By Jay Fidell
ThinkTech and others (Hawaii Venture Capital Association, Pacific New Media, Anthology Marketing Group, TechHui, Society of Professional Journalists, Public Relations Society of America, OLELO Community Television and Enterprise Honolulu) are putting a program together on how the transformation of news is transforming our society - in a challenge, the ultimate sea change.
You’ve seen plenty in the media about the decline of the newspapers and the consolidation of TV news and all manner of things demonstrating how weak readership and advertising are and how the conventional media are failing and trying desperately to find new business models. It’s not a happy story.
What is the role of news in a free society? How important is it to the maintenance of our Republic? Can we afford to give news and knowledge of public affairs up in favor of sports and entertainment? Probably not, and it’s risky to try. A free society must be informed to be sustainable, and Hawaii is no exception.
So we’re setting this ambitious program up as a half-day breakfast through lunch program on Thursday, March 18th at the Plaza Club, on the 20th floor right after its current remodeling and the installation of some $40,000 of new high-tech AV equipment there. We want to attract a large and curious crowd, and do it right.
The content is exciting because, like it or not, we’ve been struggling with this problem for some time. It’s eating us and no clear answer has yet appeared. Even today, there was an article online reporting that Newsday in New York, after deciding to charge $5 a week for its new online news service, was only able to garner 35 subscribers over a six month period. That’s an unmitigated disaster.
We need to know what’s happening in and around the news business, from the reporting to the advertising, and why. We need to know where people are getting news from these days, and why they’re leaving conventional media. These changes undoubtedly reflect more profound undercurrents we don't fully appreciate.
More important, we need to know what technology is being developed on the Internet as to attract the two sides of the equation - the news and the public - and why. The web is 15 years old and it now has tools and technology that are capable of gathering, organizing and delivering news as never before.
What psychology, what motivations, what factors make people want news in their daily lives? News brings us together, it empowers us to analyze and relate to the world around us and know where we belong in that world. It’s the daily input that stimulates us and enables us to better perform in our lives and show worth to our friends. To lose this gift would be a great loss to all of us.
Hawaii has lots of journalists and media professionals, and we can learn a lot from our local luminaries. But to extend our knowledge into a global context, which we need to do, we need to rub shoulders with thought leaders from other places. That’s why we’ve decided to bring some speakers in for this program.
We want to know how the transformation of news is transforming our society, so we’re starting with a wakeup keynote by a noted constitutional scholar, Avi Soifer, Dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law, who can raise our awareness about the role of news in a free society and in our way of life.
Then we’ll have three animated panels. The first is called the Transformation of the News, which will help us understand the decline and consolidation of conventional media, the economic and professional challenges, changes and prognostications of what is likely to happen in the next several months. This is a discussion by people who have been watching the decline of the media.
The second is called the Transformation of the Delivery System, which will help us understand the emergence of news websites and streams on the Internet and mobile platforms, and the current explosion of YouTube, iPhone and social networking. This is a discussion by people who have been watching the growth of new and amazing dissemination technologies.
It goes further. The third panel will deal with Challenges, Limitations and Business Models to help us understand the need for editors and gatekeepers and the risks without them, rating systems and credibility, how to avoid a free-for-all, and the troubles of disinformation, misinformation and manipulation of the news. This is a discussion by people who have seen the difficulties we will have to face before we can find the truth.
After lunch, the program will go on to conclude with a keynote dealing with the role some of these new tech structures, namely the Peer News organization Pierre Omidyar is creating in Hawaii, will play in the larger transformation.
I’m not completely ready to give you our lineup. It will be finalized shortly and will be quite impressive. It will include publishers, editors, journalists and columnists from the local news, magazines and TV news organizations, local PR people, local Internet and mobile platform programmers, and a media lawyer to boot.
As if that wasn’t enough, we’re bringing in at least one notable thought leader to participate in each of our three panels. Without getting specific, we have a famous American blogger from China, a tech columnist from Newsweek and another from TechCrunch. They’re all world class and worth coming miles to see, and we expect that putting them together with our local luminaries will really ignite some new ideas!
Got you curious? The flyer will be circulated next week, and will identify all the visiting thought leaders and local luminaries by name. If you want a special copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. NewsMorphosis is at the intersection of what we used to know and what we need to know, individually and as a community, all made possible through the miracle of modern technology. Be there.