Does journalism have a future in the Community Age? I have no doubt about it. But this future will be very bleak. Journalists, real journalists, will be miserable, poor, useless and discarded.
It was great to be a journalist in the Information Age. But we are clearly living now in the Post-Information Age. Information, which used to be a hot product, is now a commodity. Everybody can have as much up-to-date information as any journalist.
A couple of months ago, there was a horrific terrorist attack in the Russian airport Domodedovo. I learned about it on Twitter. I saw YouTube videos of the attack itself and of the aftershock after the attack from people who were at the airport and videotaped it with their cellphones. I read information from victims, their relatives, and people who were actually at the airport at the time live using LiveJournal, VKontakte, Facebook, and Twitter as well as a few blogs.
But what made the end of the Information Age clear for me was the fact that when I got home in the evening and turned on the news, all the news channel showed the same YouTube videos I already saw and used all the quotes I already read. So, where is the journalism then?
That is why I think CNN is struggling. They try to be a news organization in a post-news world. People do not need journalists for news anymore. That is also why Fox News is bourgeoning – it is not news but propaganda – it does not tell the news it explains information from a certain standpoint. MSNBC went the same way. Propaganda may be a harsh word – call it news analytics (that may be too nice of a word), or cause marketing, or promotion, or persuasion. The point is: it is not what traditional journalism is about – delivering objective news.
Next time something horrible or great happens we will know about it from bystanders’ Twitter feeds and see it on YouTube courtesy of bystanders’ cell phones, long before we will learn about it from journalists. And even then, journalists will probably just repeat the same YouTube videos and use the same tweets as quotes. Yet, Fox News “journalists” will make one conclusions, while MSNBC “journalists” will come to polar conclusions based on this same event whatever it might be.
What is interesting, however, is to try to understand what will come next. After the Industrial Age, people spent a decade in the Post-Industrial Age before Information Age came around and propelled journalism to the new heights. Now I believe we are in the Post-Information Age. What will replace it? To me, it seems like it might be the Community Age (you can also call it Network Age or Relationship Age). Your personal community, professional community, geographical community and other communities will have as much of an effect on your quality of life and on your opportunities as possessions had in the Industrial Age or knowledge had in the Information Age.
You are not what you have or what you know, but who you know and who knows you... your community.