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Amplify, celebrate, harness

I notice that the Guardian’s editorial this week celebrating 190 years of the paper’s existence manages to stay calm about what to call these people who participate in new ways in the work of informing others. In the last paragraph, the writer acknowledges that in this time of industry revolution, the names change, necessarily, as roles change, calling “users” those who an earlier generation of journalists would have called “readers” and noting that whatever their name they are not so interested in the largely passive role that papers customarily assigned their readers. Still calm, the editorial writer asserts a string of core journalistic values that are unchanged by the upheaval in news distribution, and then the writer quickly and quietly names the more deeply revolutionary fact: that journalism is finding within its grasp “the ability to amplify, celebrate and harness other voices” that would previously have found no audience and no civic use.

The passage itself:

In March the Guardian was read by the largest audience in its history – more than 49 million unique users, as Scott didn’t call his readers. He thought of his paper as a pulpit. Readers today are less taken with sermons. Technology has revolutionised the way news is distributed – but also the ability to amplify, celebrate and harness other voices. The next 10 years – between now and our bicentenary – will see even more rapid and radical changes in the media. It is good to pause and reflect that the things that matter most – truthfulness, free thought, honest reporting, a plurality of opinion, a belief in fairness, justice and, most crucially, independence – do not change.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger has been refining his claims for the new journalism in a series of speeches over the last few years, including one in which he describes a new “joint authority” that no doubt owes its power to the traditional skills of professional journalists, the tools that create opportunities for worthy acts of independent reporting as well as collaboration by tens of thousands of non-professionals, and the additional value that can be created when the professionals help amplify and perhaps even guide that reporting alongside their own.

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