneous and were the purview of the general public.

As journalism grew, it transformed from the crowd and into a specialized, organized collaborative group of people that banded together to report on vagaries of government and the elite.

“A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up; increases and multiplies, irrepressible, incalculable.” Edmund Burke, French Revolution (1837)

Though it started out as strict reporting of what was observed, it did not take long to transform in to a platform by which journalists sought to cast their own opinions on the events they saw. As they gained freedom from censorship, the ability to cast their opinion, write stories in a fashion that would support the viewpoint they espoused, gave them enormous control of the prevalent public opinion. Gradually this group grew to take on the characteristics of the class they reported on, they became large, resource rich and influential conglomerates.

“in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” Thomas Carlyle, 1841

Then arose the critics. The public began viewing them with the same distrust that they held for the government and other big businesses. As it became clear that the free media was not necessarily so, the public turned to a new phenomenon, the internet. Blogs such as the Huffington Post sprang up as sources of ‘real news’ and since have grown to cause a serious dent in the readership of the established news media. Blogs, crowd sourced citizen journalism and the abundance of data on the internet gave the public insight and let them form their own opinions rather than have to rely on newspapers.

As it stands, crowd sourced news is here to stay. Now that initiatives have arisen that promote crowd sourced citizen journalism and even provide a revenue stream, this new model can be seen as a way to regain the public’s trust.

More importantly however, the proliferation of these crowd and collaboration centric signals a return to journalism to what it started out a being; common public freely viewing the goings on of those actions that affect them, on a real-time basis with little to no intermediaries to influence their observations.

Going forward, the adoption of community funded websites like Outside.in and Spot.us into the mainstream would solidify this last link and complete the cycle, as it would give a revenue stream while promoting news that is relevant, true and (for the most part) local.


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links for 2009-11-28 « lugar do conhecimento
Nov 28, 2009 5:02

[...] Journalism coming full circle? [...]

links for 2009-11-28 « Sarah Hartley
Nov 28, 2009 15:02

[...] Wikinomics – Journalism coming full circle? As it stands, crowd sourced news is here to stay. Now that initiatives have arisen that promote crowd sourced citizen journalism and even provide a revenue stream, this new model can be seen as a way to regain the public’s trust. (tags: citizenjournalism) [...]

David Levy
Dec 3, 2009 12:42

You are on the money with yor observations. I’d also argue that this is a pattern we are seeing in other industries.

The infrastucutre of the modern music industry is screwed. We know that. And we are all causing it by creating Napster, Kazaa and other file sharing sites. We are causing it by demanding that we get the music we want, when we want it, how we want it and usually for little money (iTunes) or no money in exchange (podcasting networks or places like Pandora).

The music industry, such as you could define it, has only been around for a hundred years or so and even then it was for a handful of musicians and composers who were paid to please the king.

Long before the industry there was the music. There was sound and there was the beat, the stuff that stirred souls. People always made music, for themselves, their families, their friends. It’s only recently in human history that anyone thought you could make a living doing it. Then the industry got in the way.

Back in the day you could rely on tastemakers like the pioneers at Stax, Atlantic, Motown, Chess, Arista and a host of other labels to bring the best music to us, because they had the skills and the infrastructure to do it. But then the corporations took over and started lining the wallets of a few honchos. Now, who needs them.

So yeah, we are seeing the destruction of a music industry that was always a house of cards. But we are also seeing a liberation or a re-democratization of music itself. Now that each of us has the tools and the distribution to make and share whatever music we want music is being returned to the people. Ironically, with all this technology, we are going back to the past when anyone who wanted to make music, could make music.

Same thing with journalism. It will continue to be transformed. There will be winners, and losers. Some will generate revenue, other won’t. Remember, no one has a right to make a living. You either provide a service that people willing to pay for, or you don’t.

Originally posted http://thethingis.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/02/its_about_the_m.html

Dec 4, 2009 22:49


The pattern part worries me a little. I would argue that journalism still needs a bit of structure simply because its content can be used to influence rather than entertain.

New Media a Return to Journalism’s Roots?
Dec 10, 2009 11:27

[...] interesting interpretation on the rise of new media. Guantam Lamba of Wikinomics sees new media sites as a return to “crowd source” journalism of the [...]

Dec 21, 2009 9:16

I doubt it will go full circle back to the original crowd of gossips but you give a very good historical perspective on the industry. When printing and distribution were difficult, owners of that infrastructure had control of a communications bottleneck and this is gone now. From the point of view of the opening bottleneck, yes we are going back to an earlier time.

Some of what we have now (e.g. keyword search through google’s news aggregrator) we have never had before, not in the print media and not in the word of mouth either. This makes me expect to see something new and different come out of it. Note that the same search and database facilities also give unprecedented censorship capabilities to government and the ability to quickly and surely hunt down dissenting opinions. So far this has mainly been used in China, but when you think of the power, it’s going to be very tempting to anyone who gets the opportunity (e.g. employers, religious groups, etc).

I expect we will see some escalating struggle between the natural inclination of crowds to freely discuss matters of concern, and the vested interests wanting to impose some viewpoint that suits their business and political positions. I also expect that the money to be made in journalism will not be money paid by readers looking for informative reporting, but money paid for propaganda and advertising disguised as news (although maybe that shift happened some time ago).

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