After Hackgate – towards a more citizen-led mediaJuly 13, 2011
From out of the wreckage caused by Hackgate, which has rocked Westminster, Fleet Street, and Scotland Yard alike, it is clear that a long-overdue programme of media reform must arise. What is unknown at this point, at the start of a process that will undoubtedly drag on for years, is how the relationship between citizens, the media, and public figures will change. It has invariably been both too cosy, and too fear-driven, and above all too centralised.
I personally have experienced this during my time in government. That fear which all politicians feel at the hands of journalists where you have no recourse or way to correct the story, led to much pain and difficulty for me and my young family, despite years of charitable service.
I also realized that the very business model of modem media itself now makes it almost impossible for new and innovative policy to be understood and piloted well, because resources are too constrained for journalists to get out into the country to find out what is going on and what is working. This is what I have previously called news by press release, where the same story is regurgitated from one news desk to another with lots of opinion and spin heaped upon it, not always sadly backed up by many facts. It too often stops the right ideas being turned into reality and breeds instead sadly cynicism and inertia.
So what now, now that we have arrived at the point when our politicians, media and increasingly even our judicial and policing system have suffered such a loss of trust? Well, we are likely to see increased regulation. I defer to Lord Mandelson on this who has already written articulately on how it needs tightening up. How can we have different regimes for television and broadcast media (which is incidentally more trusted than other forms) from print media which is essentially self/non/un-regulated? But as Mandelson also hints at, there is a role for technology, whether in more models such as iCorrect where people can correct mistaken articles written about them, to a place where media interviewees – whether celebrities and public figures or ordinary citizens – can upload recordings of interviews they have given so the public can compare how accurate articles are that were based on what has been recorded, to a site where individual journalists can be rated (who has the domain for ratemyjournalist.com?) based on how accurate, entertaining, and balanced their articles are (one may need to rate raters as well to avoid abuse).
Beyond this there is a need for a different business model, one in which citizens actively help to generate news content, in partnership with professionals, and co-edit that content so the best filters up, and get rewarded financially or reputationally for their stories or receive donations or tips to encourage them to continue their citizen journalist careers. Twitter and blogging in a way is therefore just the start. Models such as blottr, with the right backing from us all, may represent a more sustainable, a more humane way of doing media in the future.