Archive for the ‘podcasts’ Category

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Bad habits to break for a democratic future

April 20, 2007

by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro, journalist/podcaster at bicyclemark.org

“Time magazine has voted you “The Person of the Year” for “seizing the
reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital
democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own
game”. So, did you?”

They can shower all the awards and sing all kinds of praises about the work that I -a podcast journalist- have been doing for several years, it still won’t change the fact that I can barely pay my rent next month.

The mere fact that in order for people to potentially notice our work, we need TIME magazine to shine a vague spotlight on “us”, is pretty oxymoronic.

It seems to me that despite all the potential that the internet and personal publishing in all its forms brings to the world, we are still in the primordial ooze stage of what could become a long media evolution.

You see, many of us grew up with media habits. Many of them were passed down from people who raised us, or where we grew up: the evening tv news at dinner time, the local or national paper over breakfast, the brief radio news report in the car. Sure, loads of us were also internet children, but back in the 90’s, our options still revolved around a bunch of basic news corporations who were early adopters of putting news online. So whatever your media habits growing up, one thing was very likely – there were a select few places where you looked. And even if you didn’t love those sources, you were used to them, you took what you wanted and ignored it when you saw fit.

Fast forward ten years to around 2004. Blogs finally break into the mainstream after years on the fringe. Some people start to talk revolution. By 2007, they’re sounding the alarms and repeating that same lame speech about how the media landscape has changed because of blogs.

Trouble is, they’re talking about 10 blogs. 20 if you want to be generous. If you live in Germany maybe it’s 5 blogs. Regardless of the country, a handful of blogs, out of the ocean of possibilities, were recognized and referred to by the mainstream. The old players, those media channels we grew up with, the ones that managed to survive, they used their still wide reaching power to anoint a select few. You might know them as the A-List.

The A-list, in 2004, was already pulling in about 99% of the blog reading audience (I remember a PEW Survey back then). In other words, out of millions of choices, millions of voices, 10 chosen few get 99% of the attention. Not to mention they also get most of the ad revenue and syndication deals that make it possible to blog for a living.

Old habits die hard, just because you’ve got a world of choice and a wealth of information out there, doesn’t mean the audience will break with the media habits they were raised with; the reliance upon a select few sources that are labeled as the best according to certain unclear measurement standards.

So while the A-List might be writing about fluff topics like the latest mobile phone, a moviestar’s love children, or pasting the latest New York Times op-ed piece and writing one sentence about it. Somewhere, not being read by most people, there is a citizen journalist writing from the streets of São Paulo or Dili, describing to us (even though we’re not reading) how and why people are struggling to survive in extreme poverty.

Because even though it might be the year of “we the media”, we are still stuck under the boot of a media elite. And while the forest of choices is vast, the public still chooses the same 10 trees because some old lumberjack told them these were the best ones out there.

My hope and the reason I will keep doing what I do? The next generations will break free of these habits. Today’s youngest internet users will do something this current audience doesn’t, actively seek out sources and be critical of what is put in front of them.

Bicyclemark is a Portuguese-American podcast journalist based in Amsterdam. A former researcher at the Village Voice and blogger since 2001, Mark has produced a bi-weekly podcast on under-reported international news for over 3 years. He also writes news for the videoblog: The Eclectic Newsbrief.

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