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Who Decides What Is News?
In yesterday’s New York Times, David Carr wrote an excellent piece entitled All of Us, Arbiters of News, in which he perfectly articulates the dramatic way in which the web is fundamentally transforming news and journalism. The story of the web obliterating the old, traditional economic model behind news has been often-told, but what is just becoming apparent in the past few years with the proliferation of blogs, social media, web-only news sites such as Slate.com and the Huffington Post, and even sites like Youtube, is that the impact of the web on news, media, and information is far deeper than dollars and cents. The days of editors being the only ones who decide what is news are dying as quickly as the daily newspaper itself, and the new models not only leverage mass engagement, participation, and contribution, they depend upon it. The really successful models in this new era thrive on it.
It is this precise reason that daily newspapers that simply take their print edition and throw it on the web, maybe adding a few videos, a blog or two, and some room for comments from readers (as if this is what is meant by interactive), wonder why no one cares at all about their site. These sites may live slightly longer than their print cousins, but not by much. And for good reason – they are just as obsolete, irrelevant, and antiquated and they deserve to die a similar death. It isn’t enough to simply give equal weight to both media vehicles (Carr’s story about Michael Leary of the Philadelphia Inquirer is why I cheer passionately for the demise of the weak, inept, and doomed among the dailies). What is required in the new model is a complete transformation in the way whole communities gather, filter, think about, create, produce, shape, publish, participate in, interact with, and publish news, data, information, and opinion. There is still an extremely valuable role for editors, experts, and pundits, but the winning models in the new era not only make room at the ‘Arbiter’ table for entire communities of people, they recognize that the newly constituted table is vastly superior to the old one.