The past few days have pointed to a future where audiences are likely to look first to blogs and other forms of participatory media for first hand accounts of emerging stories before turning to the mainstream media. Of course mainstream media will still have a role to play – confirming those stories, providing thoroughly researched facts, and gathering comment from credible sources. The mainstream media should also play a part in collating, signposting and sharing links to the stuff that’s already been created and published online by non-professionals and professionals alike.
Dan Gillmor has posted about the way he turned to the web to get news about the Virginia Tech shooting as they unfolded:
“I didn’t turn on my TV yesterday except in the evening, to watch a national network’s news report. I wanted to see a summary of what a serious journalism organization had to say about what it knew so far.
Instead, during the day, I used the online media — including the major news sites — to get the latest information, sifting it, making judgments about credibility and reliability as I read and watched and listened. That, too, is the future in many cases.”
Gillmor feels that for this change to work, audiences need to become more literate when it comes to making judgements about content found online:
“We used to say that journalists write the first draft of history. Not so, not any longer. The people on the ground at these events write the first draft. This is not a worrisome change, not if we are appropriately skeptical and to find sources we trust. We will need to retool media literacy for the new age, too.”