When is news actually news… and who should define it?

It’s not supposed to be a deep philosophical question, but it does demand a bit of deeper thinking.

The trouble I’ve always had with mainstream media is that it’s been a very top-own approach to information dissemination. On the one hand I understand this: we have people (journalists) whose job it is to ensure the information we do consume in MSM is correct. They also report it in a skilled manner that makes it digestible for the reader. Yet on the other, often the “news” comes from everyday people. So what happens if the people do the reporting instead?

Well, the argument by many in MSM is that this raw, basic information isn’t actually news until the professional, established news organisations say it is.

Civic media, bloggers and those within the emerging news model are – in the eyes of less progressive MSM outlets – somewhat second class citizens. And herein lies the hypocrisy: you cannot on the one hand say “you are not relevant” but on the other actively request the general public to get in touch with stories/be a source.

Then within this argument, we have the issue of what is and isn’t news – or rather what is or isn’t relevant. What might be of significance to you may not be to me, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to share or report on that issue just because I don’t find it relevant. Others might. It could also help broaden my views. Yet for years this is exactly what MSM has been feeding us: We know what is newsworthy – you don’t.

From educators and community group leaders, to volunteers in charities and the regular ‘Jo/e’: Why shouldn’t they have the space to report what’s happening in their world?

Is it because they might be biased? Again, the argument flung back by some in MSM is that only professional journalists and editors can safeguard against any bias. Really? Take a look at a range of newspapers and you’ll see bias very clearly. It’s what we’ve all pretty much been brought up on. We know the Daily Mail has a very different news agenda to The Guardian. They have a different world view and their pages (both in print and online) reflect this unapologetically.

We have editors setting the agenda (or in some cases the newspaper owners), we have papers in the pockets of political leaders and councils. Lift the lid on MSM and it’s not all worthy hacks tirelessly crafting copy exposing bungs in the local football league or questioning the actions of local councils. Yes, it does happen, but lets take off the rose tinted glasses and get a bit of perspective.

We need to create opportunities for transparency and debate from ALL perspectives – crucial in a democracy. We need to reinvigorate how  MSM can and must engage with CM; help them understand that it can be a positive force for not only them, but also the community they serve.

Perhaps the days where news is created by the few, and consumed by the masses are coming to an end. How we manage this potential free-for-all is a different matter… but we’re working on it.


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