Return of (true) Mass Media: Let there be millions of sparkling conversations!

Being the fourth monkey?

Being the fourth monkey?

“Historically, organised and commercialised mass media have existed only in the past five centuries, since the first newspapers — as we know them — emerged in Europe. Before the printing press was invented, all news was local and there were few gatekeepers controlling its flow. Having evolved highly centralised systems of media for half a millennium, we are now returning to a second era of mass media — in the true sense of that term. Blogs, wikis and citizen journalism are all signs of things to come.”

This is how Sir Arthur C Clarke and I summed up the transformative change that is currently taking place in the world of mass media, in an essay we co-wrote for the Indian news magazine Outlook in October 2005.

We’d given it the title ‘From Citizen Kane to Citizen Journalist’ – a formulation that I’m still proud of – but the editors changed it to ‘Arise, Citizen Journalist!’. Of course, our original title made evocative sense only for those who knew the popular culture reference to the movie Citizen Kane.

I recently had a chance to revisit these issues and explore them further in a half-hour, in-depth TV interview with media researcher/activist and fellow citizen journalist Sanjana Hattotuwa. This was part of The Interview series produced by Young Asia Television, and broadcast on two Sri Lankan TV channels, TNL and ETV during the second week of February 2009.

Sanjana covered a wide range in his questions. Starting with a brief reflection on my 21-year association with Sir Arthur Clarke, we moved on to the bewildering world of new media and its co-existence with the mainstream media. We discussed the fragmentation of audience and the concern that some current and would-be bloggers harbour: is anyone listening or reading?

And more importantly, how do we get conversations started and going. I look back on my own experience as an active blogger for almost two years, and assert that if we have something new and worthwhile to say, and know how to express it well, we can slowly build up an audience. There’s no blueprint or road map – everything is in ‘beta’ mode, and the name of the game is try-it-and-see!

Here’s that full interview on YouTube, broken into four parts:

Sanjana Hattotuwa talks to Nalaka Gunawardene – Part 1 of 4:

Sanjana Hattotuwa talks to Nalaka Gunawardene – Part 2 of 4:

Sanjana Hattotuwa talks to Nalaka Gunawardene – Part 3 of 4:

Sanjana Hattotuwa talks to Nalaka Gunawardene – Part 4 of 4: