Journalism 3.0

1:01 min

Traditional journalism is challenged by social media’s tenet that journalists are not superior to users. Everybody talks to everybody. “Here comes everybody”, to echo Clay Shirky’s book title. The extreme of the elevated journalist turning toward a passive receiver is no longer accepted. Shirky’s extreme, however, is not where we’ll end up either.
   There will be a synthesis: Journalism 3.0. It won’t happen in an airless room, though. A media structure 3.0 is evolving as well. We don’t know what it will look like. A huge, important search is in process and everybody—commercial media, social media, and even pubic service—must be involved if the result is to be worthwhile.
   It’s about tomorrow’s journalism, tomorrow’s media, but ultimately it’s about tomorrow’s democracy. 

Journalism 1.0, Journalism 2.0, Journalism 3.0, Facebook, Twitter, Iran 2009, Sweden Democrats, Obama, Vivian Schiller, NPR, Jeff Jarvis, Tobias Olsson, Clay Shirky, Jay Rosen, Vetenskapsradion Klotet, Tip O’Neill, All politics is local, All news is local, Vetlanda, Marengo, Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviere, Pressthink, Andes Mildner, Olle Lidbom, Joakim Jardenberg, Mindpark, Same Same but Different, Sofia Mirjamsdotter, Martin Jönsson, Pull/Push, Paywalls, Great Firewall, News Corp, The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, Financial Times, Der Spiegel, Politico, Pro Publica, Robert Darnton, The Case for Books, papyrus, Codex, printing, Demokrati 3.0

There’s long been consensus among the larger media companies and established journalists about what constitutes the “good journalism” aimed at by editorial offices throughout the democratic world.

This ideal can be summed up in a number of points:

  • Journalism is a product—what’s published is complete.
  • Review first; publish after—publishing occurs after review of credibility and relevance.
  • Internal review process—review of the product occurs internally within the editorial office, as teamwork between the editor and reporter.
  • Closed system—publication is the endpoint of the journalistic production process that, in principle, remains inside the editorial office.
  • Mistakes are not corrected—it’s unusual that a mistake is admitted or corrected (since mistakes shouldn’t occur but rarely).
  • Many possible platforms—publication can occur on all sorts of platforms: newspaper, radio, television, and online.
  • Complicated process—journalism requires substantial resources and is often a complicated process.
  • Legal responsibility—the editorial office or media company has a legal responsibility for what is published.
  • Paid work—the commission of journalism is almost without exception remunerated.

Canadian radio journalist and media researcher Ira Basen calls this established editorial ideal Journalism 1.0.
   He contrasts this with the entirely different journalism of social media, which he calls Journalism 2.0:

  • Journalism is a process—what’s published is not a completed product but rather an element of a dialogic process.
  • Publish first; review after—review occurs in dialogue on the net after publication.
  • External review process—review occurs as teamwork between journalists and participants in the dialogue.
  • Open system—publication is a step within an open process
  • Mistakes are corrected—correction of errors occurs through the dialogic process.
  • Only one possible platform—publication occurs, in principle, only online.
  • Simple process—journalism requires, in principle, no special resources.
  • No legal responsibility—participants have no legal responsibility for their contributions.
  • Unpaid work—contributors are generally not remunerated

Ideological or ideological-like contradictions develop in many areas of society. It’s certainly not exclusive to politics with its right and left scale. Culturally, contradictions between modernists and postmodernists have existed for a long time. In the computer world, devotees of Mac/Apple clash against mainstream PC/Microsoft users.
   In a comparable way, contradictions exist between traditional journalistic requirements and ideals (what Ira Basen calls Journalism 1.0) and those of social media’s (Journalism 2.0).

Both are abstractions, terms that don’t directly reflect real phenomena. But the requirements of journalism as a profession with very distinct values—Journalism 1.0—carries significant meaning for role perception among journalists within established media and, consequently, for the role of media in developed democracies. At the same time, it’s impossible to dismiss the concept of social media’s uniqueness; it’s not merely a fact that these media could develop serious significance. Social journalism is a part of today’s reality.
   This applies not only to isolated examples that are often cited as proof for social media’s influence. The most widely known examples are the roles played by Facebook and Twitter in reporting the happenings of the 2009 presidential election in Iran. The Sweden Democrats, a right-populist and xenophobic party, gained seats in the Swedish parliament for the first time in 2010. Social media probably constituted the backbone of their campaign logistics. As with Obama’s 2008 campaign, these new media played a role mainly among the politically active, and not so much as a source of contact with voters.

