Laurel Papworth’s Media 140 Speech

Do Journos do it better?

I only have five minutes so I’m using this as a timer. Top left hand corner – yell out when it gets to 300 seconds, my time will be up. Just ignore all the people joining Facebook, uploading YouTube videos and writing blog posts while we chatter here about whether journalists do it  better.

Do what better than whom?

Is it more interesting to read an article of a journalist interviewing a survivor of the Mumbai bombings – or to watch that survivor’s photos on Flickr? Do you feel you are better informed when a journalist reports the date of the State Election in South Australia or when Premier Mike Wran tweets it? In fact as more world leaders move onto Twitter, the horses mouth has never been so evident.

Which brings us to the second part of the question: journalists blog better than ….? Better The President of Iran who blogs in both  Arabic and English? The Nobel prize winner in Economics who blogs? or the President of the European Union?  Mayhill Fowler has not once but twice scooped the press – on stories about both Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. She calls herself a citizen journalist and contributes unpaid articles to the Huffington Post.

Is it only journalists that can provide an independent viewpoint? Now this is where arguments fall down. Either the blogosphere is one big echo chamber, repeating each others articles – or worse, pinching them from the Press  – with bloggers agreeing with each other and readers can never get a different viewpoint OR no one agrees with anyone online and it’s just a big chatfest of negativity, anonymous comments and flame wars. Media has yet to make up their mind.

My view?  journalists are cossetted, under the tender loving hand of their editor should probably try to understand that bloggers who get a story wrong are greeted with a howling barrage of criticism, with repeat offenders receiving the worst punishment of all, a deafening silence? No blogger that I know of has a horoscope, crossword and sports section to make up for lack of attention on the part of the reader. Journalists can’t possible survive in the attention economy unless they know the impact of their articles.

So Do Journos Do It Better? …but it’s a bit of a silly question. No blogger would craft a blog title like that – it smacks of linkbaiting and typical of traditional media. To paraphrase Lord David Putnam, journalists craft an article like a grenade, lob it over the wall into the school yard and walk away without staying to see the consequences.

And anyway, what is a blogger? Or a Facebooker? Or a Twitterer? Perhaps we’d be better naming them Readers, or Viewers or Listeners? Or simply the Public. Because social media doesn’t belong to a new regime coming up to displace the old media regime. It’s Everyone. It’s everyone creating content. Good content, bad content and everything in between. It’s Everyone distributing content, linking out, retweeting. It’s Everyone discussing, dissecting, critiquing and correcting.

Which brings us to the Human Narrative. Stop for a moment and think about your great great great great grandmother. Who was she? Do you have videos or even photos of her? Do you know what she did when she was 17 and half? Where she went on holiday at 33 years of age? What she wrote about at 64?

Now move forward in time and consider what the next generation and the next generation and the one after will know about their great great great grandparents. For the first time in human evolution we are co-creating the Human Narrative, never again will our histories be held hostage to the victors, our stories forgotten, unwritten, unscribed.

It’s not YOUR content. It’s our content. Our stories. We didn’t give you the Human Story we loaned it to you, and now we’re taking it back. Feel free to retire your press card and pick up a keyboard – the sooner you become part of the Community and not outside of it, the more likely you will be to survive. Indeed, thrive.

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