News as a Conversation: Nothing Has Changed and Everything Has Changed

The news industry is no longer a one-way street where journalists dictate the news and readers are supposed to ingest it and move on. Now, readers dictate the news as much as journalists do, and journalists are realizing this. But journalists still have one thing that many readers don’t: a credible and visible platform.

The concept that I found most insightful from Chapter 10 of Briggs is the “6 Ws” theory. In the past, journalists only had to concern themselves with the who, what, where, when and why. Now, another W is being thrown into the mix: We. The journalist and his or her readers are now a team in the news business. Since the beginning of journalism, readers wanted to have a conversation with journalists, and only with the Internet in the past two decades has that conversation become possible.

The notion of readers suddenly wanting to be part of the news business is invalid as readers have always wanted this opportunity. People have always wanted to see themselves on TV or looked to as sources for stories. The reader can now report news and disseminate it to other readers as swiftly as a journalist can. Still, credibility and visibility are determinants to whether or not readers or “citizen journalists” are able to actually have a reach or audience.

Making the news a conversation is easily done today through the comments section on news sites. These are the places where the informed, uninformed, and blatantly nasty people go to communicate their ideas and opinions with journalists and other readers. The chapter suggests that journalists should interact with commenters and respond to those comments which could lead to potential stories or sources. There also seems to be a consensus that “nasty” or “offensive” comments should be ignored or censored by news organizations. I believe that news organizations have the right to allow whatever they want to allow other commenters and readers to see provided that comments are obscene or deemed inappropriate by a predetermined set of guidelines.

News organizations should not be selective in terms of what comments they publicly respond to and which ones they choose to ignore. As a reader, I would feel slighted if a journalist chose to ignore my comment but chose to respond to someone else’s. This is where requiring commenters to have accounts comes in. These accounts should force them to identify themselves and provide an email address so that journalists can contact them in a professional, private manner. The comments section should be the launching point of the conversation between the reader and the journalist. It should not be the place where the conversation begins, progresses, and ends. The comments section provides the initial link between the two parties and the rest of the conversation should be carried out else where in a professional manner.

A news organization must decide if it is going to stay out of the conversation or become a part of it. If a journalist chooses to participate in the comments, then he or she should respond to all of the comments, intelligent or nasty. By only responding to some comments and not all of them, you are leaving some readers to think that they’re voices are not important. You want to let your readers know that ALL of their voices are important because readers and journalists now play on the same team. To survive, a news organization must continue to involve readers and show them that they are valued. Readers expect this more than ever since its easier for journalists to do this and start a conversation.

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