“Our mission is not to drive traffic to us but to get the conversation going.”—Vivian Schiller

The significance of social media in the transmission of news and public opinion building is not an odd exception or marginal phenomenon—it’s a new reality that’s here to stay and, therefore, also something to which the more traditional news communicators must relate. Vivian Schiller, the successful director of National Public Radio () in the USA, says when we meet her: “Our mission is not to drive traffic to us but to get the conversation going.”
   The most important task of an editorially driven media company is not to attract as many users as possible but to provide the foundation for a democratic discussion through qualified journalism in issues important to society.  The same thing expressed by from City University in New York:

“You should have your material everywhere. You should be embeddable and spreadable.”

Since, to a large extent, it’ a generational phenomenon, the significance of the network journalism under development within social media will only increase. Which is not to say that Journalism 2.0 will replace traditional journalism. The Swedish media researcher emphasizes the weight of the established power structure: “[Organized] Producers, with a capital ‘P’, are not necessarily that easily overthrown by disorganized everyday bloggers, winterers, Facebookers, or textual poachers.”
   Shortcomings on the web are also flagrant when it comes to quality, quality assurance, relevance, credibility, integrity, independence and accountability. The interesting question is what the synthesis of Journalism 1.0 and Journalism 2.0 will resemble.  The reality we see evolving now is rather Journalism 3.0—a synthesis of the best from both worlds. Like many serious researchers and commentators—such as , Jeff Jarvis and  —emphasize, we hardly know what this synthesis will look like but there are several features about which we can speculate:

The double dialogue will be more important. Journalists and editors will pay greater attention to dialogue with the audience—readers, listeners and viewers. The significance of the dialogue among the audience itself is increasing as well. In the most radical description of the new journalism, role division has ceased between journalists and media consumers. Journalists and editors will function more like nodes in a network rather than authorities in a hierarchy.
   A central element of the dialogue among the audience is the possibility of sharing material with others. This demands adaptation of copyright laws, but it also demands that content is made available at a basic level.
   Dialogue with the audience requires another type of openness—another approach and another method of expression—than what has previously earmarked journalism.
   It’s not enough to speak to the audience; one must also speak with the audience. One must be prepared to answer when addressed. In this respect, public service media, like other editorially driven media, has a hugely decisive role to play. Someone must produce the original news and journalism—that from which the discussion emerges. Without this, the public conversation would be quite thin. In order to play this role, journalism must be accessible to all.

The public’s participation has previously been relegated to journalism’s side room. In the “quality” articles and programs, it’s journalists and experts who have appeared. Journalism distinguished by dialogue most likely requires that the audience is clearly included in programs and articles. The long and very successful tradition within Sweden's public service radio is illustrative, with programs built up around the listening public. Ring Så Spelar Vi (Ring and We’ll Play) is the best example, followed by Vetenskapsradion Klotet (Science Radio “The Sphere”) and, the most recent, Radiopsykologen (Radio Psychologist).
   Traditional local radio is also illustrative. Swedish Radio’s local stations reach by far the most listeners. Three out of ten Swedes listen daily to their local radio station.  The local journalism from Swedish Radio has always been produced in close relation to its listeners and citizens.

Increased demands are put on any journalist aiming to claim authority in the future. Even now the reader is already “the last editor”. The journalist writes his or her article and the newsroom creates its newspaper. But it’s the reader who decides what he or she is going to read. The newspaper that the reader chooses is put together by the articles he or she decides to read.
   In a similar manner, listeners and viewers edit their own personal radio and television channels. The public has instant Internet access to everything—all newspapers, all radio programs, and the entire selection of television channels—and the user’s choice regarding the “final edit” is not limited to that found in the newspaper, on the radio channel, or on the television station that he or she usually follows. It’s increasingly important to be the journalist who represents unique and thorough knowledge.
   It’s about having a profile that people want to follow because they feel it enhances their own ability to make decisions and participate in the open discussion.

The importance of personality is growing. An ever increasing and ever more fragmented supply of media and journalism, which, moreover, is under constant review and change because of the pressure of escalating competition, increases the distance between media and the audience. This directly contradicts the demand of increased dialogue that is usually promoted by closeness.
   In the discussion driven by the strongest advocates of Journalism 2.0, the implication is that Internet logic will take over completely, with the roll of the journalist nearly entirely obliterated; the audience becomes journalists.  But, actually, it’s more than likely that the reverse will occur. When the supply increases, even more is demanded to assert oneself on the market. Only someone with something special to offer is worth following and conversing with.
   It could be that which is provocative, not to say spectacular. It bends media in a commercial direction. It could also be knowledge, capacity for analysis, or responsiveness bending media in an editorial and democratic direction. But the journalist will not be an interesting dialogue partner simply because he or she occupies a particular position or works at a particular media institution. It might very well turn out to be that it is personality that drives tomorrow’s more egalitarian and dialogue-oriented net journalism.
   In one way, more egalitarian, in another way, more elitist.

