As journalism is rebuilt and rethought – out of necessity and opportunity – it’s important to abstract it and understand what functions it performs and what functions we need performed.
I tried to rethink the article as the basic unit of reporting here.
Christiane Schulzki-Haddouti (auf Deutsch) broke down the basic functions of journalism into five here (please correct my translation, German friends):
(1) Research (reporting) and monitoring,
(2) The simple presentation of complex issues,
(3) Identification of trends, visualizing them, and giving them context,
(4) Dialogue and moderation,
(5) Generating attention. [See the discussion about that from Davos here.]
Then Heinz Wittenbrink takes her list farther and breaks down the form, tools, and skills needed to perform each task in a Google Docs spreadsheet (it’s also in German but you’ll get the idea: Research and reporting take the form of wikis and link aggregation [I’d add process blogging]; they require personal skills of exploration and evaluation; and the tools include search, databases, RSS, bibliographic tools, and collaborative tools).
What we need next, I think, is an audit of the output of journalism to, again, see what needs to be replaced in a new vision of journalism: just how much output and resource are devoted to:
* investigative journalism,
* beat reporting,
* breaking news,
* commodity (repetitive) stories,
* flackery (rewriting of PR),
* lifestyle and entertainment,
Out of that comes a calculation of what we’re trying to save (and what we can augment in new ways). The goal is not to support or replace the newsroom as it stands but to rethink the value it produces and how it can do that in the future, using new tools, skills, and relationships. We need this new accounting to build new business models and to answer the question of how we can sustain journalism. First, we need to redefine it.