Twittering and blogging and facebooking and… About old and new journalism
I guess it was the right place and the right time to find something like that.
I was sitting on the front row at the talk Post-journalism: a new means of communication. These three guys, young Italian journalists, were sitting next to me. The three of them were using at the same time their laptops online, their iPhone-like phones and their cameras. At least the guy next to me was twittering, blogging, sending and receiving emails, updating his status on Facebook and checking the site and making comments every minute… I guess the other two were doing the same thing. And at the same time the three of them were chatting and laughing and -I guess- listening to the speakers.
And next to them I was sitting with just my notebook and a pen.
The speakers were discussing about old and new journalism, about taking advantage of the new technologies and the new tools of the web 2.0 (or 3.0) to create new ways of communicating information.
It would seem my three colleagues and I were the perfect image of that, wouldn’t it: I’d be the old media guy and they’d be the new media guys.
Of course it’s not that simple. Here I am, blogging, and I also have my personal blog, I use Twitter and Facebook and I’m starting to upload my videos.
But that talk and the different ways my colleagues and I were covering it raise quite a few interesting points.
The obvious virtue of these social web tools is the immediacy. Through Twitter, blogs, YouTube or your Facebook feed you can find out about breaking news before they reach the mainstream media. You can also find out about more local o specialised issue that usually don’t make it to the traditional media anyway. And they also are a good way to follow “live” ongoing events – like this festival.
On the other hand these tools only offer little bits of information and many times from sources of which reliability is difficult to check. Besides, immediacy is not always necessarily good, as it may also lead to errors of interpretation or misunderstandings.
The first comes in line with the distinction between information and knowledge, as pointed out for example at the festival by Ayman Mohyeldin. Twitter, Facebook status and little messages and (many times) blogs don’t really give knowledge but just little pieces of information.
Blogs can be different, as they can have longer, more elaborated, more in-deep and even multimedia stories – although the question of the reliability may remain open.
This said, also traditional media may be unreliable and the fact that they are mainstream means they all tend to cover the same kind of big and many times boring “mainstream” stories, many of which don’t really interest nor affect most of the public. And even so it’s these mainstream stories the ones that shape the agenda setting: the “official” view of what is going on in the world.
Besides, traditional media are stuck in the old narratives of story-telling, no matter whether in print or broadcast. To find new ways of communicating we have to look at the the so-called new media or at “old” media which are experimenting with the new technologies or with new ways of story-telling.
But then again, when written by regular citizens blogs, tweets and videos many times rely on and follow the traditional media, as they may lack access to primary sources.
So, where are we now? And where are we going?
Journalism and the media are in crisis – this is not news anymore. But crisis means transformation, change: Journalism and the media are becoming something different and in a very few years time the whole media landscape will certainly be different to what is now.
And even though crisis tend to be rationalised a posteriori and seen as dramatic changes, that is usually not true. In times of crisis many different and new techniques and experiments and attempts coexist with the old ways and they all influence each other. At the end a new, different set arises and establishes itself as the new reality.
Actually, new media and traditional media need each other. The professional standards of traditional journalism still have many valid points and there will always be an audience for good, long, traditional stories. But mainstream media has also rested on its laurels, and if once it used to be in charge of monitoring the big social powers (political, economic and so on), now it has become one of them and the media need also to be monitored. And this function goes to the alternative, new media, which hopefully are making the old, mainstream media accountable.
How will the new reality will look like once the crisis is over? Impossible to say now, but most likely it will still contain many features from traditional, mainstream journalism mixed with new features and new ways of story-telling from the new media. And probably both “old” and new technologies will still coexist and even be used together in the same stories for a long while.
The only clear fact is that these are exciting times and that it’s in our hand to shape the new media reality.