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Reporter, Journalist, Editor, Publisher: The Blurring Of Roles #futureofnews May 28, 2011

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Journalism.
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Reporter used to be synonymous with journalist. Recently, people have started to refer to reporter as a “citizen journalist”. The implication is that journalists are not “on the ground” reporting on what they see and hear at first hand, they are sitting at a desk curating flows from reporters who are unpaid. Calling unpaid reporters citizen journalists makes little sense, the term is overdue for retirement.

But the implication is that the journalist has actually become an editor, deciding what to publish from a team of reporters. Actually the journalist is also the publisher. When I am finished writing I simply hit my WordPress Publish button. It is free and I can have advertising networks sell some ads. I don’t need to manage a sales team and the accounting is simply checking into Paypal. I am oversimplifying a tad to make a point. But all the “media companies formerly known as bloggers” started a single individual who was journalist, editor and publisher at the same time.

This empowerment is the wonderful legacy of the social media age.

But something has been lost. We have lost the reporter. Maybe it is simply a budget issue. Unless it is a massive global story, like a revolution or Tsunami, nobody is paying for the reporter to fly to the spot. So our typical image of a blogger is somebody sitting in their home office on a laptop, reading news feeds and press releases. There are more PR people than journalists. Everybody is recycling the same old stuff. The tech blogosphere is canary in the coal mine. Any news release from a tech bigco has 10 or more news stories that are almost all the same, competing only on speed of release and link bait cleverness of the headline.

The only exceptions in the tech blogosphere are Arrington and Scoble. The Arrington story is not repeatable. He basically creates news by starting a controversy. He is so wired in the Valley that he can do this. This is either horribly conflicted or the return of Gonzo journalist; Arrington as a reincarnation of Hunter S. Thompson is a pretty funny thought. But that idea won’t scale as the VCs say.

But what Scoble does, travel the world interviewing entrepreneurs, is scalable. This is original content, proprietary, the essence of what we used to call reporting. He can do this because Rackspace pays his salary and expenses. That is a scary thought for media organizations; the future of journalism is coming from a company that is byepassing media companies to establish their own direct access to the market.

But whether the future creators of original content are media companies or “the companies formerly known as advertisers and now called content marketers”, the Scoble-like reporter needs better tools for the whole lifecycle from original reporting to publishing and monetization.

Disclosure: that is the focus of ReportingLiveFrom and this has not been launched yet. For more background, see these earlier posts:

Investigative Journalism Needs More Than Curation Tools

Twitter Is Not Enough: 6 Needs Of Investigative Journalism

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