News Leadership 3.0

November 24, 2008

A future for news

Jeff Jarvis highlights key ideas about the emerging shape of news and community, and suggests roles news organizations may play

Jeff Jarvis has come up with a thoughtful and comprehensive summary of the emerging news landscape. Read the entire post. Then reread and discuss it with your newsroom. Link to it from your web site and invite comments about what your users think is important for your Web site.

I’m going to start today with Jarvis’ first bullet point, because I think all flows from here:

“The next generation of local (news) won’t be about news organizations but about their communities. News is just one of the community’s needs. It also needs elegant organization. News companies and networks can help provide that. The bigger goal is to provide platforms that enable communities to do what they want to do, share what they want to share, know what they need to know together. News will become a product of the community as much as it is a service to it.”

As more people discover their ability to create community online, it follows that they will identify and prioritize common problems (the way news editors and editorial pages have done), explore solutions (the way news organizations were supposed to) and join together to push for change (editorial page, again). Does online community, then, replace traditional news organizations? It’s not an either-or equation. Instead, the successful news organization must reinvent its relationship with its community. Among other things, Jarvis says, communities will still need dogged beat work and investigative reporting. As the new system for news emerges, traditional news organizations can lend structure and coherence to the network.

Jarvis rightly points out that the power of the news organization of the future may lie more in its unique contribution to the community network rather than on the scope of its original news report. Speaking specifically about investigative reporting, Jarvis says: “In a link-and-search economy, you must create unique content with strong value to get attention and audience.”

This is a call for news organizations to focus on the emerging landscape, identify their critical roles and go for it. I have described a key obstacle to significant change in newspaper culture: the reluctance, even inability, to identify and let go of outdated practices. With many organizations now consumed day in and day out with the business of multiplatform production amidst downsizing, it gets harder to see how the typical newsroom can plot the survival it needs today and the future it needs yesterday.

At best, Jarvis summary offers your organization ideas for plotting a future beyond the next layoff. At least, it offers a template for plotting your own ideas about the future role of your organization in a community that is still being defined.

Your thoughts about the role of your news organization in emerging online communities? Please share them in the comments.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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