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Visions of the New News

We all know that the news terrain is changing—the question is, how can we imagine its shifts? Below you'll find a number of different efforts to visualize new relationships between news makers and consumers, reporters and sources, community builders and members, and more. We bring you these sketches as part of our evolving Atlas of Media Maps, which leads up to the June 17 Beyond Broadcast conference. Don't miss out the chance to challenge your own mental maps; join us!


The media world as we knew it:

Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine offers a simple diagram of the old news relationship:

A more complex rendering emerged at the recent NewsTools 2008 conference (larger version is here).

Both emphasize the relatively tidy and linear nature of journalistic interactions, refined over 150+ years of professional print journalism practice. Professional journalists stand square in the middle as mediators and interpreters of truth and newsworthiness. The built-in assumptions of these models offer plenty to argue with, but let's let them be for now, and move on into the future.


The media world that's upon us:

Jarvis suggests that the press has morphed into a "press sphere"—an expanded universe of news sources and users:

What's more, he argues, the press is no longer at the center of the news universe. Instead, he posits a "me-sphere," with the user at the information-gathering helm:

Meanwhile, at News Tools 2008, participants worked with visual communications expert Sherrin Bennett to map the values of "an emerging news ecology" (larger version is here).

Also of interest: the Los Angeles Times Vision 2010 map, which emerged from an editorial planning retreat this spring. The image is by Kevin Woodson, and is being posted in the LA Times newsroom (larger version is here).

Where in these worlds are the publics?

Here at the Center for Social Media we define "public media" as "media for public knowledge and action." Journalism is a central tool for the formation of publics around shared issues. Members of those publics show up in different ways in these maps.

For Jarvis, the key point is the shift in gravity from the press to the individual. He's not really focusing on the way that users band together around (or in opposition to) media; instead he's offering newsmakers a Copernicus moment: "Hey, guess what. You're not the center of the universe!"

The NewsTools2008 map demonstrates that, in the new ecology, community is crucial. It even introduces an unfamiliar term—the "community weaver." His/her roles include inviting audiences to participate, and filtering reader comments. Meanwhile, in this world, it's the community's role to offer editors (now reframed as "sense makers") tips on coverage, conversation with reporters (now lumped in with "beat bloggers"), content, and, of course, dollars. Are those communities publics? Well, it depends on the issues being addressed.

Finally, the L.A. Times is struggling to retain its pull on its readers by integrating feedback and input, customizing content, and offering news and perspectives across multiple platforms. Their Web site is labeled "community gathering place," and lives under a header that emphasizes the "am" part of the "pro-am" equation. This visioning reflects an effort to adapt to the new realities, but as long as they continue to dismiss users as "amateurs," they're trapped in a top-down paradigm.

So, where does that leave us? The maps above represent distinct perspectives on the new landscape for news. It's still early on; we'll need more maps before we're through.