The Guardian's Katharine Viner writes cogently about the far-reaching, painful and exciting changes that are being wrought by digital journalism on the industry .http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/09/the-rise-of-the-reader-katharine-viner-an-smith-lecture
As she points out this is "a huge conceptual change ... a cluster bomb blowing apart who we are and how our world is ordered." She emphasizes the gulf between the closed world of papers and the openness, multi-directionality and fluidity of the new digital era form the unanswerable truths of the paper to "unfiltered exchange of information". The journalist has lost smug omniscience: some readers will almost certainly know more about a particular subject than the journalist. It then comes down to involving those readers and reaching out to them through Twitters and Blogs. Readers shape and develop stories and are an integral part of it. That enriches our work.
This can reap rewards. Viner cites a powerful example of video footage sent in by a reader showing a protester being shoved to the ground by a policeman, blowing up the police story and resulting in the perpetrator's dismissal for gross misconduct.
Papers need to adapt to capture this audience participation. "You need to be part of the web's ecosystem, not just plonked on top of it; to submit to the web's architecture, psychology, mores," argues Viner.
She goes on to argue that real journalists are outsiders and are in favour of the open web, open journalism, the free flow of engagement and challenge and debate. Those that resist openness through paywalls and refusal of engagement are the luddites.
I agree that journalism is being reconceptualized and admired her idealism.
I remain bothered, however, with her unwillingness to tackle the financial side, the reduction of staff and salaries and lack of training as demands proliferate and new skills are demanded. The rules are being made up as we go along.
How do you monitor content in this octopus media with tentacles across print, digital, reader commentary, video when it is free and open source? The answer: you don't. You're too busy investing in technology to embrace all these opportunities and in so doing so you skimp on controls and cut journalist salaries. No wonder they are leaving the industry in droves.
And if you are not able to really monitor comments (perhaps just removing obscenities), are you not just an open source for tit-for-tat gossip and PR people plugging their wares? Trolls, spammers and commercial representatives are increasingly and insidiously present across the web. Without more intelligence in overseeing open source, could be little more than a cacophany of the self-interested. Perhaps it's time to call in someone objective -a journalist perhaps?