Something happened that challenged my views of media and news reporting this week. As a former journalist I have a very traditional picture in my mind of what constitutes reporting and what a reporter is and should be. This is now increasingly out of date.
It started with the arrival of the citizen journalist. The impact of this was witnessed after the terrorist attack on London in 2005. It was then that for the first time people had video, audio and information linked to the incident that they were prepared to give to the media and ultimately the police to use as evidence. Everyone had a modern mobile phone able to take photographs, video and audio. There was also the emergence of a new mindset which meant that people were prepared to tell the news themselves.
Five years later and in a room with bloggers, webbies and Tweeps things have developed even further. These people are providing a real community service covering events both large and small and providing details of what is happening. They are people including http://insidethem60.journallocal.co.uk/ who spent a large part of this week covering the explosion that affected people living in Irlam. They are a dedicated, and until now often unseen, group of people.
I was speaking to the social media group of people about the GMP24 event that took place in October and they questioned me about why there was not more involvement with the online community around the event. It made me question what traditional media management is and what it should do. The role of the press office has to adapt and bring itself up-to-date. The ex-journalists who work in it need to take a wider view of who and what constitutes the media.
This is a developing picture and press and PR managers need to make sure they are alive to the changing environment. If five years ago the police were inundated with views and images from citizens of the major incident unfolding in London then what will happen during the next huge event? I expect we will see people Tweeting about the incident, including video on YouTube and putting images on Flickr. They will be posting updates to their Facebook pages. Information will be shared, retweeted and will become viral.
The authorities will have to be prepared for this and be able to access that information. It is possible that we could see Tweets becoming evidence with police using them to help add to the picture being built around any event. There are always many witnesses to events. The only thing that we face now is the possibility that they will be sharing what they have seen with the world before sharing it with the police or emergency services.
What is clear for communication professionals is that they have to apply a much broader definition to media management and journalism. They will have to find ways of including those behind the hyperlocal sites and key bloggers into the briefings and press conferences. They will need to provide interviews on the issues of the day. Above all they must ensure that information continues to be available and provided to whoever wants it.