Twenty years ago, the Internet was hailed as a great tool for “disintermediating” the public from its news. The big news organizations had too much power, they had too much control over what we said and heard, often slanting it to suit their own purposes. In the future, it was believed, we could “cut out the greedy middlemen,” the reporters and editors and aggregators that colored “the truth,” connecting readers directly to their news sources.
We accomplished the goal, but the result has been less than perfect. We are drowning in a flood of meaningless drivel, with no professionals to place it into context for us. This same flood has washed away most of our great media and news-gathering institutions, bankrupting nearly all of the major newspapers and dismantling the great network news organizations, leaving those who would gladly pay for a little “intermediation” with few choices. (Funny video: “Twouble with Twitters“)
Cheer up, for the pendulum is swinging back. It turns out that we are NOT staring the future in the face, we are just suffering a little market adjustment. The role of the editor is on the rise again, but we don’t call them “editors” anymore, they’re “curators.”
Curation is the new role of media professional; aggregating, sorting and classifying. The pieces aren’t really big enough to edit anymore. They are just sorted, classified and rearranged. This is what bloggers do, and it’s what I’m doing right now.
- Silicon Alley Insider, “Can ‘Curation’ Save Media?”
I find this to be so true:
“We are drowning in a flood of meaningless drivel, with no professionals to place it into context for us.”
But as an editor, I’m sure I’m biased in defense of my profession. Of course, I see that anyone can choose opinion pieces and news stories on blogs or Web sites judiciously and follow purveyors they deem trustworthy and reliable. But what I miss as newspapers decline is the loss of one more “public square” where large numbers of people in the same community might read the same thing and then be inspired or provoked to talk about it. Now when I mention a compelling editorial from, say, the Washington Post, neighbors and co-workers give me blank looks. We no longer share the same frame of reference, it seems. I wonder if niche journalism online, while it can be high-quality and low-cost, is further eroding a larger sense of community. Are we going to become a society of millions of little cliques?
On an unrelated note, Rick, I enjoyed and learned a lot in your training sessions at my workplace earlier this week. Despite my heated comment at one point, I have great respect for your work. Yet I stand my ground on my point about the power of marketing to do great societal harm if not constrained by the expressed ethics (and more important, moral judgment) of an organization’s senior leadership.
Thanks so much for your contribution!