Authenticity is becoming more important. One effect of the breakthrough of information technology is that human contacts are replaced with automatic services. A call to the electricity company is answered with a metallic voice and dialogue is replaced by digital touchtones.
   Sometimes people consciously seek non-authenticity as part of their Internet life. One interacts using a fictitious identity and communicates in a depersonalized manner. However, where credibility is sought, demands for authenticity will also likely increase. An anonymous person will not, reasonably, be perceived as credible as a well-known and respected voice.

That which is local has always had a prominent role within journalism. The American Congressman Tip O’Neill’s classic quip “” was quickly adapted to describe one of journalism’s basic driving forces: “All news is local”.
   People are certainly interested in national news and politics, but people are most interested in what’s happening close to home. The new technology has allowed for previously undreamed of opportunities for local, or even local local, journalism. Just imagine someone beginning to develop neighborhood journalism’s equivalent to Facebook.
   If the shape is given for both County Road 217 in Marengo, just outside of Columbus, Ohio and Rue des Ecoles in Saint-Mathieu-de-Tréviers north of Montpellier, it’s just a matter of starting to use the site. Think of the possibilities for both citizen dialogue and micro-market level advertising.

The journalistic differentiation will likely accelerate. With publishing opportunities increasing on the whole, a simultaneous fragmentation of media structure and content, and differentiation of journalism, is almost unavoidable. Differences in content between various media and various sites will be greater. Consequently, we’re also likely to see increasing differences between various journalist roles.
   Open linking has become an important element in quality journalism. The audience wants to both review the quality of media content and deepen their knowledge and analysis of a situation. Open linking is about the publication of source material on the Internet. Already today, Swedish Radio and Swedish Television often publish the unedited texts that serve as groundwork for important interviews.

The Anglo-Saxon debate on the new media reality is intense. We’ve mentioned Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen, among others. The basis for our summary and conclusions is partially influenced by discussions we’ve had with Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen. Jay Rosen’s version of the new journalism is found on his blog, Pressthink, and is certainly worthwhile reading: The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media .
   The editorial poverty that continues to plague the Swedish blogosphere can suggest that social media and their effects on journalism is something that belongs to the future. But it’s vital to understand that media habits are changing now. The social media matters, even if journalism, so far, has only been affected marginally.

A crucial factor in the future media equation is that what happens isn’t determined only by new journalism and new media’s possibilities. Almost as important are the established media’s impossibilities. The daily newspaper business model—figuratively speaking, that, for example, the American low price chain Best Buy pays for the newspaper’s Baghdad bureau—is eroding. The competition for television viewers’ time and, thus, the television company’s advertising revenues, is transforming commercial television into a distinct entertainment medium.  Thus, it’s not simply the pull exerted by new media that is driving development but also the push away from established media.
   Interestingly, it’s not just about the development of journalism per se but also media development in general.

Our starting point is that journalism is bigger than the media structure. Media acts as means to an end for journalism. The central question is what is happening with journalism, not media. Nonetheless, we are not only on the way towards Journalism 3.0 but also towards Media 3.0 and Media Society 3.0. It’s easy to view the daily newspapers and commercial television as the journalistic losers. Is it possible then for radio—public service radio in Europe and public radio in the USA—with its resource efficiency, easy mobility and extreme potential for dialogue, to occupy an enhanced position in Media Society 3.0?
   There’s no given answer. But a few answers are more likely than others. Various attempts are being made to create “Information Customs” on the web that would reduce the “World Wide Web” to “National Narrow Nets” or “Corporate Closed Circuits”. This happens through paywalls that media companies use to close off their content from non-paying users. But it also happens when large companies and nations attempt to create technological barriers and limitations.

The most famous is the “Great Firewall” of China, which attempts to keep out Internet’s destabilizing influences. However, it’s not only China that builds walls; countries as dissimilar as Australia and Brazil are also doing it.
   Also companies, among them the most modern, attempt to create privileged positions using technological solutions. It’s true of Apple, with its apps for both Iphone and Ipad. It’s true of Facebook, regulating which applications are allowed on its site.
   Overall, these efforts will likely be fruitless. It’s not enough for Murdoch and his News Corp to build a virtual wall around the London-based newspaper The Times. He must also ensure that other newspapers or media companies don’t offer their products free of charge. Otherwise, non-paying customers will simply move from The Times to The Guardian or some other competitor.
   It’s like trying to close off world trade or to recreate the Soviet Empire. The outlook for success is just as likely as attempting to make eggs from an omelet.

