Wednesday, April 21, 2010

House of M: Dance Dance Revolucion

I have been in the media for several years now. Not long enough to claim to know it all. Not short enough to hide behind my noob status either.

I do not claim to know where the industry is heading, but I believe... I believe everything that the Internet has said.

Yes, traditional media like newspapers will die. Not so soon, though. It will take at least 50-100 years. I'll be long dead, buried, creamted, shot into space and forgotten before the last newspaper reader or TV viewer coughs out his or her lung.

And really, it has been about the readers. Media people who fail to realise this are dead or will soon be dead.

It's not about you. It's about them. The journalists whose names are identified with reliability, truth and transparency are few and far between. Journalism is not really a lucrative career choice for many. Only the few strike gold. To them, thank goodness you guys struck gold. It is a miracle.

Journalists as experts, as personalities, as celebrities or as stars - they are a dying breed. How many writers nowadays stay at a publication for 20 years? They stay for decades, and they build up their name - their brand - bit by bit, gathering one loyal follower a week, so that one day when they go talk to people, people actually talk back.

Money is a factor. Love for writing is another. There are a myriad of other factors. Politics, is one. Temperature (it's so fucking hot and humid nowadays in Malaysia). Food. Social dynamics. It's all contributing to stuff.

ANyway, back to readers. In this age of interactivity, readers seem to no longer want to want to simply take what is written for granted.

I observed this formally in Malaysia for the first time during the Reformasi days. A lot of people simply refused to believe what is being reported in the newspapers or on TV, regardless of what it is. A lot still do.

I found that these discontented people, the unreasonable ones - and all progress relies on unreasonable people - have taken to whatever means necessary to create their own news.

They take to the Internet, set up chatrooms and e-circles and forums and Yahoo! groups.

The sites that survived from those days survived because of their functionality. The role of websites is simply to set the stage and get out the way. The clunkier sites died fater than I could fart. The ones that tried to stem or control, or edit public opinion, died sudden deaths.

Information. Eye-witness reports - reliable or not. Pictures, doctored or not. Doctored professionally or amateurishly. They all swarmed for it. I felt the rush for the first time.

It was a slow usurpation of the role of traditional journalists, done at lightning speeds.

Intrigued, after I graduated, I sought a job in journalism. Because I wanted to be there when it happened. When the great revolution happened.

What I saw in those early days, pre-Reformasi, Reformasi and post, all points to a burgeoning desire for freedom and independence. People can think for themselves. They can write, sometimes better than journalists, sometimes much worse. The point is, traditional media must accept and adapt to the fact that they no longer have complete monopoly over information and information flow.

It has never been a one-way flow. People who think so delude themselves. The public has always voted with their acceptance and rejection of media in its many forms. Now, the vote is for full cooperation and full interactivity in the production news.

What is news? News is what people want to read. If people don't want to read it, it is not news. I don't care if it's a small booksale or the PM's decree. Would people read that shit? Would they spend time eyeballing the page or the content?

In all honesty, no one really knows. The best sample is the whole thing.

Now, people get to decide what kind of news they want. They can even create their own news. Their own articles. Post their own thoughts and judgments and biases and viewpoints.

After that case with slandering the Agung, they are all individually responsible for what they post online or anywhere.

I predict that after a period of chaos, enjoying seemingly unlimited freedom, there will rise a voluntary order. Ordnung. Anarchy in its purest form.

And I will be here to see it. I will see the revolution unfold. And I will tell the story from my vantage point.

Dance dance revolucion!