Spirited Communication

Is Our Role Changing?

A recent podcast by Neville Hobson recorded thoughts of professional journalists who are grappling with the effects of social media. One of the thoughts raised actually can be extended to any professional communicator: What is our role in a changing world that now includes social media?

The professional journalists gathered on June 28 for a panel discussion on the topic, “The Future of Journalism – Ethics in Journalism,” organized by the Club of Amsterdam a self-described “independent, international, future-oriented think tank. ”

The first podcast recorded separate presentations by Neville and two journalists, all focused in some fashion toward ethics. But in addition to ethics, the three presenters spent a good deal of time discussing how social media is changing journalism, and how those changes will impact professional journalists, “amateur” communicators (including bloggers and podcasters) and the people who consume news and information (you know, the entire world).

Although I have a Journalism degree and some experience as a newspaper reporter, I would be considered an amateur journalist as a blogger, according to the first presenter, Milverton Wallace, founder/organizer of the European Online Journalism Awards. Wallace referred to all bloggers as “amateurs,” which can either be an accurate, or insulting, designation, depending on which of Merriam-Webster’s definitions is used:

one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession
one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science

But Milverton did point out that “news” was published by “amateurs” long before the “profession” (he prefers the word, “craft”) of journalism was established. As everyone involved in communications continues to watch–and participate–in the changing world of “news gathering,” two things remain true:

  • People will continue to seek out sources of information who can prove themselves to be reliable and accurate.
  • Both bloggers and “professional” journalists will continue to be transmitters of information, and will find ways to monitor and evaluate the work of the other.

1 Comment

  1. Judy Gombita

    Friday’s mail included my subscription copy to the July/August issue of Film Comment (http://www.filmlinc.com/fcm/ja06/julyaugust.htm). As is my wont with this (one-of-two-fave film) publication, the first thing I turned to was the Editor’s Letter by Gavin Smith. (IMHO he is an exquisite writer, an excellent interviewer and a judicious editor.) So, doesn’t his first paragraph begin:

    “Confession: the exuberant and ever-proliferating world of Internet blogs and websites sometimes scares me. Online publishing is faster, more immediate, more flexible, and sometimes more comprehensive and expansive than a bimonthly magazine can be. What’s more, online content is free of charge. By comparison, print publications are slow, limited in editorial space and reach, and costly to produce. At this point you’re all waiting for me to use the D-word—“dinosaur,” as in: extinct. But as tactile, physical objects, magazines will only be as obsolete as the radio, the postal service, matchbooks, shoelaces, wool, and ocean liners. If blogs are double-decker Airbus jets, print publications are ocean liners.”

    (Which was interesting, Tom, given the offline discussion we’d had on a similar topic last week…although we certainly didn’t come up with the jets/ocean liners analogy.)

    I really wish I could share Smith’s entire “letter,” but as it isn’t available online to hyperlink, I’ll respect the copyright and stop quoting verbatim, here. (I have sent an e-mail message of request to Gavin Smith, asking if I can share the whole column—but no response as yet.)

    Smith later writes a sentence I keep pondering,

    “I tend to think that blogs are more important to people who want to write than they are to people who like to read; that they are long on opinions and short on ideas and insights. The speech with which people can write and post is exciting, but isn’t conducive to more considered, reflective viewpoints….”

    …as I probably like to read more than I like to write, but primarily due to laziness. (After all, writing takes time, discipline and creativity.) Plus the fact that there continues to be so much great stuff to read “out there” and not nearly enough time to do it.

    But back to Smith’s screed in Film Comment: lest anyone think this is a stereotypical print editor reacting against inevitable change, Smith indicates in the latter part of his letter, “Sure, some blogs are conduits for diaristic solipsism, trivial buzz, and endless smackdowns, but the best are about community building, engaged debate, and promoting a genuinely discursive approach to criticism—and the overall result is a tremendous vitality.”

    Smith’s final sentence recognizes the following about those who write about films—whether in print or online—“all of our publications are labors of love.”

    So in answer to your question: if Smith is right, I don’t think your essential role is changing if you continue to love what you are doing and are able to effectively “communicate” that passion!

    Judy (a.k.a. lover of films)

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