In the digital era, it should aspire to achieve and reflect diversity, as well as promote shared values: Alan Rusbridger

With the growing spread of the digital medium, journalism will have to become more participative by seeking and allowing responses from readers, Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian, United Kingdom, said on Saturday.

Delivering a lecture organised by The Hindu and the Asian College of Journalism on ‘The future of journalism in the digital age,' Mr. Rusbridger referred to the debate that his paper had on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, adding that others (non-journalists) could be involved in the pre-publication processes as well.

Pointing out that journalists were not the only voices of authority, expertise and interest, Mr. Rusbridger said that in the digital age, journalism should encourage others to initiate debate or make suggestions. “Newspapers can utilise the digital records of non-journalists who happened to witness events,” he said.

Explaining the growing importance and relevance of blogs and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, he said an explosion of information was happening, and now, newspapers were not the only sources of information.

“As they are part of the web, they can link to and collaborate with other materials on the web. They can aggregate and curate the work of others,” he said.

Listing out new rules for the field of journalism, Mr. Rusbridger said that in the digital era, journalism should aspire to achieve and reflect diversity as well as promote shared values.

“It should help form communities of joint interest around subjects, issues or individuals. It should recognise that publishing could be the beginning, rather than the end, of the journalistic process,” he said.

Using his paper and The Hindu as examples, Mr. Rusbridger said journalism would have to be open to challenge, including correction and clarification.

Referring to the decline of the market of quality newspapers in Britain in the last five years, he said that the position of Indian newspapers was comfortable now, but any country whose population was increasingly using mobile technology and broadband services would have to face the situation that Europe or the United States had recently experienced.

Replying to questions on paid news, he emphasised that newspapers would have to retain the trust of readers. “If they behave less than honourably, they will be knocked down. They will stand exposed with the spread of social networking sites,” he said.

To a query on whether unwanted information would be dumped on newspapers' websites if they began to seek more responses from readers, Mr. Rusbridger said: “We should be interested in good quality of information.”

Referring to the critical importance of the subject of the lecture, N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, said there were two media worlds — one of developing countries including India, China and South Africa, and the other of developed countries or mature media markets. Divergences were significant, but there were points of convergence.

“We can be cautiously optimistic, but we should not be complacent of what lies ahead,” he said.

Tamil Nadu School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu presented a shawl to Mr. Rusbridger. K. Balaji, Managing Director, The Hindu, proposed a vote of thanks.

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