It was sad to hear this week of the passing of an American news icon. NEWSWEEK announced it would be folding up its print copies for the last time at the end of 2012, moving to a web-only version next year. Checkout lines will never be the same without those dueling headlines between NEWSWEEK and its last-remaining rival, TIME Magazine.
The end of NEWSWEEK is just the latest sign that journalism is fundamentally changing. Countless newspapers & magazines have gone out of business since the advent of the internet in the 1990s, as advertising dollars ran from Old Media to New Media. Ad sales for print media are less than half what they were just seven years ago, and for every dollar papers raised in new digital media revenues, they are losing seven dollars. Not a sustainable business model by any measure.
There are still pockets of journalism that are doing quite well. Local TV news is thriving in the DC area and around the country. Fully 74% of Americans either watch or check a local TV news site at least once a week, more than any other news supplier. And Americans rate local TV news as their most trusted news source, even greater than 60 MINUTES or NPR.
But print and broadcast media are largely missing the greatest change in journalism: citizen-based news & information gathering, also known as Citizen Journalism.
For decades, community groups and individuals have shared information through newsletters, emails and other forms of communication. Today, the power of new technology and the availability of broadband internet connections allow ANYONE to cover their community like never before. High-quality video via cell phones and other tools previously only available to professionals are affordable & everywhere. As I like to say, there’s no event… football game, parade, protest or civic meeting… that isn’t “covered” by a Citizen Journalist.
Thanks to MCM’s website, mymcmedia.org, as well as our training classes, every resident of Montgomery County has the power to cover their community and distribute that content to thousands of people. Through our Citizen Journalism course for adults and Backpack Journalism class for teenagers, we are training the next wave of journalists right here in Montgomery County. More than 75 students & counting have attended MCM’s journalism classes, and more are on the way… being taught and mentored on how to cover their community and then make it available online.
The passing of NEWSWEEK is another sign that the world is changing. But we should not lament their passing… rather, we should recognize that we all have an opportunity, perhaps even a duty, to step up and fill the void being left by traditional media. Let YOUR voice be heard.