Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In the reading “Everyone is a Media Outlet,” Clay Shirky describes “mass amateurization”. Shirky discussed the significance of the internet and the web. Anyone can publish content on the internet. Communication costs are cheap and it is easy to transfer information. With the internet, there is no cost of production, reproduction, and distribution of news. Publishing is now simple and effortless. Anyone who owns a computer can produce and distribute media content. For example, I experienced mass amateurization when Michael Jackson died. I learned about his death from the many publishers of the news on Facebook and not from reading any newspaper or watching television. Mass amateurization came about because publishing is now global, social, ubiquitous, and cheap.

There are many outcomes of mass amateurization. Professionals have lost control over the media. Journalism is no longer reserved for professionals and publishing has been “deprofessionalized”. (p. 63) Publishing is no longer unique because anyone can publish over the Internet. Shirky explains that “you no longer have to be a professional publisher to publish.” (p. 66) Mass amateurization of publishing led to its lack of scarcity. Because of the World Wide Web, newspapers no longer have “a monopoly on the written word” and a “new ecosystem” was created. (p. 60)

The content we are now exposed to is limitless. There is more content published because it is easy and cheap to communicate. There are now many more outlets of publishing and public expression is now easier than ever before. Blogs can now keep stories alive that otherwise would have died out. Mass amateurization made stories “breaking news” that before were “not worth covering”. (p. 64) Anything can now be news and news no longer requires professional judgment. Any news can be distributed to the public without professional consent. The public is now exposed to more content that may otherwise not have been published due to some sort of professional bias. In addition, Shirky states that mass amateurization has made public speech and action more valuable, while the written word has lost its value because it is no longer rare.

Mass amateurization breaks professional categories and has led to the necessity to redefine many media terms. First of all, mass amateurization led to a change in the definition of news. According to Shirky, news can now be defined as “a communications ecosystem, occupied by a mix of formal organizations, informal collectives, and individuals.” (p. 66) Although Shirky tries to differentiate between professional publishers and bloggers, bloggers can be considered the new journalists of today. The definitions of publisher and journalist have also changed. Publishing is no longer expensive and therefore, publishers are no longer rare. Anyone can be a journalist and anyone can be a publisher. The scarcity of journalists and publishers no longer exists. Shirky also discusses the “shield law” for journalists and the need to alter journalistic privilege because of the difficulty in defining who should be considered a journalist.

The future of the media professional has definitely been threatened through mass amateurization. Just like scribes kept working alongside the printing press, I believe that newspapers will continue to be distributed along with news distributed over the internet. There is still value in newspapers and they can be considered a more reliable source than many internet sites. However, the internet definitely poses a major threat to the newspaper business.

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.


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