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by Molly Flatt on 12 July 2011

A certain little scandal in the UK right now involving The News of the World has left the nation’s journalism reeling, and posed some serious questions for the industry. How was this level of unethical behaviour allowed to happen? How do we prevent it from happening again? What are the standards of journalism now that anyone can blog news and opinions?

With freedom of speech vs regulation at the heart of the debate, some leading writers have touted word of mouth as the force that will evolve and transform the industry.

The Economist has written both a provocative leader and a full special report on the topic of how conversational culture is transforming news, from WikiLeaks to comments on online newspaper blogs.

Their basic premise? That

“…as news becomes more social, participatory, diverse and partisan, it is in many ways returning to the more chaotic, freewheeling and politically charged environment of the era before the emergence of mass media in the 19th century. And although the internet has proved hugely disruptive to journalists, for consumers—who now have a wider choice than ever of news sources and ways of accessing them—it has proved an almost unqualified blessing.”

According to new media author and columnist Jeff Jarvis, crowdsourced fact-checking will now be our only real way to achieve real accountability and reassure readers; “rather than enabling government and media to become even more entwined, we must explode their bonds and open up the business of both for all to see”.

The implication is that for the first time since mass media gained hegemony, we once again live in a public sphere which has regained its power to challenge closed systems and call bullshit. This affects individuals, governments, brands and previously untouchable media conglomerates.

All of them need to start learning how to harness it for good, rather than fearing, suppressing or ridiculing it.

If you’d like some ideas, get in touch 😉

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