As I’ve scanned through my RSS feeds this week, I’ve been struck by the sheer number of headlines having to do with changes in media. It’s natural, I suppose, that I’d be seeing lots of that kind of coverage in newspapers, TV, and radio, since those changes hit especially close to home for those of us who work in the industry. And we media types do like talking about ourselves, don’t we?
Even so, I’m surprised at depth of the melodrama and the fear: Twitter is destroying/saving journalism. (Please.) What in the world will replace print newspapers/TV/radio? (Digitally disseminated, multimedia content, of course.) But will there be a place for “real” journalism in this brave new world? (Sure there will, it’ll just be bundled into different sorts of content/money-making packages than we’re used to with the newspaper/magazine ads+eyeballs=content model.)
All the handwringing about the slow, steady demise of “old media” in recent years (some of which kvetching I’ve done myself, admittedly) seems to me to be missing the point a bit. Whether we’re talking about print publication or network TV, or commercial radio–the days of hegemony for homogenized content delivered from the top down are numbered. Predetermined, neatly packaged content we all share and share alike just doesn’t have a monopoly on public attention anymore. I have a hard time getting upset about that. I like niche content; I enjoy the sort of obscure creations that thrive in the populist soup of new media but which wouldn’t have a prayer of getting off the ground in the winner-take-all, numbers-driven world of old media models of communication.
I have a feeling, once we who work in the field find our feet again and figure out how to swim in these new media waters, we’ll find our new horizons to be exhilarating, if different from the joys of writing for just the printed page–especially once we expand our skill sets to include some audio/visual editing competence, too. Some things will be lost, to be sure; but let’s not lose sight of what we stand to gain: greater autonomy, a fluid interplay between reader and writer; the tangible possibility for small but talented voices to triumph over their less agile big-media counterparts, simply by virtue of being better at what they do. The rules of new media may be different, but that doesn’t mean what we’re actually saying to each other, the message itself, is. Maybe it’s just that more messages are available now that you don’t have to have lots of money or designated authority to put it out there and see what sticks.
Such a cacophony of new voices is messy and noisy, for sure; but I find it terribly exciting, too. I run into unexpected delights and insights online every day, and I’m more engaged with colleagues and friends and the richness of what’s happening in my community–thanks to the advent of these new technologies.
I’m not denying that the pain caused by these media transitions is real, especially while those of us in the business of words struggle not to get lost in the gap between these historical chapters in media innovation, as we adapt to new media’s still-murky economies and the unfamiliar textures of its modes of communicating.
But the sky isn’t falling and storytelling isn’t going away. We’re just changing what tools we use to spread the word and shaking up the authority structure that gets to decide who gets to say what and to whom. And, of course, we’re still trying to figure out how much and whether we’re willing to pay for it all.
What’s your take? Do you think these changes in medium are altering the fundamentals of what we’re saying to each other? Are you embracing RSS feeds and social media networks and content on demand, or are you resistant to them, fearful of what’s being lost in the process of all these tectonic shifts in communication?
Bonus link: Christie’s (!) has a webcast of a panel discussion from 3/12 on “The Future of Arts Journalism”: includes Senior Director of Cultural Initiatives from the Pew Charitable Trust, the Cultural News Editor from The New York Times, and the prestigious Columbia School of Journalism’s director of the school’s M.A. program in arts and culture journalism. (Link courtesy of a fine industry blog, ARTicles, by the National Arts Journalism Program)