Buzz Wurzer: What's needed is watchdog journalism for the digital generation
- JOURNALISM FOR A NEW GENERATION? -- Henry "Buzz" Wurzer joined RJI for the "Pivot Point" gathering in August, 2012 in Chicago and is a collaborator on the CircLabs news-personalization project. Family commitments prevented him joining us for RJI Five. In this short essay, he offers his input from afar. Key point: Why can't the news industry use digital technology to provide a check on government "in a manner and tone directed to the younger generation?"
Source: Aug. 26 email to Bill Densmore
By Henry "Buzz" Wurzer
Next week is the Univ of Missouri, RJI seminar where journalists and technology folks will discuss the future of journalism especially over the next five years. Unfortunately, I am unable to accept your kind invitation to attend. But if I were able to be there, here would be my input:
Col. Robt. R. McCormick, founder of the Tribune Co. of Chicago defined a newspaper as an organization that presents the news of the day, fosters commerce and industry and provides that check upon government that government does not provide on itself. Providing that checkpoint is the foundation of our country's first constitutional amendment and the label of the "4th estate".
The press in the opinion of so many in our country is failing in this critical responsibility entrusted to them. There are 535 elected and appointed officials in our federal government. Whether Democratic or Republican, their approval ratings are abysmal. They are running amok. They are not governing, leading or civil or moral in many cases in their day to day activities. The laundry list of unresolved issues across the board of our national and global agenda is staggering.
While technology has been disruptive to date and can be the solution to the future of journalism, it can only be an effective tool when the press understands that compelling content is the primary key to audience building and audience engagement which is key to revenue development which is key to journalism sustainability.
And compelling content is of a kind that informs the public in a complete manner to enable the public to demand elected officials to properly do their jobs.
The problem with all the above is the fact that the incumbent press thinks they are providing the check on government that is their responsibility. I would argue that numerous qualified sources have chronicled the loss of audience, reduction of revenue support and loss of trust as a result of the press poorly informing the public of all the facts on issues.
If journalism is to be sustainable, if journalism is to thrive going forward, it must find a way to involve the younger generation in what is really important to their future. The older generation is print oriented, the younger generation is not. The older generation is better informed on key issues and set in their ways. The younger generation is not.
Why can't the news industry develop a new digital network using digital devices to fulfill their check on government responsibility in a manner and tone that is directed to the younger generation. Without them, journalism will not thrive and be sustainable.