Formalized journalism is outnumbered.
In the industrialized world (and in much of the world that isn’t), nearly everyone of a double-digit age has a Net-connected mobile device for sharing words they write and scenes they shoot.
While this doesn’t obsolesce professional journalists, it marginalizes and re-contextualizes them. Worse, it exposes the blindness within their formalities. Dave Winer lays this out clearly in They can’t see what they can’t see. An excerpt:
Journalism, academia, government and the corporate world all hire from the same talent pool.
They go to the same universities, get their news from the same sources. Corporate people take government jobs, then go back to the corporations. The people move fluidly in and out of each bucket.
So you get the same story, the reality they believe in, developed over centuries, that is radically different from the reality most other people experience. The story recited daily at CNN, MSNBC, The New Yorker, NYT. The world changes, again and again, and the story they tell is how angry this makes them, and how everyone must snap back.
New technologies can make change possible, like the one we’re using now.
We would never have Trump if it weren’t for Twitter.
Marshall McLuhan, dead since 1980, had something to say about that:
People don’t want to know the cause of anything. They do not want to know why radio caused Hitler and Gandhi alike. They do not want to know that print caused anything whatever.
All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive… that they leave no part of us untouched unaffected, unaltered… Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments.
What could be more worked-over than our new nature as digital beings? Consider where and what you are reading right now, on your desk, your lap or in your hand. This was barely imaginable when the word “journalism” came into use around 1830.
What are we now? While remaining no less embodied than we ever were, we are incorporeal inhabitants of a digital world, absent of distance and gravity, where the only preposition that fully applies is with. Unless we aren’t. Ephemerality runs deep, and the Web is a whiteboard.
I don’t have an answer to the question in my headline. I tried one out three years ago, in my first, last and only TEDx talk, The story isn’t the whole story. To summarize, we gotta start local.
Because it is essential to be real with each other in the physical world, especially when fully relevant news actually happens. Conspiracy theories and other forms of bullshit will always be everywhere, but it’s harder for them to apply or survive when your building is on fire or your neighborhood is flooding.
Outside of that, I’m starting to think we need a new discipline: one that doesn’t start with the word journal. And decades may pass before we have it.