David Plotz, editor of Slate Magazine, takes a look at the rise of digital journalism and tries to sort the gains from the losses:
Most handwringing about the state of journalism is done by journalists. They are worried about losing their jobs, so it’s not surprising that they tend to be fretful. But turn the issue upside down for a second, and think about the state of journalism from journalism’s audience. The real purpose of journalism, after all, is not to provide me a job, but to inform and entertain the public. And by that standard, it is clear we are living in a golden age. There has never been a better time to be a reader and watcher and listener of news. Never have you had so many choices, and so many that are excellent.
This seems a useful perspective to consider as military public communicators, too. Like civilian journalists, we are content providers. We all know our respective Service organizations have labored to adapt to the digital era, from the early rise of official military websites to the cacaphony of platforms that continue to proliferate within “Web 2.0.” Some adaptations have gone well; others remain uneven. No matter what the latest flashy tools offer, though, substance is still essential. And there will always be the tension between the speed of the Web, and the legitimate need to protect certain categories of information.
Through all of this, we need to continue to keep in mind the view of the information consumer. How well are they being served both by the quality of the information provided, and the packaging in which it is transmitted? Within the Air Force, we’ve already seen a merging of specialization in print or photo journalism into a broader combined skillset. Are we making full use of the multimedia potential of the web (still including well-written, hard-hitting text) to both show and tell our stories as a narrative easily accessible to a public that increasingly has little direct experience with military life?
Most importantly, given the many available choices Plotz points out are we doing our job well enough to be the “go-to” source for information about us when the menu of options is increasingly crowded?
If not, fretting about jobs may not be just for our civilian counterparts… and rightfully so. In this age, it’s communicate–meaning connect with your audiences–or die.