Yes, it’s the obligatory Michael Jackson post. But after the wild week we just had, it seems appropriate to take a moment and figure out what it all means (especially in digital terms).
The Zemoga team spent part of last week with Peter Shankman, founder of HARO (HELP A REPORTER OUT). HARO is a brilliant idea, an online community/mailing list/network that puts reporters in direct contact with sources (Peter currently has over 50,000 sources subscribing to his thrice daily e-mail newsletter). Peter is a former journalist/PR guy and he walks the walk when it comes to reporting in the digital age. During his trip to Bogota he was constantly Tweeting, uploading pictures via TwitPic and planning future blog posts (all while continuing to take care of HARO and his other social media consulting duties).
When you first meet Peter you are struck by how connected he is to his online followers (I had a similar reaction when I first met Chris Brogan). Peter approaches life as a story to be shared and he uses technology to help him spread his own personal story. It struck me that this could indeed be the future of journalism. Not necessarily citizen journalists but people like Peter, trained journalists who have chosen to work for themselves rather than big media like the NEW YORK TIMES or the WASHINGTON POST. They may not be doing the long investigative pieces that many in the journalistic establishment feel are most threatened by the decline of traditional media (though I honestly believe the GOOGLE’s and AMAZON’s of the world would be willing to underwrite that kind of work) but they manage to keep their readers fully informed regarding current events and emerging trends. And they do so through media and formats that are optimized for their readers new consumption habits (unless you’re a long distance commuter who has time to read the TIMES these days).
This point was driven home to me by the media reaction to Jackson’s death. While there is plenty of need for insightful analysis in to Jackson’s cultural impact, the tragedy of his upbringing, and how our celebrity obsessed society creates and destroys media personalities, at the time, simple, factual reporting on immediate events was what most people required. And it didn’t come from traditional media. In fact TMZ broke the news of Jackson’s death, while Reuters and other major news outlets cited them as a source (sounds a lot like re-tweeting to me). As developments occurred in the story, broadcast anchors repeatedly referred to online reactions as their main gauge of how the world was responding to the news of Jackson’s death.
And where did Peter Shankman, a man with literally thousands of journalists in his network first learn about the Michael Jackson story?
On Twitter, of course.