News as processes with purpose

When we think of news as content that can be delivered by professional news organizations, we're acting like the Internet has not been invented yet. Practitioners of Journalism 1.0 are delighted when we think this way because we will continue to read, subscribe to and validate the content they generate. We'll agree the news they deliver is newsworthy. We'll accept our familiar role as passive consumers of news, We are very accustomed to doing nothing about what we read because we are outside of political, military, corporate and diplomatic circles.

As Google researched those among us who clink on the paid links in our search results, they found that those who search the news are twice as likely to switch to shopping links. That got me wondering if the same is not true for avid newspaper subscribers. It appears extremely valid in my small circle of friends and relations. Those I know who read their newspaper religiously are also devoted to acquiring possessions, finding bargains, leaping at sales and refining their consumer preferences. I suspect there is a robust synergy between Journalism 1.0 and materialistic consumption. They have been keeping each other going ever since retailers opened shop and an editor launched a newspaper in town.

In this synergy of shopping and news reading, news is content that gets delivered to consumers. It involves numerous professional processes behind closed doors to deliver timely, accurate and newsworthy news. What goes on during editorial conferences, news gathering, fact checking and writing are not newsworthy. There is a Chinese Wall in news organizations to keep the revenue side separate. This avoids compromising the editorial integrity with short sighted profiteering or pandering to advertisers. The advertising and subscriber sales processes are equally off limits to readers and industry observers. When the news is content, the processes are not news.

News is morphing into transparent processes. Chris Anderson notes in Free that the Chinese Wall has vanished in Google News. The relevant ads are placed adjacent to the news articles without fear of undue influence from advertisers. Likewise, citizen journalists are forcing paid content providers to compete with free offerings that scoop insider stories from a new breed of newsmakers. Professional processes, conducted behind closed doors, are increasingly out in the open, transparent and news in themselves. How the story takes shape, who contributes to the telling the story, and what changes in perceptions have occurred -- have all become newsworthy. Bloggers like myself are making our own thought, learning and growth processes transparent. When anyone of us reads their RSS feed subscriptions, we've changed to valuing "news as processes". We're watching the long tail of contributors growing, changing, learning and creating from one day to the next. We're following authors as they evolve as well as stories as they unfold. We're then finding professional authorities noticeably lacking in that personal, transparent dimension that makes their expert content increasingly unreadable.

I foresee another change on the horizon. We will soon regard news as "processes with social purposes". If it does not make a difference for those making a difference in others' lives, it will not be deemed as newsworthy. It will be as repugnant to this new sensibility, as speculation, rumor and deceit are to professional news gatherers now. It will no longer be enough to reveal one's own processes with a commitment to transparency. We will see others are in process, using processes, changing their own processes and responding to their constituencies' processes. We will respond accordingly with all this in common and notable exceptions that enable us to make differences in their lives, processes and impacts on those they serve. How we see others, how we respond, how they take use that and respond in kind -- will be the new understanding of what is really newsworthy.

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