We’ve seen the trouble that newspapers are in, but unlike the recording industry who appear to be in more or less in the same boat, newspapers and their journalists seem to be doing something positive about it. Or at least they would do if their ideas were taken up. I spotted this article by Dan Gillmour in The Guardian which gets to grips with the real problems of fitting journalism into the post-social media landscape, in which he outlines 22 ideas that he would employ if he was in charge. We all think we can run the organisation that we love better. This is Gillmour’s version.
It does not (nor does it aim to) pose a complete solution to the problems that newspapers face since sales were challenged by the availability of news online and the changes in the ways that information is accessed and distributed. But some of it clearly takes on the influence of social media (or new media, if you prefer to underscore the opposition between the old and new). His second point, for example, incorporates crowd journalism into Gilmour’s idealised newspaper; later in Point 5, there is an emphasis on ‘conversation’ between writers and readers, that golden rule of contemporary social networking tools like Twitter:
5. We’d make conversation an essential element of our mission. Among other things:
– If we were a local newspaper, the editorial pages would publish the best of, and be a guide to, conversation the community was having with itself online and in other public forums, whether hosted by the news organization or someone else.
– Editorials would appear in blog format, as would letters to the editor.
– We would encourage comments and forums, but in moderated spaces that encouraged the use of real names and insisted on (and enforced) civility.
– Comments from people using verified real names would be listed first.
There is still an element of ‘interference’ rather than a wholesale laissez faire approach – someone has to judge the most valuable conversations, moderate forums, and so on – so some might feel it doesn’t go far enough. But this utopian view of post-social media newspapers represents a step in the right direction, even if its ideas remain, for now at least, just that.