Reuters ready to evolve into journalism 3.0

Ronny Kerr · August 6, 2009 · Short URL:

Chris Ahearn promises "golden age of journalism" for news companies who work with new technology

PressWith the emergence of any new technology, the old technologies, the old methods, and particularly, the old companies struggle to keep their heads above water in an environment they’ve never faced before.

The music industry, for example, first took a keenly strict approach towards the Internet, bringing in big-names, like Metallica, to shut down the most popular p2p file-sharing software, Napster, while slapping thousands of lawsuits onto its very customers.

Eventually, the industry realized that these methods didn’t help CD sales. These days, though the record companies have found new enemies in the form of torrent sites which speed up p2p tremendously, they are also attempting to embrace the Internet by working with online content providers. The best example of this is Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

Well, just as the future of music has been exaggeratedly foretold as doomed by the big industry, so too are the old giants in news warning the world about the impending death of news, at the hands of blogs and news aggregators like Google News.

Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters, has something to say about that: “Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies – they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.”

In a guest column entry posted on the Reuters “MediaFile” bloReutersg this week, Ahearn tackled sensationalist claims that sites like blogs, news aggregators, and social media networks that merely link back to the full story on Reuters or AP are killing good and solid journalism.

“But the Internet isn’t killing the news business any more than TV killed radio or radio killed the newspaper,” says Ahearn, professing the age-old wisdom that the smart companies will advance with new technology, not fight hopelessly against it. “Incumbent business leaders in news haven’t been keeping up.”

Starting to sound like a real revolutionary near the end of his entry, Ahearn says, “with all the new tools and capabilities we should be entering a new golden age of journalism – call it journalism 3.0.”

We’ve seen it already. Iranian protestors in Iran, starting in June after the presidential election, worked tirelessly to employ the Internet tools available (despite the government’s ban on them) to spread information about up-to-the-minute events on the ground. People setup meeting places on Twitter, horrific videos were uploaded to YouTube, and so on.

This is just one small example of the tremendous potential of “journalism 3.0” and it is probably what Ahearn envisions when he optimistically writes, “Let’s stop whining and start having real conversations across party lines. Let’s get online publishers, search engines, aggregators, ad networks, and self-publishers (bloggers) in a virtual room…and have a conversation about how we can work together to fuel a vibrant, productive and trusted digital news industry.”

Ahearn seems deftly aware and maybe even fearful that the traditional news industry could hurt itself the same way the music industry did, by fighting against the best new technology. We’ll have to wait to see whether his dream of some massive virtual meeting between everybody involved in news ever manifests itself.

(image source: The 412 by ShowClix)

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