Breaking News: What’s Beyond the Fakery and Hate in Today’s Journalism?

—From Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now, by Alan Rusbridger.

In any period of great disruption it’s probably desirable to hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind: that the revolution will be less profound than it feels; and, conversely, that it will be much more radical.

If the former’s true it’s possible that, after a period of experimentation in our relationship with the reader, things will revert to a more traditional state of affairs. Most readers, it may turn out, don’t want to be involved in the news: they just want to read it or watch it. Some of them will be happy to pay for that. We will treat them like consumers.

If the latter is true—that the revolution has barely started—then news organizations may, by contrast, have a whole lot more innovating still to do. We will almost certainly want to draw readers in; to engage them; to win their trust; to ask for help; to be ever more open; to change some significant things about the way we do journalism.

We do know that readers and listeners and viewers across the world depend on—even love—the news outlets that promise, and deliver, honest, enquiring, brave journalism.

And we know that—as well as the dross and the fakery and the hate and the lies—there are wonders in the new world of information: people connecting with each other through networks of humanity, complexity, experience, and decency.

These two worlds—old and new—continue to collide in a fog of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding. But collisions can also release energy. The best of these two worlds could yet be formidable.

William Goldman famously said of the movie business: “Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

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