Is traditional media’s biggest strength also its bane?

Ravi Raman, Senior Vice President at Khaleej Times touches on the state of traditional media in the Middle East today, what they are doing wrong and what the newsroom of the future should look like…

“Journalists generated and reported on their communities, but could not be part of it – however, social media has changed all that from the way news is sourced to the way it is consumed today.

As consumers evolve, so does their expectations of brands – and with purchase decisions becoming more deliberate and value driven, brands need to constantly meet these expectations. Consumers are starting to seek more information on how the goods are produced. They are beginning to ask conscious questions like; is the brand ethically sourced and produced? Is it environment friendly? Or does it have social values? Consumers are expecting alignment of brand values with their own, so why should media be treated differently?

For a long time news media has operated in a walled newsroom with a clear separation between ‘church and state’ and even readers. With objectivity and independence, they practiced their profession in a ‘just the facts’ environment. Journalists generated and reported on their communities, but could not be part of it – however, social media has changed all that from the way news is sourced to the way it is consumed. News media is constantly mutating and evolving, forcing mainstream media organisations to pay attention. The internet is changing the news and in many cases bypassing the professional reporter.

Computers also play a key role in the media industry today as they are doing what traditional journalists used to do, like compiling stock reports, filing company announcements, reporting sports results and even weather and travel news bulletins. These used to be an integral part of traditional news, but are now automated and available online on a real time basis. Also, content aggregating platforms are now encroaching on the territory of publishers by influencing story selection and placement.

Citizen journalism, which started out as a public engagement has also gained enormous popularity in the media industry. Social networking platforms have given consumers the ability to transmit information globally, which has tilted the balance of power today. Not being bound by journalistic standards and norms has actually made these citizen journalists, whom are youtubers, bloggers or social media influencers more powerful. It could be argued that they voice opinions rather than truth however, citizen journalists are playing a vital role in news media, being present on the ground where a professional journalists cannot be. Traditional media is using social platforms for crowdsource comments, pictures, videos, insights and story ideas. It is also using it as an engagement tool, seeking readers to spend more time online and making them more valuable to advertisers. But is that enough?

Newsrooms today need to adopt a wall-less or virtual model, where readers are partners in the news conversation, not just passive consumers. So what should the newsrooms of the future look like?

Firstly, it would be made up of several tech savvy, socially connected journalists, who are capable, equipped and most importantly empowered to report, write and file stories on the fly. Better connectivity, artificial intelligence, analytics and easy access to social platforms will allow reporters to go beyond reporting and offer detailed analysis, as well as context and expert opinions on events as they happen. With smarter tagging, intuitive archival and retrieval systems they would be able to stitch together perspectives, links and inferences.

Secondly, the funnel approach of stories being filed, vetted, fact-checked, proofread, edited and then finally approved to be published will either be short-cycled or completely eliminated. Story filing deadlines are already disappearing with news and reports being on a continuous loop. Consumers today want to see and not be told, so video journalism is the new frontier, which requires a whole new scripting and storyboarding technique to ensure the story not only engages and entertains the audience, but is shared too.

The adoption of this newsroom of the future will require a large degree of trust and training. Publishers will have the fear of losing control of their title with copy errors and even fake news creeping in. However, the new reality is that readers are demanding faster, better and more engaging content – and a dynamic, fluid newsroom is the only solution that can deliver that.