News you Can Use; Fast Facts, Instant World

Folks have been talking about expanding the definition of news for awhile now. Remember the “news you can use” meme and that awful portmanteau “infotainment” that abounded in the 90s a? I recall WGN radio host Wally Phillips, about as old school and mainstream as you can get without returning to the Eisenhower administration, trumpeting the internet as a platform for presenting “fast facts” in “an instant world.” (Actually, I don’t remember that either, but I don remember Steve Dahl and Garry Meier making fun of him for what now seems like a valiant effort to apply the web to a standard AM news-talk show.)

More recently, I’ve had discussions with folks who have argued that services like Yelp,  the SitterLoop, TripAdvisor , the Facebook News Feed and Mario Romero’s trumpeted Friends’ Feed provide important information that people need to manage their lives, and as such they should be considered journalism. Jeremy Wagstaff, via Techdirt, explores things in more detail. I don’t agree with his application of the terms hyperlocal, or “hyper-hyperlocal” news– it’s about interests, not geography, and that metaphor does not wash. In any case, interesting stuff:

[T]here is no longer a traditional, established and establishment definition of what is news. Instead we have information…news is a slippery beast that means different things to different people….now that people have access to information, they are showing us what they’re interested in. Unsurprisingly, they’re interested in different stuff. What we call audience fragmentation — niche audiences for specialized interests — is actually what things have always been about…

What we’re seeing with the Internet is not a revolution against the values of old media; a revolution against the notion that it’s only us who can dictate what is news.

What we’re seeing is that people get their news from whoever can help them answer the question they’re asking. We want the headlines, we go to CNN. But the rest of the time, “news” is for us just part of a much bigger search for information, to stay informed.


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