The Rise of Expert Journalism in the Digital News Ecosystem

Expert journalism is playing an increasingly important role in the provision of news and news analysis. Its emergence and growth is taking away some of the functions of legacy news organizations, establishing new competitors, and creating new opportunities for cooperation. 
Expert journalism is a novel form of journalism made possible because of the developments in digital media. Written by persons with high levels of expertise, and designed for those whose interests in specific topics are greater than that of the average newspaper reader, television viewer, or digital news user, it is providing alternatives to news previously available only through print or broadcasting.
This type of journalism is practiced by scientists, economists, bankers, medical doctors, and civil society organizations focused on issues, regions, and conflicts. These producers work to provide accurate and, often, balanced content. It is also practiced by specialized professional journalists who provide news and information focused on issues such as climate science, energy, biotechnology, military affairs, and other topics. Expert journalism differs significantly from general user generated content because it operates in a professionalized environment and provides a digital location to which the public and many journalists come for information.

The growing reliance on expert journalism providers by news media and other journalists is not a surprise; many of those practicing this form of journalism were previously sources that journalists in general news media relied upon. Many established their own online enterprises so their information and ideas would less mediated by news providers and errors due to misunderstandings or abbreviation of information conveyed would be reduced.

Although some professional journalists are skeptical about this out-sourcing of news and information, research is revealing that expert journalism tends to have higher quality than general news provision.  When traditional measures of journalistic quality are employed, expert journalism tends to convey greater understanding of the topic by the writer, employ more fact checking, provide more background and context to stories, and be more likely to hold authorities, companies, and elites to account for the actions or inactions.

A variety of revenue models are emerging to support expert journalism, but the most significant seem to be paid speaking engagements, foundation support, subscriptions/memberships, and licenses for digital use by other organizations.

The rise of expert journalism is significant for the emergent media ecosystem in which commercial news organizations are increasing their focus on distribution and relying more on news, information, and commentary available from other sources. They are thus increasingly linking to articles produced by expert journalism and entering syndication agreements with them. Reliance on these sources of news and analysis can be expected to grow in the coming years.

1 comment:

Christopher Krug said...

Thanks for the post.

I worked for a nonprofit journalism outfit — perhaps a "craft production" group — for a bit a few years back and the editor attempted to rally some experts to write posts to supplement the site's more traditional content. The post performed well (if not better) than the "journalism" produced by the professionals. That initiative was dropped.

Your last paragraph mentions the complexity of this transition/evolution, but I wonder if you have more thoughts on how the craft production outfits can facilitate the experts becoming more involved with publishing their perspectives.

Thanks again.