Thursday, September 29, 2011

Exactly what is wrong with journalism and why journalists do not get social media (beyond its shallow advertising potential)

From the Twitter stream today following the Tennessean's event to explain how the news media uses Twitter, Facebook, etc:

Tennessean uses social media to protect their brand, engage their audience and as a customer service tool

Notice that nothing was said about using social media to uncover ignored and subverted news or to act as a social or political force countering or revealing information beyond the approved orthodoxy (hence, to be the Fourth Estate). Nothing about speaking truth to power, come what may, for people not at the table.

I've insisted for some time that journalism today is less about playing a critical role in society or reporting news beyond the spin, and more about public relations, branding, and promotion of friends and associates through advertising. (Note that their "free" Wednesday papers thrown on lawns are exclusively advertising now; no news at all). In essence, journalism is not a power to which we can turn as an alternative to the party line or the corporate talking points. Instead, local journalism, especially that exercised at the Tennessean, sells and brands exactly like the elite powerbrokers do.

The more journos use social media to defend their product rather than act for the sake of the common or a principled good, the more they slip from a seat of legitimate gatekeeper of information. Hence, we need social media and blogs in particular to get information past the disingenuous branding and the flackery of the Tennessean. Reporters already crowd Twitter for specific reasons and hawk their product to many, many audiences. If we fail to strive to keep social media an authentic alternative then it will be colonized via this generation of acquisitive journalists by government power and corporate money. It will be sapped of its peculiar and distinct potential.

For more on what's happening inside the Tennessean's social media event tonight, jump to their Twitter hashtag (#) stream (you may have to scroll through some obtuse participant tweets to get to the corporate sales jargon dispensed by the Tennessean's social media evangelists).

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