The kids these days...

Here is yet another NYT article on the same subject: new media. It's so weird and uncontrolled. These kids are gonna pick our next President, people!

That's not an actual quote, but this is,
"Young people also identify online discussions with friends and videos as important sources of election information. The habits suggest that younger readers find themselves going straight to the source, bypassing the context and analysis that seasoned journalists provide."

"Straight to the source" is the operative phrase. The kids, these days, don't need us to process their info. They're so savvy, they pick it right from the orchard themselves.

Oh, how quickly we forgot the lessons of lonelygirl15.

Viral media may feel more raw and unedited, but it's usually every bit as managed as the Old Grey Lady, just with a different aesthetic goal. It's true that we often get our news from friends and online strangers but that's an old phenomenon called "gossip." (And it is just as faulty and dangerous as it ever was.)

No, what we have is a new set of gatekeepers. Reporters are our first gatekeepers--rather, vacuum cleaners, sucking up any and all details on the premise that one never knows today what will be news tomorrow. After them are the editors, the bosses of news disseminating outfits who are responsible for deciding what counts as news and what doesn't. With the rise of cable news, they bore the brunt of the criticism accusing them of editing more for sales than for newsworthiness.

That critique was not unfair--but it never was unfair, ever. All editors are expected to get people to read their papers, whether they're responsible for a propaganda rag, an ad revenue cash cow, or a good ole fashioned yellow paper. Profit is only one of many motivators that editors must balance. But now, there is the viral gatekeeper. He/she doesn't receive a paycheck, nor is he/she even a single, identifiable individual. The viral gatekeeper is the consciousness of the market, the final arbitrator who chooses between Coke and Pepsi. (The market is ambivalent about what it likes; unambiguous about what it detests. Isn't that right, New Coke?)

In my view, this is the opportunity before the Mainstream Media: this new gatekeeper can be integrated into the system to alleviate the other two gatekeepers from more mundane and unseemly tasks. If we're so worried that editors are are mucking up the news with their quest to generate Nielsen ratings, why not give that latter job to a new viral manager--a sort of marketing executive for the news. Just as the editor should not hound his reporters, lest they fail to do their jobs and gather all available information, the viral manager should not (and currently does not) harp on the editor for producing uninteresting, unlinkworthy articles.

Each cog does its job irrespective of the others. Professionally, of course, the reporter must periodically demonstrate that he has a nose for gathering the right news, and the editor will periodically have to demonstrate that he has provided articles the viral manager wants to read.

Sometimes, organized chaos works pretty well.

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