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"New Media Paradox"?

The L.A. Times picked up on an interesting thread from the State of the News Media 2006 report, released last week.

L.A. Times:

A “new paradox of journalism” has emerged in which the number of news outlets continues to grow, yet the number of stories covered and the depth of many reports is decreasing, according to an annual review of the news business being released today by a watchdog group.

Many television, radio and newspaper newsrooms are cutting their staffs as advertising revenue stagnates, but blogs and other online ventures lack the size or inclination to generate information, reports the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research institute affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The study depicts the media in an interregnum — with the reach of print, radio and television reduced, but the promise of an egalitarian online “citizen journalism” unfulfilled.”

“The worry is not the wondrous addition of citizen media,” the report says, “but the decline of full-time professional monitoring of powerful institutions.”

So, isn’t the obvious question then: how can professional media institutions reap the benefits of the “wondrous addition of citizen media”?

How about using citizens to brainstorm story ideas, help research, and provide feedback for articles, like Minnesota Public Radio is doing with its “public insight journalism” initiative, Your Voice? Or collecting individual accounts from the community around a specific event to create a richer and more compelling narrative, like the New York Times did during the New York City transportation strike? And what about inviting audiences to ask questions of editors and reporters about how they do their jobs, like CBS has done with Public Eye, its project to promote the transparency of CBS News’ editorial operations?

Sadly, there are only a few examples of this type of collaboration as of yet – but the possibilities for utilizing community knowledge and the power of collective intelligence to enhance the quality of journalism are there and look quite exciting. What we need now are ambitious media organizations willing to experiment.

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