Apr 15

Print this Post

The press’ black box morphs into the ‘press sphere’

By Richard Potts, Assistant Director of the Washington Journalism Center

I ran across this item by a tip from a friend (thanks, Ryan Moede).  Here is a vision of the future of the press as described by Jeff Jarvis, director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York, in his blog BuzzMachine.

Jarvis definitely sees us moving from the “daily we” to the “daily me” notion of news, where the user/consumer is the center of her own information universe.   The old process of creating news was an impenetrable black box that spat out news for everyone.  The new process (it’s really more of an “ecosystem” as he describes it) is a very flexible thing, with information coming and going from a story over time, and created just for me.

Compare these two models Jarvis created.  On the left is Jarvis’ conception of the old school and on the right is the new school:


This leads to some very interesting analysis.  The entirety of Jarvis’ post is quoted after the jump.


One problem I’ve had with much discussion
about the future of news lately is that it’s too press-centric. It
focuses on the press as if it were at the center of the world, as if it
owned news, as if news depended on it, as if solving the press’
problems solves news. That’s not the ecosystem of news now. There’s a
fundamentally new structure to media and there are many different ways
to look at it. And until we realize that, I don’t think we’ll begin to
create successful new models for news. So pardon my simplistic
drawings, but here’s an attempt to begin to illustrate that new
ecosystem of news and media.

We start, of course, with the way things were: news through the
filter of the press to us with few other options. We all know this

This is replaced today by a press-sphere in which any of many
sources can, thanks to links, add up a story and to fulfilling the need
or desire for news and information. The press may be involved and may
create a news story. But we might have found that via links from our
peers who tell us it’s news (“if the news is important, it will find me”).
Either of those might have linked to source material from a company or
government site — which now plays a press role in adding to the whole
of a story. Witnesses can join in the process directly. Background
might come via links to archives. Commentary from observers may add
perspective. An accumulation of data may alert us to news or augment it. All of these elements add up to news.

When we put the public at the center of the universe — which is how
these charts should be drawn and how the world should be seen, as each
of us sees it — we see the choices we all call upon: the press still,
yes, but also our peers, media that are not the press (e.g., Jon
Stewart), search, links, original sources, companies, the government.
It’s all information and we curate it and interact with it with the
tools available. And, again, the press stands in a different
relationship to the world around it.

So this yields a different view of the news story itself. The notion
that news comes in and stories go out — text and photos come in and
paper goes out — is an artifact of the means of production and
distribution, of course. Now a story never begins and it never ends.
But at some point in the life of a story, a journalist (working
wherever) may see the idea and then can get all kinds of new input. But
the story itself — in whatever medium — is merely a blip on the line, a
stage in a process, for that process continues after publication.


When I was talking with the Guardian about their new newsroom, I saw
two views of news in 3-D relief: In print, the process leads to a
product. Online, the process is the product.

This has an impact on how a newsroom and the journalists in it see
themselves and their relationship with the public, over time. It calls
into question the organizing principle of newsrooms. It used to be that
we were organized around sections — news, sports, business… — and job
descriptions — reporter, editor, photographer, designer. Then along
came online and we were organized around media — print, online.

But in this new ecology, I think newsrooms will need to be organized
around topics or tags or stories because the notion of a section is as
out of date as the Dewey Decimal System (hat tip to David Weinberger).

Stories and topics become molecules that attract atoms: reporters,
editors, witnesses, archives, commenters, and so on, all adding
different elements to a greater understanding. Who brings that
together? It’s not always the reporter or editor anymore. It can just
as easily be the reader(s) now.

Of course, these aren’t the only architectural changes. Last week, I joined a discussion with the faculty at CUNY about these shifts, which included these ideas:

* The separation of content from presentation on web pages means
that design, navigation, brand, and medium can change and are not
necessarily controlled by an editor’s design.

* Feeds also have an impact on — and can reduce the value of — packaging and prioritization (also known as editing).

* Live reports from witnesses also reduce the opportunity to package and edit.

* The ecology of links motivates us to do what we do best and link
to the rest. It fosters collaboration. It changes the essential
structure of a story (background or source material can be a link

* Links also turn our readers into our distributors.

* Links turn our readers into editors.

* Aggregation, curation, and peer links become our new newsstand.

* Search and SEO motivate us to create repositories of expertise (topic pages) and make news stories more permanent.

* Search reduces the power of the brand.

* We see ourselves not as owners of content or distribution but as members of networks.

* These networks can be about content, trust, interest, or advertising relationships or all of the above.

I could keep drawing bad charts all day to illustrate the new network, reverse syndication models, the audience as the network, and more. I’ll spare you. (But if you have any charts to show, please do send links.)

These are all fundamental shifts in how news and the world around it
is constructed. So to keep talking about newspapers as if they were
news is far too limiting in the discussion. It’s bigger now. It’s more
complex. It moves over time. It’s more about process than product. It
has no limit of sources and handlers and distributors and curators and
perspectives. When we rethink this ecology of news, we’ll be in a
better position to plan for what’s next.


Permanent link to this article: http://thewashingtonjournalismcenter.com/?p=790

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>