I’m a member of a professional group called Page Up composed of communications executives at big multinational firms as well as senior folks from various PR agencies. And while there’s much talk about the nature of the media and news business these days given the political environment, there’s also a ripple of shock and fear running through the corporate comms industry. I mean, you basically have a cottage industry that relies on being able to influence an at-least-superficially-objective media. The disintermediation is unrivaled as far as I know — having the President berate companies through an unfiltered platform is bigger than anything I’ve seen. Bigger than websites. Bigger than blogs. Bigger, even, than Second Life!!!!
So a fellow Page Up m,ember sent me a link to this article by Ken Doctor, Newsonomics: Rebuilding the news media will require doubling-down on its core values following a conversation we had about the future of our profession (crisis communications, by the way, is looking like a growth industry, amiright?)
Now, it’s worth reading, but I’m not sure if I agree entirely with the premise. My better angels want a return to journalism’s core values to work…I just don’t think our new media landscape will find the traditional tools of integrity and fact-exposing all that effective. Publishers have simply been too weakened by the Facebook/Google aggregation duopoly (h/t Ben Thomson) so cannot afford to support journalism that strives for objectivity — there’s no mass market anymore to appeal to and sell advertising into: this is the age of niche and therefore the polemic.
That said, I found some of the tactics the author suggests in the tail end of the article really interesting. They kind of take the truth-exposing to another more ‘digital’ level — data-driven story-telling — which can adhere to those trusted principles — could be a way to take the fight to the fascists. Journalists at the NYT and some other outlets are increasingly using visualization and immersive media to contest falsehoods — that seems about right to me and looks like a lot better way to steal the attention back from the burning dumpsters that seem to constantly rekindle themselves like trick birthday candles all over social media.
Another thought: there may be hope in applying the superhuman powers of machine learning and chatbots (intelligent agents) to confront the hordes of trolls on the internet — twitter, facebook, instagram, google and others have started spinning these up in recent years. Though largely the effort has been to either identify and remove copyrighted material, obscenity or hate speech, it could just as well be applied to pants-on-fire level fake news. The DNC and other political organizations looking for the next frontier of confrontation would do well to invest in AI, surely their competitors are already.