We are all storytellers
“ Big Media, in any event, treated the news as a lecture. We told you what the news was. You bought it, or you didn’t. (…) It was a gravy train while it lasted, but it was unsustainable.”
Gilmore, D. (2006), We the Media, p. xxiv
This old-fashioned journalism model, described by the talented writer and journalist Dan Gillmor, has been decisively upended in recent years. The once one-way relationship between newsmakers, news-tellers and readers is now a much more democratic and fluid set of interactions. Nowadays, journalism seems to have become almost a community affair. As Gillmor beautifully describes in his book “We the media“:
“ Humans have always told each other stories, and each new era of progress has led to an expansion of storytelling (…) technology has given us a communications toolkit that allows anyone to become a journalist at little cost and, in theory, with global reach. Nothing like this has ever been remotely possible before.”
Gilmore, D. (2006), We the Media, p. xxiii
This shift in the way the business of journalism is conducted has been described as a social media revolution. Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, Reddit… and many other platforms have changed they way we interact with the world and how we deal with information. The implications are vast. There is the potential for more transparent and meaningful social communication. But also for the systematic undermining of tried-and-test selection mechanisms and the spread of misinformation. In all these regards there are mounting indications that the profession of journalism, and our societies at large, are facing serious challenges.
The truth is everyone can be a storyteller today. At first, 'everyone' included improptu reporters, reader-contributors, diligent fact checkers, lone dissenters or the occasional eccentric. But pay-per-click advertizing and algorithmic tailoring of content (information bubbles) have fundamentally changed the motivations and nature of user interaction. 'Everyone' today includes swarms of untraceable bots swayed by an array of commercial and political interests.
In this setting professional journalism is more important than never. Good journalists are gatekeepers. If information is power, we need professionals helping us tell apart truly rich content from uninformative trivia or made up stories.
A new era in journalism has begun and many open questions remain unanswered: What is at stake? What is the future of journalism? What does this mean for journalism education? What are the social and political implications of this change? What are the opportunities and risks of this new kind of journalism? How could some of the more immediate challenges be tackled? …
Hoping to contribute to this crucial social debate, Vernon Press just launched a Call for Books in Social Media & Digital Journalism for our book series in Communication. Please circulate widely!
Page last updated on June 27th 2017. All information correct at the time, but subject to change.