The state of the American news media is “more troubled” than a year ago, according to the annual State of the News Media Report from the Project For Excellence in Journalism. And online alternatives and bloggers aren’t as influential as some people think. Despite the web’s potential for depth – and the fact that more people are going online for news than ever – the report says news isn’t as democratised as some would believe:
Even with so many new sources, more people now consume what old media newsrooms produce, particularly from print, than before. Online, for instance, the top 10 news Web sites, drawing mostly from old brands, are more of an oligarchy, commanding a larger share of audience, than in the legacy media. The verdict on citizen media for now suggests limitations. And research shows blogs and public affairs Web sites attract a smaller audience than expected and are produced by people with even more elite backgrounds than journalists.
However, the report notes the nature of news reporting on the net is changing significantly thanks to the influence of “citizen media”:
More media sites are taking the reader away from the “walled garden” – their own content – linking to once-taboo outside sources or even inviting in third-party content, allowing hunting-and-gathering consumers to act more directly on their preferences rather than being led to them.
Citizen media are also growing in ways unmistakable and engaging . Web sites run by citizen journalists are multiplying – rapidly approaching 1,500 heading into 2008 – offering stories, blogs and videos. And that trend is considered a healthy one by professional journalists, who call on citizens more frequently to inform their reporting.
The journalism of the future increasingly appears to be a hybrid that takes advantage of the technology rather than fights it. But the questions of who will pay and how they will do it seem more pressing than ever..