Do we really need journalists?
Among some of the things I do is to blog, for myself and others. Yet recently I have been thinking quite regularly about content and why do we need professional journalists.
The combination of the smartphone and relatively cheap internet access has led to anybody (literally, anybody) having the ability to write about whatever it is they fancy.
This can range from their professional opinions and experiences to something as boring and uninteresting (to me) as their lunch. Given this democratization of content, why the hell do we still need someone else to act as the middle man and tell your story on your behalf?
Role of a Journalist
Journalists or reporters simply (no disrespect intended) research, collect, collate, analyse, write and then distribute whatever news and information they think might be of interest to the readers of a particular publication or content platform.
The majority are not professionals in the field in which they choose to write about (e.g. not a programmer, banker, engineer, footballer). They oft times rely on extensive research, multiple interviews and fact checking to ensure what they are about to write about is valid.
Yet, even after all the due diligence and after all these years of journalism, errors still occur and in some cases (especially junior journalists or those new in the field they are writing about) and mostly as a result of a lack of understanding of their subject.
This description is hardly definitive but in essence this is the role of the journalist.
Subject Matter Experts
Given that journalists are not subject matter experts, the advent of the smartphone and cheap internet access and the way we have witnessed how web content ecosystems can auto-correct (i.e. if someone writes something false those in the know will be quick to point out) shouldn't subject matter experts (programmers, footballers, engineers, economists etc.) be the ones creating content for mainstream media?
Why do we need a reporter to ask a footballer first and then tell us what he said and offer her opinion?
Shouldn't we rather have an open system where the sports section (as an example) is filled with columns and articles by sports people who are actively involved in the sport (or formerly active) debating and commenting among themselves?
What about Noise?
Victor Asemota raises a valid point and asked me — “ I get the general picture but there is something not quite right with the flow.”
“If you cut out the middlemen, who curates the content we would be inundated with? Is there a self filtering mechanism for content?” he added.
We are already inundated with noise despite journalists doing most of the credible writing therefore the current mechanisms we use for filtering the noise from the signal still apply. Except this time around you are getting the story directly from the horses mouth, so to say.
Cut Out the Middle Man
There is value I think in cutting out the Content Middlemen in that the story will not be skewed based on the reporter’s opinion and understanding (or lack thereof) and allow each reader to form their own opinion directly from what the professional has said.
Then again there is still a role for journalists in an editing role to at least make the content readable, but even this is debatable as part of the message is in how it is delivered.