Josh Hallett has an interesting bit of thinking-out-loud up regarding the relationship between journalist and hyper-local or hyper-niche citizen blogger. He points out that, because he is not a full-time journalist, he has neither the time nor the resources to always do all the digging and reporting that a story might require and so often does the best he can and then tries to hand the issue off to the community to fill in the blanks. That, if for no other reason, is why there will always be a place in the media world for professionals.
But those professionals will need to know where to turn to fill in their own knowledge gaps as well. That’s because the citizenry, the ones who live in the communities or who have a niche interest, are going to be powerful within that niche. Mainstream media outlets simply don’t have the resources to get as minutely specific as blogging allows for. So not only is Josh smart for knowing what he doesn’t know and reaching out for input, so to should reporters learn to know what they don’t know and search for those who do. The reality is that professional journalists have the tools to do some jobs better than bloggers and I don’t see that changing soon. But niche bloggers have the time and the passion to cover topics or angles that big news organizations just can’t because the return on investment is too low or even non-existent.
I’m increasingly of the opinion, though, that within a generation it won’t be the publication that matters so much to people as it will be the filters they choose to put in place or receive their news and other content through. Google News, Technorati and other such services/sites are becoming the new “source.” It won’t matter to someone in the Tampa area whether the news they receive comes from the Tampa Tribune or a local-issues blogger like Hallett. They will be interested in news on “Tampa,” subscribe to the aggregators that can bring that news to them and then assign value to the content as they go.
People’s time is important – and scarce. Whoever can provide the most value in that time will win the battle for their attention. As we become more and more used to picking and choosing what we read the outlets that provide that value will dominate the discussion but I think we need to look for a time when media brands are secondary to the quality of the content they produce.