It’s The Citizen, Stupid

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Jeez Louise! With all the MSM journalists sobbing in their seats about the demise of journalism (as they know it) at last night’s Atlanta Press Club/Society of Professional Journalists awards, and the Georgia Gang scratching their receding hairlines over how to make money online, since it’s obvious (even to them) that journalism is headed online, you’d think these j-folk types were dumb and dumber.

In reality, these are very smart people. Only thing is, most of ‘em aren’t terribly entrepreneurial or techno-creative. (HINT: things online are driven by innovative technology and compelling journalistic content.)

So, let’s say the mutual point of agreement is that news and journalism are moving primarily online. Thus, you’d think that would be an environ you’d need to be hyper-aware of, right? And participating in by all means. Not diddling around on the bureaucratic cluster-f**k that is Georgia public TV, but I digress…

However, I don’t think too many journalists, particularly the “big dogs,” as Dick Williams calls the likes of Ernie Suggs at the AJC, are doing a whole lot of brainstorming about creating compelling journalistic content specifically for an online environment. And that’s ok, in a way; that might not be the best use of their skills. But I sure hope, at the very least, they are having conversations with experienced people about it.

Williams, publisher of the Dunwoody Crier, is beginning to sniff up the right trail though when he mentioned how critical it is to report and break daily, metro news, but none of ‘em has yet to even uncover, let alone begin to utilize, the treasure trove they are all standing right on top of. Heck, not one MSM journalist last night, nor a single one on the Georgia Gang discussing the demise of newspapers/AJC today ever ONCE mentioned the citizen in all this.

Never ONCE did a single journalist I encountered in my 24-hour MSM journalism tour EVER mention their audience as contributor. Not ONE seems to grasp the concept of journalism being, thanks to personal technology, an interactive process now. Not ONE mentioned the concept of citizen as journalist.

Thus I must, sadly, assume that none of these news pros understand that ordinary people are “out there” committing journalism; that when ordinary people create blogs and video and commentary (and upload cell phone video of a horrible and serious condition on our public transportation system, for instance) and yes, even do “real” reporting and compile data and original content, they are indeed committing that compelling, breaking, critical, METRO daily news that folk like Williams know is vital to the health of a community. And vital to the life of a news org, big or small, too.

The trick for the editor/publisher is HOW to harvest that citizen process to help them develop compelling, engaging, interactive, participatory news content. Right now, this is clearly the biggest case of leadership blurting “there go my people, I’d better catch up” since the French Revolution.

And as for the how are we going to make money online?, the million dollar question everyone keeps asking… it’s going to be about product placement. Yes, that gets a little tricky when doing impartial, investigative journalism endeavors, but it’s not impossible. It will all live, or die, on complete and perfect total transparency and full disclosure. Let the consumer (of any news products) decide. Personally, I have absolutely NO qualm about stating that one of my indie videos for instance was, thankfully and blessedly, sponsored by the generosity of, for instance, Coca Cola. Hell, I’d drink a darn Coke first on-camera, then start the interview! But that’s just me. Others might be a bit more of the purist.

I’d like to see ANY serious Atlanta-based techno-journalist-entrepreneur person get ahead of this online journo game. Because YES, it can be done. Believe you me, if I’d divorced richer (as Arianna had the good sense to do), I’d have snapped-up some talent over on Marietta Street last week.

BTW, Allen Jud and Andy Miller of the AJC won the APC’s Journalist(s) of the Year for their investigative reporting on the crisis that is Georgia’s state mental health care institutions. Congratulations to them, but I gotta wonder if they still have jobs this week.

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