obstacles facing new media
leaders in the print journalism industry have much to bring to the table
that could contribute to the emergence of online media. Unfortunately,
too many dig their heels into tradition while new media journalists discount
them as outdated. This is creating two distinct camps in the field: The
idealists who believe technology will revolutionize the news media and
the traditionalists who believe new media is killing pure journalism.
One of the most frustrating,
but often uttered phrases in a newspaper's newsroom is, "This is
how we've always done it." Newspaper journalism ranks at the top
of the news media's credibility and integrity scale. It is an industry
steeped in tradition, ethics, and standards. As such, it is also mired
in self-preserving arrogance.
This arrogance is rooted in the fact that newspaper journalism is a pressure filled, fast-paced and challenging world in which those in the industry, as Dale Peskin, executive director of New Directions for News said, see "change from the driver's seat of a speeding vehicle through a lens of convention, ritual, and self-interest."
To move into the new age of news, journalists must be prepared to open their minds to new ideas involving online media and other technologies. The two camps, the idealists and the traditionalists, would be more effective working together to further journalism... instead of holding each other back.
Peskin crystallizes the consequences of journalistic arrogance with the
story of Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician who formed a secret brotherhood
to deny the existence of zero. With zero in mathematics, the universe
(and Pythagoras's famed theorem) was not understandable and logical. When
one member of the brotherhood, Hippasus of Metapontum, leaked the discovery
of irrational numbers, Pythagoras sentenced him to death. Revealing the
truth was too destructive to the Pythagoreans' sense of order.
arrogance and refusal to accept new ideas led to his downfall. The secret
brotherhood began to fall apart and those who opposed the mathematician
set out to kill him. Pythagorus, a health nut who believed indigestion
caused all disease and who had become afraid of beans because they caused
flatulence, was chased until he came upon a bean field. He stopped short
and said he'd rather die than run through it. His attackers cut his throat.
"Arrogance and eternal flatulence," wrote Peskin. "Pythagoras died for behaviors and beliefs that put him out of touch with the rest of the world."
Customization is a popular new feature for online news sites. With it, people read what they want to, not just what editors place on the front page. The concept of customization turns the agenda-setting paradigm on its head. No longer will the media tell people what to think about or what to think is most important. Now, readers will decide for themselves what news is most important to their lives.
of customization argue that readers will no longer gain a broad view of
the world, causing greater audience fractionalization. However, a well-planned
site that mixes customized news content with important world, national
and local headlines can keep news consumers appropriately informed while
still giving them what they want most from the news.
Traditionalists also possess an aversion to audience collaboration. Print journalists are reared in their trade thinking of their audience as a group they serve while at the same time assuming that journalists know more than their average audience member. This is another paradigm that new media can upset. With instant response capabilities in the form of e-mail and newsgroups, journalists can be constantly connected to their readers and journalists should take advantage of the wealth of knowledge their readers possess.
According to author John
Pavlik, "Journalists now need to think about a global audience that
not only reads what they write and report, but can comment, provide perspective,
and offer new insight into the complexities of an increasingly global
Often, media companies attempt to view two recent trends together: Declining profits and online media. They hope the latter will be a solution to the former - preferably, a quick solution. Instead, they should realize that great innovations seldom turn a quick profit.
media is out of its infancy, but not
yet ready to stand on its own.
Newspapers and other online media sources must plan for the long run and
focus on advancing journalism over advancing profits. The end result will
be a product that will be immensely profitable
once the kinks are
For reassurance, executives should take note of the growing audience for online media and experiment with new capabilities. Steve Outing of Editor & Publisher magazine quoted Knight Ridder executive Steve Rossi as saying, "fail fast, fail cheaply" regarding new innovations. In short, exploration is what is important and all exploration involves losing money on a few failed ventures before success can be claimed.
References and related work:
Copyright © 2002 by Michele