Do You Want to Hear a Story?

“We’re entering the golden age of journalism.”

This was said by Henry Blodget, editor and CEO of Business Insider, at yesterday’s Future of Media event, hosted by I Want Media and in conjunction with Internet Week New York.

That line really resonated with me, and not just because it was the closing comment. You see, for the last few years the PR industry has been bombarded with blog posts and happy hour conversations about how journalism is dead. “Newspapers are dying, the old media guard missed the boat on digital, no one wants to pay for content, we’re all journalists now, etc.”

This is all true. Everyone and their grandmother knows that newspapers have had a difficult time adapting to the rapidly changing times. People have opted not to pay for content because there’s so much free news available at their fingertips. And social and mobile have turned all of us into glorified correspondents. You only need to look at how the recent Boston bombings unfolded online to see that the news cycle is vastly different (and better) today.

But if you think The New York Times or CNN are going out of business, you’re out of your %*#@*^ mind.

Before I go further, it’s worth pointing out that the only “traditional” media presence on the panel was Mark Thompson, President and CEO of The New York Times, so it’s not as if this was a roundtable full of old print folks crying about their declining ad dollars (and for the record, The Times is doing some really cool multimedia stuff and their iPad app is as good as any). The rest of the panelists were all from the new wave of media outlets, including HuffPost Live, Buzzfeed, Salon.com and Business Insider. These companies are all using technology to deliver a level of news that didn’t exist a few years ago and they’re now household names in the media world.

I expected everyone to talk about the demise of journalism and gang up on Mark (which occasionally they did, though it was all in good fun and he more than capably answered their jabs). Much to my surprise, though, they did the opposite. They all had a slightly different view of the industry, naturally, and everyone agreed that the way we consume news has changed forever, as is the type of news we consume. But at the core of the entire discussion was the value of good reporting.

Yes, minute-by-minute Twitter updates gives consumers a news experience they’ve never had before, and it can be compelling, exciting and eye-opening in a way most media outlets can’t compete with (almost everyone agreed that Twitter is the first place news breaks). But the fact remains that consumers still want good content and good content is produced by good journalists working for good media organizations. My friend’s Instagram photo of a TEDx event might be cool, but it doesn’t summarize who was there, what was said or why I should care. Yes, I want to see his picture, but I also want to see a video of the event, glance at its hashtag stream on Twitter and have access to an article written by a credible reporter. The photo filters and hashtags tell part of the story but not the whole thing.

Blodget said a great word yesterday, something I haven’t heard in years and something that perfectly exemplifies what I’m trying to say here: “storytelling”. How great is that word? How many fond memories does it stir up inside you? Do you remember being in Kindergarten and listening in awe as your teacher told you the greatest story ever, and then running home to your parents to tell them? Can you visualize that schoolroom from 25+ years ago with the painted hands on the wall and the frayed carpet?

The communications field has been so focused on adapting to “disruptions” the past few years that many of us have forgotten how important storytelling is. After all, isn’t that what we want, a great story? Whether you’re watching a video on your iPhone, catching up on Twitter in the elevator or sitting down at your computer, we just want to see, hear and experience a great story, just as we did as children.

I didn’t expect to attend an event about the future of media and walk away feeling optimistic about the journalism industry, but I did. So think of this the next time someone tells you journalism is dead. It’s evolving, as it always has, and it’s stronger today than ever.

Agree/disagree? As always I’d love to hear your thoughts: ahealy@waterandwallgroup.com, @WaterWallPR, @AndrewHeals

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