A glimpse of our future

One of the best lines in the movie Broadcast News veteran reporter Aaron Altman, played by Albert Brooks, was at home prompting a rookie reporter over the phone during a special report. In the midst of this Altman observes "I say it here, it comes out there" as his suggestions are broadcast verbatim. I had a moment almost like that except Twitter was the median instead of a telephone.

Last night a thunderstorm hit Bluffton. In the midst of the storm the power went out in my house. About the only thing working was my Black Berry. I went to Tiny Twitter and Tweeted what was happening with the weather and what happened with the power. Not too long after this Tweet I got a message from a friend on Twitter saying she heard about me on the news again. Apparently, WSAV anchor Holly Bounds or producer Gabe Travers saw my tweet and passed it on to the meteorologist on the 6:00 news who relayed my plight to the Lowcountry and Coastal Empire. Since I am sitting in a house with no power I miss the whole thing. The power is restored in time for My Lowcountry 3. I had twittered my power has been restored. As I watch the show, guess what? The viewers of the local news show are assured that my power is back on.

As I tweeted here and saw it come out there (WSAV), I had a greater understanding of how disconcerting Aaron Altman felt. Except Altman was a professional journalist and I am an educator. Then it struck me, I and people like me are the future of the news media. Newspapers across the country are going out of business. Reporters are losing their jobs faster than auto workers. The news media industry is at the point it needs to change or die. The change? Find a cadre of citizen journalists (knowing or unknowing) and let them break the news. The professional journalists will then come behind and develop the story.

How better to do this than to use social networks such as Facebook or information networks such as Twitter. Follow what people are observing and see what could become a story. Major networks such as CNN and Fox News are inviting people to submit story ideas. Local outlets are doing the same thing. My Lowcountry 3 always has a question of the day on Facebook and relays the responses each night. This binds shows with their audiences which creates a loyal fan base while saving some money for the organization. Nothing wrong with that as long as both parties agree to the relationship. I did not mind my power outage plight being shared so no harm no foul.

Another example of how journalists are adapting to the new media is how Island Packet Sports Reporter Justin Jarrett uses Twitter. Justin used to cover my soccer team during my coaching days so we became as friendly as a coach and reporter can become. He did a in depth report on what area athletes were posting on social network sites such as MySpace so he understands Web 2.0 Out of respect for his talent, professionalism, and past history I followed him as soon as I saw he was on Twitter. He has not disappointed me. Not only does Justin give you short updates of the events he covers but he brings his personality into his tweets. He comments on just about anything with an insight you don't get by reading his stories alone. Justin's tweets make me want to read his stories in the paper because I will get a better understanding of what he is writing about. Another thing Justin does is he interacts with readers in a way you rarely see. This can only be done through apps like Twitter or Facebook.

Will the news media come out of this recession the same way it entered it? The answer is no. However, the news media will not die but must and will change and adapt to the new conditions. Holly Bounds, Gabe Travers, and Justin Jarrett are showing what the news media will look like in the near future. The lesson for educators? Journalism, like education, has been plodding along with its traditions and attitude of this is they way it is always done. Many educators have this same attitude. Education will change too. The big difference will be the pace of change between the two professions. Watching journalism change can teach us how to handle the inevitable change to come.