Decentralized processes are counter-intuitive. Having a single institution promise to cover “all the news that’s fit to print” seems more reliable than having a bunch of random bloggers cover the news in an uncoordinated fashion. The problem is that, in reality, newspapers are neither as comprehensive nor as reliable as they like to pretend. Just as a few dozen professionals at Britannica couldn’t produce an encyclopedia that was anywhere near as comprehensive as the amateur-driven Wikipedia, so a few thousand newspaper reporters can’t possibly to cover the news as thoroughly as millions of Internet-empowered individuals can. This isn’t to disparage the reporters and editors, who tend to be smart and dedicated. It’s just that they’re vastly outnumbered.
Walker, however, does say newspapers have an opportunity “to tap the information already flowing from citizen to citizen without any journalist’s intervention. Then you can help it flow farther.”
Now that’s a thought. Maybe his is a list of opportunities for newspapers? There I go being counter-intuitive again.
The short version of his list:
- The gadflies
- The activists.
- The insiders.
- The neighbors.
The history of newspapers’ efforts in developing user generated content or citizen journalism is not a particularly uplifting tome. Maybe it doesn’t need developing; it’s already there?