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German Views on Media Changes

At the Kölner Journalistenschule today in Cologne, Germany, I’ve received a polite but not entirely warm reception in discussing the citizen media shift and its value to the business and economic journalists who are attending this one-day conference. This is not a shock. Germany remains perhaps the most traditional media market in western Europe, and this group is the most traditional of all.

My talk was more structured than some I’ve done lately. I suggested five points of departure:

  • The shift from top-down media to an ecosystem that includes edge-in contributions
  • Who is a journalist, and what do we call journalism in this new era?
  • New economic competition and emerging business models
  • How traditional journalists should join the conversation
  • Issues or trust and reliability.

The last of those was, as usual in gatherings where I participate, the focus of significant debate. Traditional journalists tend to assume they are uniquely qualified to be the arbiters of truth and trust. We disagree on this.

But we don’t disagree on the need to preserve the best of what these folks do. I can’t solve the business-model issues that don’t seem to be getting any less worrisome. But we can work together to help people get the information they need.

Increasingly I believe that one of traditional journalism’s vital roles will be to help society become more media literate. This will rebound to the benefit, perhaps, of professional journalists, but that’s not a good enough reason by itself to do it. Society needs the help.

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