Imagine a world where all journalism was of the people, by the people, for the people. Where all people have a chance to participate, where anyone has a chance for their voice to be heard, where all participations in the media are geared towards the people, and where people (general public interest) are the center of all media interactions. That while not perfect would be the best journalism.
New information and communication tools are already almost developing this ideal. There are new media tools enabling all to communicate, engage, offer feedback, have their say etc. But the noise in the crowd is too much to facilitate any substantial conversation and understanding necessary for informed decisions-the essence of democracy and free participation. So we still need the people who specialize in gathering information on particular issues and disseminating distilled information in the public interest.
Journalists and news media houses need to find their feet in the new media world and take advantage of the new media technologies to improve their work. As more and more people get their news and information from non-traditional media channels, it is important that journalists are present and active in those channels like facebook, twitter, myspace, tumbler, and several online and mobile tools.
But as the 2010 World Economic Forum noted, this era needs journalists who look at themselves as networkers or network managers than gatekeepers who must determine what the public should know, what is important and who should have a voice. The new technologies have taken over those powers, but in doing so I believe it has liberated journalism to play a much more important role of informing, educating and entertaining in better ways that include more people and offer open platforms for all to engage in the discussions, information and issues of the day.
It means freeing up journalists in the newsroom to report more spontaneously as per the public news and information needs, as well as more news and information products targeted at specific publics (audience segments)., and most importantly in different media (text , photos audio, video, graphic visualizations and amalgamations like timelines, maps, mashups, etc so people can have better choices in the news and information they receive and how. This is the new media democracy.
Just like in political parties that cement democracy, the new media democracy looks to be dotted by different media conveying issues of different interest groups, freer media that acknowledges membership to it will depend on how they meet interests of audience members who have many options to chose from, media that is as changing as people’s interests.
I should admit I was intrigued to learn that a similar concept of media democracy has long been in motion, and hope journalists and media houses can understand the importance of involving more people in the news and information cycle, which to me is no longer an issue of advocacy but a market issue as people will easily find alternatives to air their views, to get the news and information they want, at the time they want it, and how they want it. So we better start getting ready.
The new media tools and trends have brought a new kind of order that has given citizens and ordinary people more room for participation in the news and information generation and dissemination, and removed substantial power from a few media owners or editors in determining what is important for the rest.
In many ways, it helps to look at new media as a form of media democracy where there is better chance that what the media does is of the people, by the people and for the people as former US President Abraham Lincoln famously defined democracy. So while it is unsettling for many media houses and journalists, i have come to accept that the new media tools and trends present the best chance for the media and journalism to do their best in informing, educating and entertaining while providing the best chance for audience engagement and citizen participation.