Harvard’s Berkman Center released Media Re:Public, a series of papers “exploring the potential and the challenges of the emerging networked digital media environment.” I’m just starting to work through its 168 pages, but the findings are summarized here. Perhaps the most obvious finding to those who think seriously about the media is the notion that “Participatory media is great, has lots of potential. But it’s not doing everything we have counted on journalism institutions to do and left to its own devices, it never will.”

The idea that citizen journalists, and by that I mean people who don’t get paid for their reporting, will replace today’s news organizations, is one of the more dangerous ideas being pushed by the high priests of the future of news. Dangerous because if accepted by media companies, it means their future is hopeless and it’s best to give up now, an act that would result in a tremendous loss to our society.  There is no doubt that citizen journalists will be a big part of the future of news, and at times the major part, but it will not be the only part.  News organizations need to figure out how to make the best use of participatory media, give it its due, and get back to the main challenge of figuring out the business model.  The more we get sidetracked by those who will have us all believe that unpaid journalists will adequately cover our news, the more time we lose that could be spent on our real problems. We need to figure out how people can make a good living as journalists, or we can kiss the idea of an informed citizenry goodbye.

By the way, isn’t Internet video great? Here’s a trailer for the papers!

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