The New News Age

Around the world, we are experiencing a major shift in how we gather, distribute and receive our news. It’s funny, in a non ha-ha way, that I’ve had at least a dozen journalists from as near as my hometown to as far as Los Angeles and New York ask me what I think the future holds for news media. Those on the inside are just as lost as many are on the outside.

I was thinking this morning that it’s a bit like the other effects we are seeing in the world economy. You know, where giant monopolies took over certain sectors, and everyone bought stocks expecting to make millions, but then the mortgage crisis happened and lots of companies (and people) lost their shirts. Sounds familiar to us in media and PR, not just for the news value. When corporate monopolies bought up all the media, news also became about making money, not about passionate storytelling or finding the great little nuggets that make towns into communities.

I live in Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. Our two commercial television stations are both at risk of closing, one in fact signs off the air on Monday. Many of our radio stations have been sold to off-island interests. Our daily newspaper, the Times Colonist, features regular articles from the National Post, the Vancouver Sun, or The Province. Financially, that makes sense as they are all owned by Canwest. Except, and this is a big except, people stop reading papers with less local coverage, ad sales drop and good reporters are unable to work on local stories they are passionate about. The Times Colonist has already dropped its Monday edition, and I can’t help but wonder if the skinny little Tuesday paper will be next. And let’s face it, if it doesn’t make financial sense for Canwest to retain CHEK television, maybe we’re an audience that could be served by their Vancouver station. RIP local voices.

Of course, that’s about the business of news. Those with passion – the journalists, editors, news directors, filmmakers –  are the ones with the most to lose. Or are they? There are some very savvy entrepreneurs who are going straight to the audience.

For all the naysayers who say citizen journalism isn’t credible, think again. Take Salim Jiwa. An award-winning journalist with The Province, Jiwa took his buy-out this year and founded, an online news site that covers both local and international news. While not exactly citizen journalism, also isn’t a big online news aggregator like CNN or MSN. Jiwa has reciprocal arrangements with other news organizations to build his inventory of stories and takes leads from citizen journalists.

What does this mean for the public? Better access to reliable news, where and when you want it and the ability to interact instantly with those who report it.

What does it mean for those of us in public relations? We will see, but I leave you with this thought: If the story you are pitching isn’t newsworthy, you shouldn’t be pitching it in the first place.


8 Responses to “The New News Age”

  1. 1 Ken Coach August 29, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Thoughtful blog – CHEK was one of my very early media jobs in the 70’s and it always felt underfunded even back then. You’re quite right in observing that the less a news medium touches its audience, the less chance it has of survival.

    But I think the most important point is the advice given by 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt ( who said the secret to journalism is something that every child knows;

    Tell me a story.

  2. 2 Dave Bain August 29, 2009 at 11:58 am

    After reading countless articles on how media is changing I have begun to wonder is media changing or is our perception of it changing? Lets face it the younger generations don’t fuel traditional media. If Generation Y is predicted at a 70% market share then media is controlled primarily by them. As a Gen Y’er I don’t read the news papers or watch the news it’s simple. I can get all news from various sources that are online. The shift in PR should be focused on how to adjust rather then how to fight the change. I believe that PR will shift to produce a new form of online communication that will result in a larger pool of information and communication. This may mean that PR becomes more of a control medium to help push content that is creditable.

    To protect local news I agree it has to be compelling and decode in a consumer oriented manner. But what I really feel is missing is the use of visualization. It has been along time since I read stories that pop a picture into my head or look at articles that sell me by the picture. That is the root to sales, visual, visual, visual. Social media should be utilized, media should link to the net, and content should have an impact.

  3. 3 maggieks August 31, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks Ken and Dave.

    I know what you mean about the audience, Dave. I keep thinking of the old selling ice for iceboxes analogy. Who is the audience? That’s why I love

    Thanks for reading!



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