Journalists are Sense-Makers, not Messengers

What will the journalists of the future be like? What will they have to be like? Sense-makers, not messengers.

I spent most of yesterday sitting around a table with a bunch of journalists, drinking far too much coffee, arguing and trying to work this one out.

We were at the uber-trendy Hospital Club in Covent Garden (a place so self-consciously cool you can see your breath frosting in the air). The workshop was a continuation of MELD 2, a programme organized by Paul Egglestone and Andy Dickinson at the University of Central Lancashire. The aim is to design collaboratively a curriculum for training journalists in the 21st century.

The morning talking left me with some thoughts about how the networked media landscape has changed journalists’ roles.

In a pre-internet media environment, information is scarce and difficult to come by. Journalists are seekers and messengers, finding scarce information and dealing it out to the public.

In a networked media landscape, there is no more information scarcity – quite the opposite. Everyone is a publisher. We are no longer messengers.

Before, the information was simply not available without us.

Now, all the information you could ever want is out there, and much, much more.

Our role necessarily changes.

Sense-Makers

In an information-abundant landscape, journalists move from messengers to sense-makers. All the information, and much misinformation, is out there. Our role is to seek, parse, sort, distil. We transform information into knowledge and convey that knowledge effectively.

We are filters for information overload, finding patterns and connections in streams of data. We take lots of confused, sometimes conflicting or distorted information, and find the meaning. Metaphorically speaking, we draw the line of best fit.

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