With a preserved open global Internet, large categories of information will be commodities that are freely accessed. Not the least of which will be general news. This creates inevitable effects for the traditional daily newspaper. At the same time, quality content will be attractive, whether it is narrow, specialized content or general content of very high quality. With functional payments methods—card payments connected to Amazon’s Kindle, for example—publications such as The Economist, Financial Times and Der Spiegel should enjoy a bright future. Likewise, entirely new financing models—nonprofit funding, perhaps in combination with partial commercial financing—could play an important role.
   The newspaper  and the news site suggest what the future holds. It’s also important that a democracy, built on openness, free competition, accessibility of information and participation, does not allow attempts by newspaper moguls to exclude others from the Internet, to succeed.

Think about a world where a particular subject, when searched for on Google, yields only commercial references and no independent sources, because a political decision has blocked that journalistic presence from the Internet.
   Do we want a situation in Sweden where the public is only provided commercially motivated content? Or is it also important that citizens continue to receive the whole picture—even when they choose to seek more information about a subject on the web?

Remember why Public Service was created in the first place back in the 1920s. An important thought was the democratic access to quality media content. Part of that thinking was economic—no one should be excluded for economic reasons.
   Without exaggerating, one can say that this was the welfare state idea translated into media policy.
   It is quite easy to see, in general, how new institutions—and old institutions in new roles—can occupy entirely new roles within Media Society 3.0. There are many main institutes of knowledge already financed for other purposes: universities, research institutions, academies, consulting companies. Content derived from, and distributed via, entirely new sources could certainly become an important part of Media Society 3.0.

It’s more difficult to see how a growing information gap—the digital divide—can be avoided. If there are no existing business models for the production and wide distribution of content found today in ordinary daily newspapers (and, until now, also found on the broader television channels), then the question is undeniably raised: how are the common citizens to be reached by Journalism 3.0?
   Certainly, news and information will be out there on the Internet. But will the strong and clear purveyors be there? If the omnibus newspaper, which has been a foundation of democracy ever since its breakthrough, is no longer financially viable, it’s difficult to envision alternative strong, market-financed media institutions that are as far reaching.

It’s worthwhile remembering that the unholy alliance between advertisement financing and editorial ambitions is what has provided democracy with journalism throughout the years.
   It’s this alliance that is now being dissolved or, rather, shattered. What’s left of the established media is public service: public service media in Europe and public radio and television in the USA. It’s absolutely clear that the potential significance of public service radio and television is greater than what it is today.
   Public service has been strong in Sweden the last 50 years. That in and of itself doesn’t guarantee a glowing future. Obviously, public service media must follow along and drive the development toward Journalism 3.0.

The broad commercial media companies are narrowing down their mission. What’s left is entertainment. In the long run, it’s probably public service alone that will be capable of providing the broader picture, of being the media-meeting place for the general public.
   Not least from a development perspective is the realization by the “owners” of public service about the fundamental significance of what is actually happening. Policy makers who decide the future of public service companies in Sweden must take the time to truly immerse themselves in the reality that we now see emerging. Decisions made now may produce devastating and long-lasting effects.

Many media researchers emphasize the fundamentality of the changes that society is experiencing today. It’s not only new media’s strong supporters who compare the changes today with the introduction of printed books. Robert Darnton, Director of Harvard University Library, is one of the high priests of the “Church of the Printed Word”. In his book, The Case for Books , he discusses four epoch shifts in the history of the written word. The first was about 4000 BC when the first steps were taken toward the development of writing. The second epoch shift began 2000 years ago when papyrus was replaced by codex, which consisted of several folded arks bound together, the precursor of today’s book.
   The third epoch shift was, of course, the introduction of printed books. “The fourth great change, electronic communication, took place yesterday, or the day before, depending on how you measure it.”, writes Darnton.

We are in the midst of revolutionary change. Everyone is trying to find his or her way toward the new structure and, consequently, toward the new journalism that characterizes the epoch we are entering. It’s an extremely vital search process. Regardless of how well commercial owners and public service and public media policymakers are able to handle the process, the cost of the changes will be, of course, great.
   Conservatism and looking backwards may lead to enormous financial losses for large media companies. Further, if public service policymakers don’t realize that “radio and television in the public service” needs to receive both the room and the resources to fully participate in this search process, the result can be a slow fragmentation of the entire media structure and total commercialization of the public square that is a prerequisite of a working democracy.

There has seldom been an area of society less suitable for a superficial and ignorant adaptation of simple free market principles. This is because Journalism 3.0 and Media 3.0 is ultimately also about the simultaneous development of Democracy 3.0. Even the greatest supporter of market economy should be able to see that it isn’t obvious that development should be placed in the invisible hands of the market or, perhaps more aptly put, in the current market players very visible hands.
   This is not to say that public service alone should be responsible for the development process. On the contrary, the process must be as open as it possibly can be. No one has the answers. No one knows what we will find as a result of this search process. We can certainly formulate our wishes about how journalism and media should develop but we don’t know what is possible. The possibilities are created as we search for them. The more who join in the search, the greater become the possibilities.