The concept of journalism has evolved significantly over the past several decades. News broadcasted on black-and-white TV sets was once considered a revolution, however as technology has progressed so drastically in recent years, so has the idea of journalism. Television and the daily newspaper are no longer the only sources for viable news. In fact, lacking diverse sources of news can be limiting in a world where real-time information is key.
Due to these trends, the institution of traditional journalism –both broadcast and print—have met significant struggles. The fight to remain relevant in the realm of journalism remains high and those incorporating new, innovative crowd-sourcing techniques into their practice are more likely to remain successful in the future.
Some professional journalists resent the idea of crowdsourcing, however, their apprehension, I believe, is not only from fear of competitive, but rather lack of understanding on how to leverage it to their own benefit. For those that are unaware, Crowdsourcing is taking a job that is normally done by a paid person and sending it out “to an undefined, generally large group of people or community in the form of an open call”. Today, blogs are the most relevant example of how crowdsourcing techniques have been applied to the practice of news dissemination.
First, there are often disparities between what traditional media outlets want us to know and what the public audiences want to learn more about. The fact of the matter is, journalism is a business, and the stories reported on the evening news may not always be tailored to our interests but rather what increases ratings. Bloggers have more freedom to segment their content, allowing audiences to search based on their needs. For example, Digg, a website that reports on the top rated web articles and blogs and the top rated Digg blogs and articles rarely make their way onto the evening news.
Some within the industry argue that solid, investigative journalism can only be done by paid, trained professionals. Without a doubt—this is untrue. Crowdsourcing professionals, most often bloggers, have become a dominant force within the world of reporting. More importantly, not only do most take the responsibility of fact-finding very seriously, but many top bloggers have now become extremely important Influencers in their relative fields.
Loyal audiences seek the advice or insight of these “professionals” over that being reported on other traditional news sources. Specifically, top Sports and Mommy bloggers are an excellent example of how followers may find the “news” reported by their Influencers to hold more credence than the information given on the daily paper or broadcast. Due to the growing Web 2.0 platform, individuals with common interests can collaborate online and share their information in one central place. One member of the “crowd” may share information that traditional journalists may have chosen to leave out of their report. Similarly, just as traditional journalists are held accountable to their offices and audiences, prominent crowdsourcing professionals are also held to a high degree of ethical standards—not only to themselves, but more importantly, to their large base of followers.
Yet the most pressing argument in favor of web based reporting is the mass accessibility of it. Not everyone has a subscription to the New York Times or the Washington Post; however, most Americans have access to computer, smart phone or tablet with internet access. News is literally right at our fingertips and search engine tools allow audiences to quickly, easily and efficiently search for the news they want for a fraction of the price. Although a harsh truth for the industry to face, the costs savings alone is one of the strongest cases in favor of web-based news. This is particularly true so much valuable and reliable information exists online.
Which begs the question: How can traditional journalists compete?
For far too long, newsroom journalists have been entrenched in the idea that they should be deciding what the news is. As Alfred Hermida put it: “the prevailing dogma in journalism has been, and in many cases, continues to be ‘we write, you read’”. Clearly those days are over. If journalists entrenched in this traditional mindset hope to have a chance in the game, they need to step up to the plate and start better incorporating their audiences. One step in this direction is hyper-local news sourcing, in which stories are tailored to your geospatial location. Several large news corporations have already begun this trend such as ABC’s TBD news, which is delivers local news and community information about the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., region.
It is not over yet for traditional journalism. However, if they seek to to progress in the future, crowdsourcing and web based applications are the ammunition need to keep the playing field even.