What can professional journalists bring to the table?


As citizens we don’t need “journalists”, we need journalism. And journalism is no longer a profession, it’s an activity. An activity that millions of engaged citizens seems to take care of in a much greater extent than ever before. Now days, with help of thousands of web services for researching, editing, packaging, publishing, and distributing.

Still there is people within the industry that claim for the need of professional journalism, among other things, to sustain democracy. If so, I wonder why none is willing to pay for it? Neither consumers nor advertisers or government, as far as I can understand?

As citizens, we would like to know what’s going on, keep ourselves informed. We would like to hear about the latest in the topics we’re interested in. We would like the truth from sources we can rely on. We would like the overview and the details. We want the hard core facts combined with vivid descriptions. And so on.

But we want to express ourselves, as well. Especially in subjects we are engaged and interested in and masters. But we also want share experiences and happenings that just cross our ways or minds, stories we think matters for the neighborhood.

As you well know, the journalists have always been the middleman to meet our needs in this matter, because they’ve been the only ones that got the exclusive opportunities to investigate, refine, edit, produce and distribute stories. And their media have become the gatekeeper or the bottle neck as communication channels. To such an extent that we’ve been prepared (or forced) to pay for it. As consumers or advertisers, each in his special way. But the willingness to pay decreases.

Now days, journalism is a fabulous mix of millions of citizens sharing their experiences and knowledge with each others, via thousands of web services and devices that take care of editing, refining, publishing, packaging and distributing parts, as well. Sometimes in collaboration with professional journalists and media. But mostly not.

The question is what the professional journalists really can bring to the table? And who’s willing to pay for it? No light in the tunnel, what I can see. The news business seems to be broken. And “the owner of the media fumbles in the dark” as Fredrik Strömberg and Jonas Nordling says in Mediavärlden (in Swedish)

A few weeks ago I attend to Berlingske Media international conference about – What Professional Journalism Means for Democracy – as a speaker.

Lisbeth Knudsen, the Chairman of The Berlingske Foundation, wrote in the invitation letter:

For decades, professional journalism has played an important role in our democracies. It still does. But the traditional commercial media business is challenged in its traditional publishing role. The old business model is dead, and the new ones are still not profitable enough to support the same number of professional journalists that the old model could finance.

Being the DNA of our democracy as public watchdogs and creators of the local and national forums for debates, the traditional media business needs to find new ways of financing the expensive part of their business: producing original, investigative, indept journalism.

Can we generate a political debate, political awareness and political involvement on news snacks, news copies and entertainment media?

In Denmark newspapers provide 70% of all original journalism reporting. What are the consequences for our democracy, if professional journalism continues to shrink?

Does it matter at all? How important is quality journalism to our society? Can companies, individuals, institutions, governments, WikiLeaks and others inform us directly? Does our democracy need professional journalistic filtering?

With speakers like Dan Gillmor, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Anne McElvoy – the discussion became truly hot. But we never agreed on whether professional journalists are needed or not.

From my point of view, I’ve hard to believe that Denmark’s newspaper is providing 70% of all original journalism reporting. And I don’t think the traditional media is the DNA of our democracy as public watchdogs. I do think, though, that the wisdom of the crowd are the “new watchdogs”. Or as the New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen says: “the more people who participate in the press, the stronger it will be.

One of millions great example of that is Maria Hägglöfs trip with the subway a couple of days ago.The wagon she were sitting in caught fire, and people got scared. She began to report from the scene; shooting photos and videos, writing tweets, etc.

After some time professional journalists of all kind found her tweets and contacted her. And the story got coverage all over.

No big deal, just crowd source that it use to be, right? But what did surprise Maria was that none of these professional journalists actually brought anything new to the table. Maria wrote in her blog post:

“I would say that if journalists today weren’t so incredibly lazy, if they actually strive to do something more than what I’ve already done….”
“… today’s journalists often don’t do more than what citizens have already done via Twitter.”

Ironically, this happening took place on her way to one of the first unconferences about journalism in Sweden, where one of the topics were about who would pay for the  “professional journalism”.

What happens when journalism is everywhere?” does Mathew Ingram wonder in his post in Gigaom. He writes:

“We are beginning to find out. And while it may be a frightening prospect if you are a traditional media company, there is a lot to be optimistic about if you are just interested in the news. A world where everyone is a journalist may be a bit more chaotic and a bit more complicated than the one we are used to, but it will also be a bit more free, and that is clearly a good thing.” Because: “Freedom of the press becomes a lot more important when everyone is the press — or rather, when the internet itself becomes the press.”

To be continued…

To add… a slice of media history 😉

First radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder


Journalism has truly turned up side down. And I think that’s just great. I just ran into a few great examples of that:

First of all check out the WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein, who has replaced his heavy radio equipment on an iPhone. He’s writing about this interesting change in MediaShift. And it’s truly inspiring. In particular for those who want to go out on the field to cover, create, and distribute remarkable stories direct to their audience. It hasn’t been easier than now.

Neal describes himself in his Twitter bio as follows:
“Believe I’m first major market radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder.”

And he says:
“Now, with the Apple iPhone 4 and several apps, I can produce intricate audio and video reports, broadcast live, take and edit photos, write web content and distribute it through social media from a single device.”

“With the VC Audio Pro app from VeriCorder, I can quickly pull cuts, edit and assemble audio wraps, and adjust volumes on a three-track screen similar to the popular Adobe Audition used in many newsrooms. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been my single greatest workflow improvement. The finished report that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10.

This is a rundown of all the key ways he’s using on and with his iPhone.

Neal Augenstein hasn’t a journalist page – yet. But Nicholas D. Kristof has. He’s one of the top journalists that might got inspired of the possibilities that Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, talking about on the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on Facebook”. The page has been created: “to serve as an ongoing resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories.”

Justin says that “The Page will provide journalists with best practices for integrating the latest Facebook products with their work and connecting with the Facebook audience of more than 500 million people.

I was actually one of the first to like that page, now one day later, they are ten thousands of journalists. And all of them are now asked to create professional pages on Facebook, for both reach and interact with their audience, listen to them, work with them, get ideas for articles of them, and so on. Some of them might already have done that, like Nicholas D. Kristof, that already has more than 200.000 “fans”. And some of them also bring their page to their newspapers bylines like Robert Fisk at The Independent. Why not?

I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work. Some of them will be CNN journalists if they haven’t already joined “the Facebook revolution”. And the media itself is no exception… Look at NPR or the very small local news blog Rockville Central.

When I talked to Nick Wrenn, vice president of digital services for CNN International, during the conference Social Media World Forum, in London, he said that Facebook is an equally obvious that common source of information and meeting point. But he would rather emphasize CNN’s iReport and Open Stories as the public Forum for meeting, collaboration, and sharing, between CNN journalists and their audience.