Participatory Journalism

The Economist recently published a special report on the news industry within which the Internet and social media are identified as the biggest factors influencing the rapid transformations occurring in journalism today.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post reiterates what many of us have already come to embrace —some sooner and more willingly than others:
“They don’t just consume news, they share it, develop it, add to it—it’s a very dynamic relationship with news”.
Perhaps Arianna Huffington is referring to her legion of 9,000 bloggers who regularly contribute to HuffPo’s incredibly diverse content which includes politics, media, business, and entertainment.

Yet it’s not just HuffPo’s (mostly) unpaid pro and aspiring bloggers reporting the news. Everyone it seems now participates in the spontaneous propagation of news online. As Tom Standage puts it, readers [you and I, granny down the street] are being woven into the increasingly complex news ecosystem as sources, participants and distributors.

Nowhere is this more evident than Twitter where daily news events seem to unfold with such immediacy, detail and raw candor, it’s no wonder established news agencies are searching for innovative ways to engage and maintain top of mind relevance with so-called ‘hyper-connected individuals’ —you and I, granny down the street.

We now live in an age with unparalleled access to information. The social Web, driven in part by our natural inclination to share, has completely redefined the existing concept of journalism and what it means to report the news. Yet with so many sources now at our disposal, the only real issue emerging becomes not timeliness or access, but the quality and credibility of news and information.

Granted, there’s a lot of junk out in cyberspace.

As the Web continues to grow it will arguably become much more difficult to filter out the seemingly dubious sources from the dwindling vestiges of authentic information.  And Twitter, for all its potential as a real-time news reporting platform, will likely continue to serve as both an incredible source of news and noise.

In essence I’m wondering, do sites like The Huffington Post and micro-blogging platforms like Twitter reflect a new form of participatory journalism? Does content aggregation and the very concept of ‘open’ contribution undermine or enhance journalism? Maybe the question is, what is journalism in 2011?

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