The Changing Face
From The Amalgam Of J-Schools, Newspapers, Magazines, Websites And Blogs Comes A New Paradigm For Journalism: Ambivalence Towards Community
An old time reporter's desk probably inspired a bit more community love. Images by Glen Edelson and Beth Rankin and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine
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The industry is glorifying a few loudmouths with irrational perspectives and slowly doing away with the real journalists, the seasoned vets that young reporters should be looking up to.
And that is where the journalism schools come in.
Many of these institutions receive heavy funding (in various forms) from major news organizations. The Gannett New Media Room. The Tribune Center for News.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
The resulting situation is a self-serving cycle that teaches students how to be subpar reporters so they can spend their careers working for the very organizations that subsidized their lack of an education, all the while feeling privileged to work in the same arena as the few celebrity journalists that the industry props up.
It is this combination of hero worship and lackluster education that has systematically destroyed journalism over the past few decades.
But it has not succeeded completely, yet.
As I wrote earlier, there are still talented journalists out there producing worthwhile stories.
And a few of those journalists escaping those schools every year with their talent and intensity intact.
But, without some major changes, these individuals will become fewer and farther in between.
However, while the solution will change the face of journalism drastically, the means by which we will arrive at there are fairly simple.
First, the industry must alter its value system by removing the stratification between the media and the viewership. This separation has developed over time due to journalistic ego and hero worship.
Because of the attitude of superiority that journalism schools and the industry develops within reporters, a culture has developed in which journalists view themselves as God’s gift to the ignorant masses.
With this attitude in place, real dissemination of information is not possible, because the act of reporting the news is a community effort. News reporting is a two-way street. The community and the journalists who serve them should participate in a symbiotic relationship where the news is free flowing in both directions. Journalists inform the community on events that affect them, but that same community is also a valuable resource to the journalist. The community is not just a set of quantitative eyeballs that is only worth its weight in ad dollars. It is a resource that can both feed information to the news media and absorb, synthesize, and respond to the news.
In order to cultivate this type of relationship, journalism must rededicate itself to an older value system, one where journalism was seen as nothing more than a working class job. A value system created in an age before journalism schools and overt hero worship.
From the first days of journalism until the mid-20th century, journalism schools did not exist. Journalists were just normal people with a passion for storytelling and the dedication to put themselves in precarious situations to bring information to the masses.
Back then, the relationship between the media and the readership was much more codependent. Both sides relied on each other for support, service, validation.
That is something that has been lost in the hero worship and ego brandishing of the modern news community.
But this re-dedication to old values does not have to equate to a complete eradication of modernity in the newsroom. Rather, the media should utilize elements of modern technology in order to make the news more egalitarian and transparent.
Through blogs and social media, news organizations can maintain a relationship with their communities. This relationship needs to be more than a facade. The news organization can simply post stories and polls and other filler to make the community feel involved; rather, they must maintain an actual relationship with the reader in order to make the symbiotic relationship work.
The news is dying because it is failing to adapt to new technology in a way that actually improves the dissemination of information. Journalism needs to do away with the ego trips and the talking heads and the frivolity and get back to the basics.
Because news is a community project. And our community needs it.
Wayne Schutsky is a freelance writer living in Phoenix, Ariz.
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