One is which model of journalism is really the more democratic: Is it professional reporting on behalf of the many (and, I should add, benefiting from all the new connections), or networked citizens providing information to each other? I’d say the latter is more democratic within the network but the former, mine, is, by definition, intended for the broader audience. If you think of my model as top-down communication, it’s elitist. But if you think of it as a division of labor, then it’s not.
Another issue to be worked out is the degree to which activism and journalism can be blended. Networks are built for mobilization, for instance, and some folks from technology backgrounds have interesting and very valid ideas about combined exposure and reform.
As an e-mail correspondent wrote me recently: “I do think it’s important not to confuse means and ends when we discuss the core of the subject. Holding-power-to-account is a means, not an end.”
I’d just observe that I recognize there’s a not-small element of a status struggle in all this. I’m pushing models and forms that place professional journalists at the center. That’s me and that’s what I do. New entrants, I’d gently suggest, are pushing for one in which technically grounded folks act as nodes for a new type of communication, and that’s what they’re good at.
It’s time for people who believe in the power of the narrative to respectfully but firmly insist on its place in the new digital landscape. I’d put it at the center.
But the fact is, the more you learn about the new technologies, the more you come to understand what a promising time this is. The struggle for primacy between technologists and professional writers is normal and even good. But eventually it’s got to come to an end, and—sorry to end on an ecumenical note—the two cultures have got to come together.
There’s too much important work to be done and, really, amazing potential for journalism now with the longform narrative playing an indispensible, central role.
Thanks for your attention.