Writing, once such a solitary activity practiced by a devout few, has now become something of a public spectacle, with social media unleashing the inner scribe in all of us. Unfortunately, for some people, there’s a reason that cage door was locked.
What you say to people in person, and what you say to them on the internet should ideally be guided by the same general social and moral values. But with the measure of detachment afforded by a keyboard and a glowing screen, the web becomes the unwitting medium for content ranging from vapid to vitriolic. And all too often, the unfiltered, un-fact-checked output of anyone with access to a computer, an internet connection, and an opinion is being taken as the gospel news.
Now, there’s been an ongoing concern that with the rise of blogger culture, traditional journalism is being threatened, and in fact, the death of print has been predicted for years. Replaceability, when it comes to being a media professional, is certainly an issue to be concerned about. The Toronto Star downsized heavily not too long ago, Rogers Media yesterday shut down the 20-month-old 24 hour news station, CityNews Channel resulting in a wave of layoffs, and then you have a situation like the Chicago Sun Times laying off their entire photography staff and replacing them with cameraphone-toting reporters.
But the fact remains, trained professionals in any capacity are always going to be required, no matter how many amateurs there are out there. (Ask any home contractor. I mean, why else would there be so many reality shows based on home renos gone bad?)
With the right amount of dedication and innate skill, an amateur could easily outpace a recognized professional in terms of say, getting the news out more quickly, as Twitter proves time and again. But a couple of things that differentiate a quick-thinking Twitter user from a seasoned professional in the media are credibility, and accountability.
Because one thing that media training teaches you is not to leap too quickly upon a story before all the facts are in…which, unfortunately, is a consideration often lost in the non-accountable world of blogging, and disturbingly, even by scoop-hungry media professionals trying to compete with the instantaneous nature of social media.
So, while the talking heads debate the future of a world without recognized media outlets, let me throw in my own two cents, blogger that I am: Quality will always find its way to the top. And when it comes to writing, the best writers are usually the ones who do it regularly for a living, in an environment that encourages accuracy, intelligent thought, and diligence over haste.
That being said, bloggers with consistent, carefully curated content have become just as solid of authorities (and sometimes more so) on certain subjects as any labelled professional. And without the pressure to please a publisher, there might also be fewer constraints on bloggers in terms of freedom to follow certain stories or ideas, or leeway to create content with a distinctly subjective slant to it. And, to be fair, it’s become de rigeur for major media outlets to have blog portions on their main websites, and in certain cases, media professionals have broken out into independence and embraced the world of blogging as part of their own personal news brand, bringing a certain sheen of traditional respectability to the news blogosphere.
So with that all being said, it seems that in today’s age, the best thing to do as a thoughtful news consumer is to simply create your own personal media conglomerate, cobbling together all the sources, traditional and untraditional, that allow you to create your own uniquely streamlined news experience.
And this, the increasing ubiquitousness of media-critical consumers is possibly one of the best things to emerge from the ever-changing media landscape.