Links for today | Links para hoje

It’s not that I’m pessimistic about the future for good journalists. Quite the opposite, in fact. Journalism isn’t dying; it’s just in a period of extreme volatility. And in any time of volatility, there’s huge room for opportunity. But you’re not going to learn how to exploit it in a stuffy classroom taught by people who got there by working at newspapers.

In my head, the Fifth Estate includes the Fourth Estate, the idea and value of a professional press corps as a way of informing and engaging the populace, and holding the powerful accountable. This vision of a Fifth Estate sees the Fourth Estate as necessary but insufficient for democratic life. The Fifth Estate could express what Jay Rosen has described as a “pro-am” model for the future of news, a frame that sees that the freedoms and responsibilities of the First Amendment empower not just a professional caste of news gatherers and distributors, but potentially every citizen.

One might think this is a bad thing. Emotions seem to be at odds with reason, and combined with the power of media they can lead to hysteria. I don’t know exactly what Shirky has to say about this, but I do remember that philosopher Martha Nussbaum argued in her book Upheavals of Thought that emotions can make valuable contributions to the moral life.

“Emotions” don’t have to mean knee-jerk, populist reactions by an uninformed mob expressing itself anonymously on forums. Emotions can refer just as well to people engaging in conversations where they do more than just argue facts — they express why they are interested in a topic, what they fear, and what they hope for.

News reports, on the contrary, are written in a disembodied style. The author seems to be absent, so that their voice does not get in the way of “what is really going on.” Of course, the audience at large knows that the author isn’t really absent just because they try to keep their own thoughts out of a story.

“Parasite”? Oh, please, get over it. Was the printing press circa 1501 C.E. a parasite on the manuscript culture of the monasteries of Europe? Sure, the printing press eventually killed manuscript book production. But a parasite would have died after the host was gone. Do you think the Internet is going to die?

If you fail to look at the decline of newspapers in context of the historical arch of events, and you fail to see that the same forces driving down circulation are the same forces decreasing community involvement and civic engagement, then you’ll never have a clue how to solve the problem. If you don’t see the whole picture, you’ll look for quick fixes like government aid or legislation, grants and annuities, paid content or just whine about “society can’t function without us.”

The solution lies in figuring out why increasingly society is deciding it doesn’t need us and fixing that problem, not in hair-brained schemes that attempt to force journalism on the masses.

Unscientific observation:  most bloggers use Twitter, but many Twitter users do not blog.

Twitter is popular because it is easy.  It is easy to setup, easy to copy-paste links into, and easy to write 140 character bits.  But, having your own blog remains the strongest platform if you’re serious about sharing ideas and having a continued dialog with the world.  Blogging is the antithesis of easy, however it is far more rewarding.

I’m not saying Twitter isn’t a useful and interesting service, because it certainly is.  But it does not negate the real opportunity that is actually made more useful by the popularity of microblogging:  having your own blog.

Are you just using Twitter but not blogging?  You’re missing out.  Here’s why you should make a blog your home base and consider Twitter an outpost: (…)

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