Journalism 2.0: News or chatter?

What is the future of news? A debate is underway in the blogosphere.
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

What is the future of news? A debate is underway in the blogosphere. Additionally, What is news? Who writes news? 

Haydn Shaughnessy asks: 

Are readers really writers? Some are but we know participation is always on the low side. The reader is a writer sounds good, but it’s a neat turn of phrase on the way to becoming a cliché.

Shaughnessy suggests that “writers” should not exist in a vacuum and underscores the need for professional writing and editorial processes:

Editors are important figures - they get in the way, they make mistakes but they generally teach you to write better, uphold a set of values and keep reminding you of what those values are, have a good feel for what a reader base wants to learn about, have news sense, story selection savvy, good packaging skills. Hell, I want to be one.

Shaughnessy's embrace of "old school" journalism principles is a politically incorrect counter point to the Web 2.0 school of citizen journalism.

Dave Winer puts forth Jay Rosen's 2004 assertion that "My Readers Know More Than I Do" and one-ups him: 

of course they do, this is another way of saying that you have more than one or two readers. It's so obvious, but that's okay, people often miss what's obvious. Sometimes the more obvious it is the more people miss it.What's happening to news is what's happening to everything. The readers are becoming the writers…

News is not like the symphony, it's like cooking dinner…Very few people, if any, will earn a living doing this, much as most of us don't earn a living by cooking dinner, but we do it anyway, cause you gotta eat…

It's easier for readers to become reporters than it is for reporters to become readers.

At the risk of being labeled a “snarky dude(ess)" by Winer, I submit that while his “cooking dinner” analogy has a folksy Web 2.0 friendly spin, it misses the “news” mark.

We “cook dinner” for ourselves because we must in order to sustain ourselves, just as we wash and clothe ourselves. We don’t grill a hamburger at the picnic as vocational training for flipping burgers at the local diner, just as we don’t wash and clothe ourselves as vocational training to become beauticians or tailors.

Moreover, the news that we cook up for ourselves while eating our dinners is, as a general rule, not the genre of “news” which informs of the world’s stage.The self-reported “news” that we dish out for ourselves to accompany our self-cooked meals is “chatter,” updates of a “soft,” personal and localized nature, more akin to the news that crosses Facebook’s News Feeds--daily gossip about our own small worlds--rather than substantive news, of a “hard,” global and universal kind, such as reporting on the number of “today’s” casualties in Iraq.

In “Buzzwords 2.0” last May, I cited Andrew Keen, The Weekly Standard, musing about the how the social underpinnings of today’s Web 2.0 culture bring to mind utopian Marxist philosophies:

So what, exactly, is the Web 2.0 movement…It worships the creative amateur: the self-taught filmmaker, the dorm-room musician, the unpublished writer. It suggests that everyone — even the most poorly educated and inarticulate amongst us — can and should use digital media to express and realize themselves…Empowered by Web 2.0 technology, we can all become citizen journalists, citizen videographers, citizen musicians.

Empowered by this technology, we will be able to write in the morning, direct movies in the afternoon, and make music in the evening. Just as Marx seduced a generation of European idealists with his fantasy of self-realization in a communist utopia, so the Web 2.0 cult of creative self-realization has seduced everyone in Silicon Valley. The movement bridges counter-cultural radicals of the ’60s such as Steve Jobs with the contemporary geek culture of Google’s Larry Page. Between the book-ends of Jobs and Page lies the rest of Silicon Valley, including radical communitarians like Craig Newmark (of Craigslist.com), intellectual property communists such as Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig, economic cornucopians like Wired magazine editor Chris "Long Tail" Anderson, and new media moguls Tim O’Reilly and John Batelle.

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