There’s been a lot of chat in the blogosphere lately about The Internet Manifesto, the rather grandly-titled attempt by 15 German bloggers and journalists to explain “how journalism works today”. For what it’s worth, here’s what I have to say on the matter.
A lot (if not all) of the stuff in the manifesto has been said before, but by Jove they drag it out unnecessarily. For a group of journalists keen to encourage the advancement and development of their discipline, they really ought to learn to write more concisely.
What’s more, among all the declarations about what the internet is and what it means for journalism and how the media needs to adapt, they seems to have forgotten The Golden Rule of journalism – know your audience. Alison Gow is absolutely right when she says “too many of the people who need convincing aren’t looking there [online] that often”. Publishing The Internet Manifesto on the internet is a bit like marching into Hummus Bros and trying earnestly to persuade the people in there to try eating Hummus. They already are. They get it. They like Hummus.
Which isn’t to say I don’t agree with the sentiment of the manifesto, because I do. Journalism is, and always will be, the art of storytelling. If we find new ways to tell stories that enhance them then that should be celebrated.
What I don’t agree with is being preached to. A lot of the points are made in a terrifically patronising and haughty manner, like declaration number three: “If media companies want to continue to exist, they must understand the lifeworld of today’s users and embrace their forms of communication. This includes basic forms of social communication: listening and responding, also known as dialog [sic]”. All right, jeez! Chill out a bit! There’s a reason some people (who may or may not include Benji Lanyado) think the internet is full of sanctimonious nerds.
For all my moaning, The Internet Manifesto isn’t really so bad. It means well. It is however, an awfully self-indulgent and idealistic piece of writing. It does not explain “how journalism works today”, but rather it suggests how journalism ought to work – which, I think you’ll agree, is a lot easier to do.