I’ve spent the last couple days holed up in a room in scenic Salzburg, Austria with 20 other people from both traditional journalism and new media backgrounds. Our goal: discuss strategies for more effective engagement and investment in “tomorrow’s media“. Having this mixture of “old school” journalism professionals mixed in with those of us who are only embedded in the blogging and social media fields, but with no classical training in journalism, has led to some very interesting conversations.
One of these sticking points has been around the journalist’s emphasis on the need for quality in reporting via new media (citizen media, like blogs and social networks). It’s a good point, we all want more quality reporting in any medium, whether it’s by a blogger or a newspaper. There is a stated need for education and training in solid journalism practices.
That might be true. However, it misses one important point, especially when we compare how we talk about the West (US/Europe) and everyone else.
In the West, there has long been access to computer, the internet and social media tools. There’s a critical mass of bloggers and influencers who use social media tools like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. You have to ask the question then, has access and familiarity with these digital tools led to the vibrancy that allows greater transparency to happen?
Is it due to having access, and your peers usage, that allows self-learning to take place with the new media and social tools which are available to everyone? Kids, students and the general populace tinker in the space and grows the space organically.
Put another way, a statistically inconsequential number of bloggers and social media influencers from the West were trained in journalism. Why are we expecting that training and education, rather than simple, open access to social media tools will make a difference “over there” when it didn’t to anyone in the West?
[Sidebar: Quality and critical mass are not mutually exclusive. As a new medium and new users get comfortable and grow, quality is evolutionary and grows as well.]