Journalists Should Emulate Obama

Barack Obama ran one of the best campaigns I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Granted, I’m only 41, but his campaign took advantage of the Internet in a way that very few are doing so far in any field.  And journalists should learn from him.

Obama’s campaign used nearly every tool the Internet has to offer and did it in a way that made him hip and tech savvy – two things that are very attractive to voters age 18-45.  How can journalists learn from this?

First, use the tools.  There are tons of FREE tools out there that can make journalism more relevant to people.  Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. are powerful tools that connect communities and allow them to share content.

Second, microfinance is the wave of the future.  Obama did not depend on old school finance to fund his campaign. He used the net to create thousands, maybe millions of smaller donors.  That’s how you pay for journalism.  Microcontributions or even micro ad payments.  But that means reaching lots of viewers.  It can be done.

Third, embrace the technology.  The President Elect loves his blackberry.  I love the fact that he is tech savvy.  We need that and journalists do too.  Journalists have been slow to learning to love the web.  Journalism on the net will be different.  The big corporate journalism is ending.  A new smaller, niche-expert based journalism is beginning.  Journalists can’t be one song players.  They must be able to create video, audio, text, photos, graphics and more – plus put it on the web in a creative package.  And still make printed products too!

Fourth, get over it.  Stop the whining.  Obama had the deck stacked against him 18 months ago.  A candidate with name recognition (Clinton), inexperience, and his issues weren’t gaining much traction.  But he didn’t quit.  Just because the old model is dead, does not mean journalism is dead.  On the internet, we can do it all.  The entry level is low.  You can learn most journalism skills needed for the net in a few days.  The basics are easy, if you are willing to learn.  Three years ago, I started teaching web design.  In order to become certified in my state, I had to pass a test.  I had to learn HTML.  I did it in a couple of days from a web site.  I’m learning CSS now.  It’s not that hard.  Don’t try to learn it all in a day, but learn something new all the time.

Fifth, self promote and rebrand.  Obama created the Obama brand.  It didn’t exist before, he built it.  The old brands lost trust.  They broke the bond with the people by allowing too many Stephen Glasses and Memogate scandals.  The old ethical standards of journalism were replaced by profit motive.  The corporate culture had taken over.  It’s time for journalists to rebuild journalism from the ground up and the net has made that possible.  We should be rejoicing, not grousing.

The model for success in the 21st Century is about to live in the White House.  We just need to emulate that model.

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1 Comment

  1. (Came here through the “Possibly Related Posts”)
    Interesting comparison. More elaborate than the frequent use of the Obama success story to motivate people.
    The ‘Net isn’t causing all the problems journalists are having. But through social and technological changes, journalism is now in a difficult position and its practitioners should “adapt or die.”
    Thankfully, journalists love to talk about their field, which means that they can have these discussions. Sadly, journalists typically display low levels of self-awareness and they “don’t know what’s biting them.”

    Another element of Obama-inspired wisdom to share with journalists: rally instead of dividing. One of Obama’s perceived strengths as a figure is that he can not only “reach across the aisle” but really go beyond this perceived division. In the US, journalism has set itself in the “Culture Wars,” which does little to help them at this point. Even outside the US, journalists have this tendency to emphasize divisions instead of points of agreement and consensus.
    Which would lead me to yet another “lesson from Obama”: emphasize solutions. Advertising is allegedly more effective when it comes after “bad news.” The notion is that “good news don’t sell.” But that may mostly be true when people think they live in a perfect world. In tough times, people turn to hope, resilience, solutions. Obama’s message was positive in the sense that it was forward-looking and motivating, not that it provided people with pink-coloured glasses. Journalists love painting the world in sharp contrasts and use fear, instead of hope or courage, as a way to maintain people in a type of torpor. As a strategy, fear worked for a while in politics and journalism. Isn’t now the time to pull ourselves together and collaborate at solving the problems we face?


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