Technology is fundamentally changing journalism and will ‘kill off’ the traditional idea of a journalist, or so I’m told.
If you think about it the traditional model of journalism has a very few journalists talking to the many readers much like the Queen addressing the nation, but with more queens. This may be because the traditional methods of mass communication, papers and books, was very expensive, time consuming and required specialist skills. But also because a small elite had vested interests in controlling information to a greater or lesser extent.
However now anyone can communicate to potentially the whole world, more or less for free. Everyone is a journalist, albeit not necessarily a very good one.
First the internet democratised information flow, but now mobile phones are the main information sharing method for the new generation. The devices are small, portable and cheap, you can view content in private or share with friends very easily. Content can be shared via the phone network, the internet or directly via Bluetooth, so people can share localised information within their own clique, forming their own virtual information hub. I noticed this particularly when I was teaching engineering to 16-19 year olds, they shared videos, music and information on phones leaving the internet as a secondary source, TV and magazines hardly got a look in.
Images are often a large part of content, and newer innovations such as iPad and smart paper will be welcomed, but the handy small screen phone device still has the winning formula for most.
So thinking that in some way controlling the internet will control information flow is wrong.
I became a full time journalist only a few years ago, but I am very aware that the life of that role is limited, and maybe in less than ten years it may have completely eroded.
But even with the need for a ‘speaker’ removed, I think there is a natural human tendency to elect locally respected sources of knowledge. Every web forum has one member that everyone turns to for advice.
So in the future there may still be a role for a well informed and competent communicator, the trouble is from an practical point of view that there is no intrinsic method of financially rewarding this role; information is fairly free now and hopefully there is no going back. We are all less inclined to pay for magazine articles when we can read it for free on the web, and despite the huge amount of dross and misinformation that’s about there are still plenty of well informed bloggers who report events very well, some post excellent photos and videos too.
Currently there is still a place for magazines and tv stations, because of the uncertain and variable quality of free media we need somewhere apparently reliable to turn to. But as social networks establish, an reliable free sources are clearly identified, this need will transfer from the paid for media to the free.
We live in a time of great change, traditional roles and social models are being erased from the ground up, content providers such as magazines and tv companies must work with this to make new opportunities, to resist change is to invite disaster.
Me, I’m just trying to pay my bills, and if I want people to carry on paying for my words then I suppose I will have to find something more valuable to say.
Engineer and writer.