Durable Human (2 book series)

Where News is Going

People go where they need to go to get the news they want. New online research and a gathering of Internet trend-setters tell a tale of widespread practicality.

According to a new Pew Internet and American Life Project report, local TV news is still the go-to source for weather, traffic and breaking news. But people are looking elsewhere for other information, often using their phones.

How the Internet has revolutionized the way messages are delivered was the focus of this year’s Activism + Media + Policy, or “AMP” Summit held last month in Washington, D.C.

Andy Eller is the Director of Business Development at place-sharing site, Gowalla. In a panel presentation, he told AMP attendees he gets all his news from Twitter because it’s unfiltered and current. Twitter’s own Adam Sharp then took the opportunity to mention that tweets about an earthquake hit New York before the actual tremors did.

In his AMP remarks, CBS White House reporter Mark Knoller says he likes writing news on Twitter “because it doesn’t have to go through a copy editor.”  Twitter, he continued, is like “having my own personal wire service” – on which he has churned out 40,000 tweets in two years.

Yet, despite the growing popularity of micro-blogs, people today rely on many information platforms, some of which aren’t so new. For instance, the Pew report shows that young adults often get their news by word of mouth. Kelly Wallace is Chief Correspondent for iVillage, the largest content-driven community for women on the web. She says iVillagers prefer message boards so they can anonymously share personal information.

Veteran print journalist Howard Fineman gave the AMP sendoff message. A year ago, Fineman leaped from Newsweek to become Editorial Director of Huffington Post Media Group. Although his former and new office buildings are located so close he didn’t have to change Starbucks, Fineman says he did change “his entire outlook on everything.”

Fineman calls HuffPost “a combination of news site and social networking site,” which he’s convinced is where news is going. These are his reasons why:

  • We live in a news community that is omni-directional. Unlike the days of Walter Cronkite, when viewers hung on his every word, communications are no longer one-way. Now anyone can join – and sometimes direct – the news conversation.
  • News is no longer a mass discussion. News sources can now speak discretely to individuals. At present, Huffington Post has 30 different vertical content sections. The Politics page often draws more traffic than the site’s front page.
  • News today is constant and immediate, not periodic and episodic. There used to be two news cycles. Now there is only one – and it happens 24/7.
  • The distinction between global and local has disappeared. The Arab Spring was experienced by people worldwide in present tense. As Fineman says, “We were all there in Tahrir Square.”
  • Old-style, long narratives are gone. Shorter and live are what work today, preferably mixed with video and pictures.
  • There’s no more pyramid of authority. The days of the hard-bitten, all-controlling executive editor have passed. With little or no editorial oversight, many writers now monitor and judge the content of their own messages.
  • The media is more openly ideological. News curators unabashedly admit the biases they bring to the table. Transparency is the new objectivity.

So, it makes sense that the online society is seeking out a variety of news platforms. Many of us likely share Fineman’s final thought: “you shouldn’t assume any one source of authority is the only one to look at.”

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