In a lecture at the British Library Monday, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs James Harding said journalists upset by the changes to their industry are “missing the point.” Not only is Harding “extremely optimistic about the future of journalism,” he said, “I think this is the most exciting time to be a journalist since the advent of television.”
Professional journalists cannot expect to have the influence we once did, but, if we’re clever, if we’re innovative and if we’re trustworthy, we can earn it. This is because we live at a time when there is an unprecedented hunger for information and ideas, because the proliferation of new news providers means the number of working journalists is, actually, rising, because the tools available for story telling and story getting are more powerful than ever and because, as I hope to make clear, the new technologies have unexpectedly revealed the enduring value of some old principles in journalism.
The tools of technology also make it an exceptionally exciting time to be going after a story. Of course, a journalist is a fool to rely solely on Google or Wikipedia for information. But they are just as stupid to ignore them: the modern search engine has given us all a running start at any story. Citizen journalism is not just a competitor to established news media, but a streaming source of information and ideas for it. And the internet has turned our audience into a giant fact-checking machine: journalists are more directly and immediately accountable; our viewers, listeners and readers do not need simply to throw a shoe at the TV or put their foot through the paper, they can promptly e-mail or tweet us to point out our mistakes. This can be embarrassing, no doubt, but surely makes it more likely we will get it right.