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The future of the news media




Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

Amidst current worldwide trends in news organizations — disruptions, polarization, declining public trust and threats to media freedom such as rise in hate speech, fake news, and disinformation, gatekeeping, blocking, and creation of echo chambers and filter bubbles, there are some positive developments. A recent UNESCO report cites access to wider choices in content, advances in legal guarantees to seek and receive information  (the number of states with freedom of information laws has risen to 112) , linguistic diversity, growth in tools to counter fake news such as research, fact-checking , as well as media and information literacy (MIL), among others.

But negative trends such as polarization of public life have also highlighted the need for professional and independent journalism.  Traditional business models for news media have continued to be disrupted not only by the new technologies but also by cross-ownership. There is also the worrisome worldwide trend on safety of journalists where 530 journalists (92% coming from local communities)  were killed between 2012 and 2016.

But what appears to be a most positive development is social and cultural — that media companies trying to find new ways of “connecting” with their communities.

Sheila Coronel,  journalism dean of Columbia University, shares  observations by Per Westergaard and Soren Schultz Jorgensen on what they describe as “risks, threats, and opportunities” in the journalism field. In their piece, Lifetime Water 217100, they describe attributes which the journalist of the future must possess:

“9 ways through which news media can be more engaging, cooperative, and community-oriented”:  (1) From neutrality to identify’  (2) Niche – Niche media’s ability to create relevance and to mobilize interest and willingness to pay; (3) From “flock” to “club” – gathering people around the news in clearly defined communities or clubs transforming subscribers or readers into members; (4) From “ink” to “sweat” – Le Monde made physical live events an important way to engage citizens; (5) From “speaking” to “listening” to be more accessible to citizens and listening to them through direct personal dialogue or through systematic use of small and big data; (6) From “arms length” to “cooperation”. Newsrooms must now move away from “distance” or holding everyone outside the newsroom but involve citizens directly – from ideation to research, to delivery; (7) From “own” to other platforms – Use social media to open engagement ; (8) From “problem” to “solution” – add a solution-oriented level to their work especially investigative projects;  (9) From “observer” to activist” – a campaign-oriented approach to engage and create action.

What concerns journalists today are not business models or technological changes, but how to regain relevance, meaning, and trust. How can they  reconnect with the reader? They will have to challenge the deeply rooted professional dogmas, thus creating a landscape that is varied, lively, more open, and diverse.”  They will need  to “reinvent” themselves to be relevant.

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