SXSW: Journalists demoted from top to the middle of the information pyramid

SXSW: Journalists demoted from top to the middle of the information pyramid
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Journalists need to develop a “new skill” of speaking with authority on topics and “rethink where they are on the information food chain”.

Those are two of the insights from a new book looking at the future of the art by the Poynter Institute’s Kelly McBride and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (pictured) called The New Ethics of Journalism.

McBride said many journalists and news outlets are still “stuck in a system” that pays the bills, but is not right for the future, and it is “really hard for them to pivot and make a change”.

Newmark, who admitted to the audience at South by SouthWest he was not a journalism expert, but an avid follower of different forms of news, said the problem currently is news is “stuck in the 20th Century”, and had not properly adapted for challenges new technologies bring.

Among the recommendations was a “better barometer” for getting expert analysis. This, they said, was skewed now because experts have a direct path to the public, and can self-publish.

However, there is a need to move away from a system where the experts presented on cable news, as an example, are ‘the first ones who could make it to the studio”, which has created a “false balance”.

News organisations also need to "reconceptualise their relationship with the community” in the social media age, where many people are able to get information directly through the internet and social networks.

That comes under the banner of the new-look information eco-system, with journalists now in the middle of the pyramid, where before they were on the top.

In terms of speaking with authority, McBride said this was needed so journalists are able to weed out people who are deliberately misrepresenting facts or lying, stressing the need for proper research and in-depth knowledge of subjects.

They concluded by laying out three new principles for journalism, which were: Seek the truth and report as fully as possible on a story; be transparent; and engage the community as an end.

In terms of transparency this would mean news outlets being open about their business model.

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