I realized after writing earlier this morning about the way new media is changing the news that my experience was a perfect example of the way that old and new media can interact to augment each other. It also pointed me to one of the key factors that is hurting existing media organizations and thus a possible way to reverse the trend in theory. Unfortunately I am unable to identify a business model that would take advantage of this theoretical key.
Consider the example. A newspaper journalist decides to do a story on the impact of new media on our political system. He interviews someone who has used new media to follow a political campaign in a way that traditional media sources sis not provide. He contacts elected officials and other people connected with government. He contacts a political blogger (me in this case). he takes all the information that he has gathered and using his own experience and his skill in the art of written communication tells a story showing how new media is changing the face of politics and what it means to citizens. He turns the story over to his editors who take that story, assign it a place in the paper, edit it for content and in the interest of meeting size limitations on their physical page trims part of the story – the part that explains what this means to the average reader. It has now become a story without a moral – not because the journalist failed, but because of space limitations.
After that happened I, as a blogger who is not constrained by any physical space limitations in what I write, posted the entire list of questions I was asked as the journalist prepared his story and my full answers. This is the unfiltered data from one source which the journalist used to create his story. One symbiosis between traditional journalism and citizen journalism is that those who are interested in what the journalist wrote could look into the raw questions and answers that produced the story and decide for themselves what more they can learn than the paper was able to publish.
I realized this morning as I reflected upon the process of producing that story from fact gathering to publication that a key factor that is hurting old media organizations is that they are trying so hard to put out the maximum amount of information within their limited physical space that they have sacrificed the moral to virtually every story (that’s easy to do because taking out the moral can also make them feel more objective) and the result is that readership declines (especially paid readership) not because reporters are doing their thinking for them, but because almost all thought is expunged from the final product in the interest of keeping a maximum amount of data.
The theoretical way to reverse that trend would be to use digital media with traditional reporting to again publish the whole story – without space limitations. Those organizations interested in having a physical paper could use the paper as a gateway to the digital content – showing teasers of stories with the full story online and/or only printing the top story or stories in the paper while printing all stories worth printing in the digital version. The digital version could be augmented with complete references and links where possible to the original sources on each article so that readers could dig deeper as they were so inclined. By doing this the organization could even begin to learn in more detail what stories and sources their readers were most interested in and follow up on those with more traditional reporting. This encourages the new media ecosystem which them serves as a valuable tool and resource for the traditional media.
Like I said at the beginning, I don’t have a firm business model for how to support this (how to fund it being a major missing component), but I think I am getting a picture of how these “competing” interests can and should work together.