The Media is Dead; Long Live media

Okay, I love this recent article in the
Economist
.

Love.

I have yet to read anything that so succinctly describes the state of
the media on the long arc. It describes an idea that I’d been tossing
around for a while—bloggers as modern-day pamphleteers—but never
developed as perfectly as this, with a nod to the history of media.

I love this article because we can learn so much from it (and because
it validates what I’ve been thinking). How many of us, PIOs, media
companies, communications specialists, content developers, reporters,
are terrified about what’s been going on in the media these days? Here
in Philly, our newspapers are casting about for any way to stay afloat
in these new digital times. Many, many people are terrified that the
world they’ve worked in, toiled in, gave their lives for, is
disappearing. They reject it. They rail against it. Pointless. Fad.
Waste of time.

And yet? This is just a return to how media was always conducted, as
we see in the article. The deviation is correcting.

So what can we learn? Look to the history books for lessons. Without
vertical mass media to steer things, opinions are developed, fanned
and set ablaze by the most vociferous amongst us, the most committed,
the most dedicated. Think Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Al Qaeda,
Michele Bachmann, Gary Vaynerchuk, Al Gore. I won’t dare to compare
the content of these thinkers, but the absolute dedication to
advancing their ideals is what allows them to shape popular thought
and discourse. They are changing the world today (or back then, as
the case may be), and are doing it while completely avoiding the mass
media as a dissemination tool.

So, how does this affect us as professional communicators? First, and
most importantly, they’re going to do what they do whether you think
social media is a fad or not. This is one area where the maxim, “Lead,
follow, or get run the hell over,” applies perfectly. If you ignore
it, you will get burned. Simple as that.

Second lesson? Understand that this process is not like a runaway
train. It can be acted upon. It can be massaged. It can be harnessed
and redirected as necessary. Or, it can be monitored. So you can get
ahead of it.

This second step is probably the most difficult thing to learn. All of
the rules of how we interact with the media are becoming less and less
useful. Do we treat bloggers and tweeters the same as reporters?
Should we? Or are they simply pamphleteers writing for local, slanted
rags like they did two hundred years ago?

For an example, I was totally impressed by how Philly’s Press
Secretary, Mark McDonald, recently handled a false story that was
gained national traction due to a Gawker
post
:

The Max Read story you have today is utterly false. There is no policy, plan or activity in Philadelphia where pedestrians are being ticketed for texting.

Your whack job reporter can spin his puerile fantasies about doing violence to people he does not like, but he first needs to get his facts straight. Indeed, Max might want to do a little READING before he writes.

Five years ago, he would have lost his job post haste. Today, with the
new rules? Well, he’s still here. Just like he would’ve been two
hundred years ago.

It truly is a brave new world.

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