As a result of the online environment, the audience is more, not less, active—and that is the promise of journalism in the decade to come. Vibrant commenters, immediate coverage of breaking news by uncredentialed citizens, and the wilting force of the paper product are all just symptoms of a media environment that is increasingly, irrevocably, dependent on public participation. If one source lets you choose the stories that they cover, and the other doesn’t, why would you pick the latter? I know I wouldn’t.
To be sure, I don’t think that Rick Sanchez or Wolf Blitzer are changing the world when they point viewers to their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. But the fact that I find myself gazing with awe at CNN’s coverage says something about the lassitude with which its competitors are responding to the new media environment. It will be a long time before CBS News catches up, and I’m not waiting around. Instead, I’m returning to the tools of the Web with the hope that one day I can use them to improve network news coverage from the outside in.