Is Reddit the future of news or the present?

Salon | Salon | TechPresident | Marshall Kirkpatrick
Apparently, the future of news is not conferences about the future of news. The future of news is debates about Reddit.

The flashpoint for this round was Michael Barthel’s take on Mathew Ingram’s piece about how people on Reddit covered the Colorado theater shootings. Citizen journalism such as what Redditors practiced, Barthel writes, is remarkably similar to the traditional type:

A large number of people are all working on a breaking story at the same time, seeing what information others have as it comes out (monitoring the Twitter feeds of other news orgs is like reading through a Reddit thread), and using their own resources to find out new information, eventually coming collectively to some sort of coherent picture.

The problem is those people are unpaid, so they’ll likely pounce only on stories of obvious interest.

For all of their problems, one of the great values of journalistic organizations is that they have people on salary whose job it is to be aware of what’s going on in a particular area of society, every day, all the time. All the little, seemingly unimportant stuff gets covered that way, and when a big story breaks there’s someone with the expertise to put it in context. With citizen journalism, the only things that get covered are the ones with a critical mass of posters large enough to properly crowdsource the story on an amateur basis.

New York University prof Jay Rosen responds, saying Barthel’s piece is a trend story in search of a trend:

The Matt Ingram article Salon uses here to suggest that there is a wave of hype actually makes a very modest claim. It says that citizens journalists “may not replace the traditional journalism we’re used to, but they are certainly going to help.” That’s hype? That’s excess enthusiasm?

Rosen offers a critique of crowdsourced journalism: “I’m not satisfied that we’re making the progress we should be making with these forms,” he says. He quotes a speech he gave giving various crowdsourcing efforts mostly lousy grades. “So yeah, let’s not get carried away,” he writes. “I don’t think the world is in that much danger from hopes misplaced on Reddit or crowdsourced journalism.”

And then along comes TechPresident’s Nick Judd, who says it’s time to stop worrying about the future of news.

We’re in the damn future of news. People genuinely concerned about its direction ought to cancel their next speaking gig pontificating about that future, whether dystopian or bright, and put their hands instead to shaping it.

Mainstream news organizations depended on Reddit’s coverage, which Judd points out “was guided in part by people who actually work in the news.” What’s important to understand about Reddit, he says, is that it’s essentially community journalism.

Neighborhoods and social networks are interactive in similar ways. If you write a good story about an issue before the community board, it will come up at the next meeting. If you write about a local family fallen on hard times, someone will come up to you at the bar to ask after them. …

Framing media as a rigidly divided environment that still has any sort of real separation between people on the Internet and people on TV is just dated and wrong.

Marshall Kirkpatrick isn’t debating Reddit’s role in the future of media, but in a nonetheless fascinating post about content aggregation, he writes, “It’s an incredible time to be a news geek.

Anyone got a problem with that?

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  • Anonymous

    Thanks for reading! My point was more that Reddit and sites like it make most journalism community journalism in key ways. Among them: You’ll have your sources and subjects finding you out “in public” outside of the context of your job. When you’re cracking jokes on Twitter, or looking for cat pictures on Reddit, you’re likely now to encounter someone who read what you wrote, was affected by it and has a public response that might also drive some news. This seems to me a lot like how I’d run into people at the supermarket or the bar while working as a community journalist.