It’s Also a Demand Problem

My work in much the past decade or so has been about the changing supply side of journalism. We’ve come a long, long way. Even though the journalism business model is tanking, the explosion of new kinds of content — and people who are pushing the edges of media creation — assures us of an ample supply.

An ample supply of what, exactly? Yes, we have to keep pushing for better journalism, with training and education of the content creators in this newly conversational world.

But we also need to spend a lot more time than we have on the demand side of the equation: the former audience that is now part of the process. If we don’t get this right, we won’t come through this transition with the kinds of media we need in a seriously self-informed, self-governing society.

A key question in this emergent tsunami of information, is this one: What can we trust? How we live, work, and govern ourselves in a digital age depends in significant ways on the answers. To get this right, we’ll have to re-think, or at least re-apply, some older cultural norms in distinctly modern ways.

These norms are principles as much as practices, and they are now essential for consumers and creators alike. They add up to a twenty-first-century notion of what we once called “media literacy,” which has traditionally all but missed the emerging methods of participation that are becoming such a key element of digital media.

Media consumers have to become activists. I don’t mean this in a political sense, though there’s an element of politics in almost everything we do in the public sphere. I mean it in the sense that we have to become users of media, smart users who don’t just sit around expecting people to do everything for us with no effort, apart from attention, from us.

We have to demand better than we’re getting. But to know what’s better, we need to address those principles. More on those in upcoming posts.