I watched this video interview with social media guru Howard Rheingold. He's talking about libraries here, but what he says about their mission is much the same, I believe, as journalists.
Journalism is more than a TV clip or newspaper article. It's passing along reliable information: seeking the truth and reporting it. But as the availability of information expands, as Howard says, we are competing for attention with all the porn and scams and everything else.
It's our job to help make sure people can find our reliable information. These days, we can do that by understanding social networking on all levels, and how people are using this to pass along information. So if people in your colleagues aren't spending a lot of their time using social networking to build sources and as conduits for reporting that information, then encourage them to start.
I especially like how Howard talks about people looking for reliable information within their specific interests. A challenge of every major news web site has been making the transition from general interest publications to making information easy to find within the details of our readers' lives.
That's the point Amy Gahran makes in her Poynter E-Media Tidbits this week. The days of editors sitting in a room and deciding what everyone else reads or hears is ending, if it's not already over.
"In other words, to stop trying to shove unwanted "messages" down people's throats, and to actually talk with and listen to real people," Amy says
Amy linked to a useful presentation of the 1999 Cluetrain Manifesto. Written for marketing and PR folks, there's also a warning for the journalism business that it is only now beginning to heed, a decade later. It deals with the way people talk to each other, compared with the sometimes stilted way the media presents information. Social networking is now making it easier for larger groups to hold those informal discussions. These groups were formerly known as the newspaper and broadcast news media markets.
Social networking is about participating in a community conversation. As journalists, part of our role is to provide trustworthy information to those conversations. You can either participate, or be left out. Too often, journalists are choosing to be left out.
If you know colleagues who aren't usuing social networking as a major part of their work days, or don't know how, encourage them. If they don't understand why they need to learn about it, show them this video. Show them the slide presentation. Maybe that will get through to them.