CARACAS, Wednesday April 01, 2009 | Update
Rather than submitting the same contents in each kind of media, the contents should fit in each possibility of supplying information. The challenge is big indeed, because the current change involves the media, the audience and the world. The information is here and users are either active or passive with regard to the news
Photo: Freddy Henriquez
The media are going through one of the most significant changes in their history. Never before had there been such a radical, abrupt change. The digital world wraps up the standard media and paper will be eventually the only "analogical" means. The rest will be screens or buglers where the contents will be digitally distributed.
In less than 20 years, we went from three media -radio, press and TV- to dozen platforms; from open television to social networks.
Such "fragmentation" has become a big challenge for journalism, because it demands the unprecedented ability to produce contents and coordination of resources to link the informational service with its audience. Rather than putting the same contents everywhere, the contents should be provided at the appropriate time, place and platform. Saying that dialogue and story should follow across the platforms is easier than doing it.
Fragmentation also occurs at the level of the audience and creators of contents. In the long run, large audiences are divided into smaller groups; from a relatively homogenous to a somewhat heterogeneous mass.
Widespread digital media and individual technology help remove barriers to the spread of information; more and more voices emerge.
As a result, the informational monopoly and the clout of standard media owners are virtually finished off.
Plurality is absolute. But in the face of such a large amount of information, trustworthy agencies and lobbyists play an increasingly important role. The big difference is that their influence will be gained by making a great effort in a highly competitive environment. Being the owner of a rotary press will be not enough to take control of information. There will be the need to excel in order to reach the requisite credibility.
The future journalism makes exponential use of diverse platforms and the hyperlink to supply in-depth information according to the individual interest. Not everyone is set to read extensive stories on a selected topic; some will be glad with an overview of the events; others would rather delve into the facts, to an extent impossible for standard media.
Here is where journalists offer contents and provide access to multiple levels in order to meet their audience several needs. The journalist writes a headline which supplies information about the event, some lines noting the key issues, and a story which sums up further information. In-depth information is available by providing access to raw materials, such as documents, or more elaborated articles from other information sources.
The audience is an important source, whether because of its expertise or for being at the appropriate time and place.
Continued access of the audience and its experts strikes the informational balance. A media outlet will hardly misrepresent the events without the audience noting the mistakes or attempts at manipulation. There are plenty of tools available to the community to prevent this from happening.
Journalism has kept as one of its key principles the need for objectivity. The main reason for this rule was the journalist's social responsibility based on his/her power to have access to a very exclusive rostrum. As the informational monopoly is over, such social responsibility vanishes.
New generations are much more skeptical of a journalist's personal choice. Fewer and fewer people believe in true objectivity; opting instead for the journalist's transparency and dependability. The journalist should explicitly state his/her personal choice and the audience will pick up his/her works.
This does not mean that objectivity is not needed, but will be reached inside news gathering organizations by matching the journalists' views with their choices. Rather than a corporate strategy, it will be an individual strategy. There will be also objectivity in public discussion. There will be always an opposing part. In this way, trustworthiness takes precedence over objectivity. And trustworthiness is a valuable asset in the journalistic practice.
Reputation becomes a trademark and trademarks are increasingly important. In a world with an overwhelming amount of information, the trademark accompanying that information is a shortcut to give it the appropriate value.
A big problem for many news gathering organizations is the possession of trademarks with overall attributes intended to encompass too much. Everything for everyone is not possible anymore. More specific bets should be put to compete with the growing number of choices.
A look at the individual shows increasing loyalty to his/her essence. People are more and more loyal to their own interests, because they can be developed with abundant information.
In the past, individuals were short of opportunities and available information. Therefore, an uncommon interest would die as it was not cultivated or it was displaced by other interests that could indeed be cultivated in the community.
Plenty of information and access to social networks open the door to fully explore and cultivate whatever interest, regardless of the geographical community where the individual belongs to.
This makes it difficult for standard media, which for years have been generalist and tried to cover the wide range of community choices. Many coverage areas are doomed to demise, except for coverage from a local or community specific view.
This is indeed a great opportunity for the local media. In some cases, reporting the events is secondary due to the abundance of information. The priority, then, is talking to the community, the local prospect, the picture taken "by us," "our experts'" comments and the remarks made by "our lobbyists."
Specialist in Digital Media
Translated by Conchita Delgado
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