Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Amateur Vs. Professional

When newspapers were just becoming popular the owners would obsess over the advancing of competing newspapers, such as printing in color. However, they did not obsess over the invention of the internet. They simply did not view it as any sort of threat. Being that the internet is not a business, and because it is not professionally produced, it didn't even cross the minds of the owners of the professionally produced newspapers. The only threats to them were those that came from other media outlets. This gave way for the development of mass amateurization through the world wide web.
"A profession exists to solve a hard problem, one that requires some sort of specialization, and most professions exist because there is a scarce resource that requires ongoing management." [1] For example there are few channels with many viewers, and so there must be a professional who will choose what to put on those few channels that tons a viewers will ultimately watch. [1] Being that there are such few professionals per career, they are the ones who dictate what product they put out. These people are the ones that set the trends and basically tell people what is important and what's not, based on their opinions and other professionals in the same field; not the public's. If a story was too expensive to print, they would not run it. Which raises the questions, "what happens when the cost of reproduction and distribution goes away? What happens when there's nothing unique about publishing anymore, because users can find it for themselves?" [1]
The answers to the these questions came about as a result of mass amateurization, which is defined by "the process whereby the dichotomy between experts and amateurs is dissolving and creating a new category of professional amateurs." [2] This is shown by the fact that almost anyone can become a publisher of news today with the new technologies we have. The professional is no longer needed for the world to receive news, they could access by means of the internet. People could also decide what news was important and what was not on their own. They didn't have to only listen to what the journalists published in the newspaper because there was no such thing as something being too expensive to publish. The web is essentially free. You no longer need an education or even much of a talent in journalism you simply need access to the web and the ability to use it to publish something today.
Just the other day I was checking my Twitter and saw a tweet about how Team 6- the Navy Seal team who killed Osama Binladin- were in a helicopter and shot down by the Taliban killing the team and all others onboard. This tweet was not by a professional journalist, yet I was reading the same news story that was published by most newspapers that day.
In his book, "Everyone is a Media", Shirky raises the question of who is now considered a journalist? The Oxford English Dictionary defines a journalist as "a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television." [3] This definition was suitable in the world of pre- mass amateurization. Only those who worked for a media outlet were the ones who reported or wrote about the news. Today there are the non professionals who are spreading news sometimes even before the professionals have a chance to, either by blogging, tweeting or posting it on Facebook, because it is just so easy to. Shirky also argues that while competing for news breaks can be harmless to the professional media outlets other effects of mass amateurization are actually harmful to them. With the new easy technology of a digital camera, almost anyone can take a decent photo and upload it to the web to be sold. If someone is looking for a nice picture to buy and there are two pictures on the web of the same thing and same quality, if one is by a professional and expensive and the other is by an amateur and cheap people will buy the cheap one. This therefore is taking sales away from the professionals. All of this just shows how the gap between the professionals and amateurs has shrunk over the years and almost no longer exists. [1]
This all poses a major problem for newspapers today and they want the answer to the question everyone is wondering about; will newspapers ever become obsolete? Will there no longer be a need for media professionals in the future? I think over time their importance has, and will decline, but in some way, shape, or form, they will always remain. Today we have an enormous amount of new media outlets from which we can receive our news, yet most people still look back at the professional news sources to verify or detect more of a story. The new media outlets may be the first places from which we hear breaking news, but it won't necessarily be the last.

[1] Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody: the Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: Penguin, 2009. Print.
[2] "Mass Amateurization - P2P Foundation." The Foundation for P2P Alternatives - P2P Foundation. Web. 11 Aug. 2011. .
[3] Web. .
[4] picture-

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