“New School” vs “Old School” Journalism

The immediate viral marketing of the blog, YouTube, Myspace, Facebook, Flickr, Wikipedia and other such platforms of online social interaction are sweeping the media space by storm. This relatively new form of information goes beyond the news and enters into the social network at the local level. It is at this level that news takes on a more personal, active, and tactile role. Add to this Instagram’s latest release of their Real-Time API and you’ve got a real-time view of the world that is ever growing, further narrowing the gap in time between coasts and continents.

FacebookMyspaceLinkedInBlogspotFacebook started out as a site where students could rate or berate the looks of classmates through ID photos that, founder, Mark Zuckerberg lifted off of Harvard’s computers while attending university there.1 Since its launch in 2004 it has quickly grown in prominence. As of April 2009, Facebook was up to 200 million active users, up nearly 100 million users from the year prior. The largest growing demographic as of 2009 is the 35 year old and older segment of our population. It is this population that has started to increase the popularity of the site and the role it plays in our media space. According to Lesley Stahl in an interview on 60 Minutes with Zuckerberg, she writes, “So Facebook is changing the way we communicate with our friends, and with our grandparents. It’s also changing politics. Every major candidate has a page. Zuckerberg says there seem to be more Republicans on the site than Democrats, and among them, Barack Obama – with his young persons following – is hugely popular.”

Journalistic-worthy news of old often takes the shape of newspapers, radio, magazines, television and other one-way-transmission forms of media. Reader interaction at this level usually starts with a call to action, where the media space asks that we call a number, log on to a web page, or visit a local polling station. While powerful and effective, it remains static and dependent on more news of this form to report the effects of the information spread.

With the birth of new “New-School” journalism, information takes on a life of it’s own, growing outward as it spirals into new sectors and social networks. As users of the internet pass on the information they consider important or worth sharing, they effectively endorse the information as if it where their own. The power in this type of information sharing and promotion lies at the heart of our human nature and our desire to interact with other like-minded people.

Take this form of information sharing one step further where these web sites take on highly complex algorithms capable of collecting information from us while we interact in the space. In so doing, the sites we visit and interact with, begin to promote certain bits of information to a higher rating as deemed important by our friend’s likes and dislikes, by our hobbies and interests, and by the searches we perform. The net result is the presentation of ads specifically targeted to our interests, news specific to our region, and journalism tuned to our particular politic.

It would be safe to say, online social media networks are here to stay and with them come the rise in popularity across a multitude of genres, including Journalism. According to Ryan Sholin, a staff writer for CBS’s bNet.com media site, “One thing students can’t get at any Bay Area journalism school is the sort of computer programming knowledge necessary to build databases and content management systems for news organizations. For that, they’ll have to pay a visit to the computer science department.”2

We accept that the future is not about traditional media vs. new media, about opinionated blogs vs. investigative reporting, about podcasts vs. the nightly news. The future will blend both – the new tools of the trade aligned with the eternal verities of good reporting, writing, critical thinking, values, and ethics.

Considering the power of this type of information gathering and promoting, how do you interact with this form of media? Do you have a Facebook account? How often do you use it? Do you share your photographs across any platforms, such as Flickr, Picasa, your own website or blog?

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