Prosumers and social media’s impact on Journalism

25Oct11

In Chapter 9 of Managing Media Work, Deuze and Fortunati (2011) discuss the loss of control the journalism industry is facing in the wake of social media and the rise of prosumers. Because of a lack of managerial focus or commitment to giving audiences a voice early on in the digital age, social media has risen to the level of practically replacing traditional journalism outlets in providing up to the minute information regarding an event such as Occupy Wall Street. In this editorial, Jim Sleeper discusses how traditional news media are struggling to cover the Occupy movements occurring across the globe, and ultimately relying on the audience to provide the latest information regarding the protests.

This power shift from journalists to audiences results in difficult decisions for managers running newsroom operations; interestingly enough, it appears that news organizations are doing almost exactly what Deuze and Fortunati predict towards the end of the chapter: “These ‘new’ audiences of producing consumers, or ‘prosumers,’ can prove to be a disruptive force for established business models in news, but they also may represent a wealth of people available to work without being paid” (Deuze, 2011, p. 118). According to Sleeper, “Old-news editors and reporters are struggling to follow the occupiers’ fledgling, innocent democracy. Journalism isn’t so much ‘covering’ these developments as it’s being ‘disaggregated and put back together differently’ by thousands of new players, Dana Boyd, a senior researcher a Microsoft, told the Harvard conference. Reporters have to sift through countless, often conflicting, on-the-spot accounts by non-journalists that have already been ‘published’ in billions of posts and videos when the professional reporters are getting out of bed.”

It must be difficult for a manger to decide how to cover such a widespread and unprecedented event like the Occupy movements – there isn’t a centralized structure or formal list of demands or an official spokesperson or leader, just people congregating in support of similar ideals. For the traditional journalist, manager, or editor, social media may provide the consensus needed to understand a movement’s goals, or the latest information from across the globe in real-time of what is happening at a specific protest. By combing over hundreds or thousands of content posted online, journalists seemingly no longer need to be on the front lines themselves, but can read and check it independently to confirm something has happened. There are certainly some negatives to this approach such as fact checking and confirming whether something posted actually occurred the way it was framed in a 140-character message.

-Chris G

Source: Sleeper, J. (2011, October 24). Markets, New Media, the Occupiers, and the Next Step. The Huffington Post. Retrieved October 25, 2011, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-sleeper/markets-new-media-and-the_b_1025957.html.

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