BrooWaha greets me thus: “Journalism needs to be rethought, thanks for joining the revolution!”
And having been in the mainstream media for a longer period than I should have logically sustained, I am thrilled at the prospect of joining this revolution (sincere thanks are due, to my friend and an outstanding writer, Rachel Eagle Reiter.
Coming to the revolution, what could this possibly be all about? Some crucial aspects that are redefining journalism, not just in degree, but in type, include the following:
Horizontal Communication: The traditional newsroom is part of a physical structure. Such structures, as Marshall McLuhan would have suggested are the medium, and hence the message themselves. They not only constantly remind the editorial folks of the overwhelmed presence of an invincible hierarchy, but also the overbearing burden sanctified by the Masthead Maxim (nothing above, or beyond the management). The modes and contents of communication, pretty much like the dictates of the elites whose names securely remain unscathed in the “board”, involve indomitable vertical tones. The publications, in turn, are run by the gatekeepers of the organizations. The papers are not only flung at the doors, even the views fly as authoritatively. Citizen newspapers, on the other hand, change the equation radically. The communication channels encourage horizontal tones. A question is answered with a question. Not with diplomatic politeness. The structures are not sky high. Nor the ego of the editor.
Conversations: Grassroots media are based on conversations. There are noises of all sorts all over. And that is not considered to be a bad thing. The corporate press used to overlook the voices which were traditionally suppressed and went unheard because of the loudspeaker announcements of the "experts". With the arrival of citizen newspapers, Gutenberg was placed in the minds of the people and it empowered them to speak out without fear or fervor. After all, conversations are supposed to be free flowing. To encourage dialogues. To enable comments on commentaries. To correct the experts and bring to light the unknowns. To rejoice the unsungs. To make every citizen a reporter.
Public Sphere: Often enough, press has been declared to be the public sphere. And it has only been ironic, because the press never was the public sphere to begin with. It was always what I would say, a “profit sphere”. The goals of mainstream media still continue to be maximizing profits and normalizing dissent. What is the most effective means of gaining revenues? The traditional press knows the answer: when the oppositional tendencies and heterogeneity of voices are replaced by consensus. A consensus that is manufactured to be beneficial to the population. This is the only way, profiteering companies shall place their ads to increase their “target audience”; this is the only way the existing unequal society can be sustained without controversies. The public is allowed to opine through “Letters to the Editor” and these are also subject to censorship, revisions and discretionary editing by the know-alls, as appointed by the management interests. Citizen newspapers reverse such a trend. Entirely, radically. If Lincoln ever defined democracy being “for the people, of the people, by the people”, then Citizen Newspapers are the only ones going to live upto such a premise.
Long live the Revolution!