News as collaborative intelligence: Correcting the myths about news in the digital age

The shift to online news is increasing engagement, adding more perspectives, and introducing more witnesses and a wider spectrum of voices to the media industry. Consumers are even proving receptive to long-form journalism in a digital native format, embracing print on the small screens of tablets and smartphones.

But these clear signs of progress are met with other sobering signs of decline. From 2005 to 2013, the overall revenue of American newspapers, the primary outlets that cover local civic affairs, fell by 38 percent, and advertising revenue by 52 percent. The promise of the democratization effect of the Internet has proved elusive. Additionally, large media companies have been supplanted by even larger technology companies.

In a new paper from Tom Rosenstiel, the paradoxical state of news in the digital age is weighed not in a manner of whether we are better off or worse, but instead in better understanding what is better, what we are losing, and what we can do about it. Technology has created the potential for a new kind of journalism, one that is richer, more compelling, and more accurate than what was possible before. Rosenstiel finds that the real crisis of American journalism is local, where the decline is most severe and where robust journalism is most needed.

Rosenstiel offers five proposals for jumpstarting news in the digital age:

  1. Build local networks of collaborative intelligence that enable new ways to reach citizens in a more meaningful way.
  2. Reinvent and reimagine advertising beyond the platform-specific methods of the 20th century and take advantage of different devices available to consumers.
  3. Rethink content by transforming digital metrics like page views and time spent per story to the kind of journalistic qualities that drive more people to read stories, read them longer, share them and read them days or weeks later.
  4. Embrace social media and the many different pathways to news, reaching the established audience while also connecting with previously unreachable audiences.
  5. Finally, question a news outlet’s function in the lives of their community, internalizing what makes the outlet culturally significant.