Robert Cox looks at some of the problems the traditional media has competing in the new media age.
Given the many deep-seated traditions in journalism, it is no surprise that many journalists are hidebound when grappling with the future of journalism and the role of traditional news organizations in the emerging media landscape. It might be interesting to debate whether a newspaper ought to link to a blog, which has published cartoons mocking Mohammed or raw exit poll data, but readers are voting with their mouse.
If CNN.com or latimes.com will not link the Nick Berg beheading video, there are plenty of alternatives that will. Like it or not, a forward-thinking set of ethical standards for news organizations is going to need to account for this new reality where readers are setting their own standards, gathering their own information and demanding a say in what constitutes “news.”
To appreciate the danger for traditional news outlets, one only needs to look at the way Craigslist wreaked havoc on revenue from newspaper classified ads, money which played a large role in subsidizing news gathering operations. It is hard to believe that if newspapers knew then what they know now, they would have continued to insist on charging for classifieds or applying the same standards in restricting the content of those ads. Having done so they were effectively driven out of the classified ad business.
In a horizontal media environment, the credibility of a news brand means more, not less. There is no doubt that traditional news organizations still have a vital role to play, but acting as gatekeeper and guardian of community values is not likely to be one of them.