Journalism fell down at the moment when communities no longer existed
Sep 10, 2011
Journalism in crisis: The end of distance and disintegration of communities challenge the traditional newspaper model, prompting the need for new approaches.
One of the terrifying advantages of the digital world is the end of distance. Depending on your availability to deal with chronic stress from information anxiety, you have all the conditions to know everything that happens everywhere in the world in real time (of course, maybe you can't process everything, but that's another problem). The end of distance brought to journalism a revolution like it had never known since the moment Gutemberg invented the movable type. The end of distance de-invented physical reality, recreated organizational maps (creating others more plausible, even if intangible), and, mainly, disassembled communities, attacking the central pillar of the bankruptcy of the journalistic model on which the industry is mounted. And now?
Well, now, no one knows. However, there are people who can see a little beyond the momentary fog in the industry and are certainly closer to the truth than the masses. In a very interesting article, the founder of the Daily Dot, Nicholas White, explained why he decided to try to create a new model of newspaper (which counts on other collaborators like the neoinfotechie Nova Spivack). Make no mistake: White is not a naive modernist against the weight of the experience of the traditional industry. He left the family business which is exactly a chain of radios and newspapers in the United States, established since the mid-19th century. He is not someone who sees the business from the outside.
White and Daily Dot start from a very relevant premise. More than the flood of information, the agility of small information providers, and the digital facilities that in large corporations are met with immense bureaucratic difficulties (Geoff Livingston talks in the preface of his book Welcome to the 5th State about a multi-billion dollar American corporation in which approval from seven managerial levels is needed for a single tweet), White-Dot argues that it is the disintegration of the traditional community. Newspapers relied on people who met on the main street of the community, but today those people are no longer there. Communities now come together through virtual ties that define new realities and organizational maps that are not tangible, but which are paradoxically the only real ones.
The proposal of Daily Dot may seem uncomfortable to those who are used to receiving their newspaper talking about the hole in their street, but in a colder analysis, the reader of that newspaper should (or should, if all their mental faculties were functioning well) ask themselves why they are paying to receive on paper a set of information that they already knew the day before, usually for free and with a variety of reflections that the newspaper cannot anticipate. Thus, the DD wants to restore the concepts of community so that people feel they are talking about their own reality and within the parameters of time and space that concern their lives and not the schedule of newspapers which is basically the same for over a century.
The "discomfort" I mention above is absolutely natural because the DD's proposal is in line with a reality not completely consolidated and that is not yet perceived by the overwhelming majority of people - but it will be (or at least everything indicates this). In theory, at least, White's argument convinces me much more than the reasons for the satisfaction of traditional newspapers in Brazil, which have started to sell more advertising for a circumstantial reason (the economy doubled in size in the last 12 years). Structural causes matter more than circumstantial causes. In this respect, there is no questioning of White and Daily Dot.