Much like the Northeast grid that supports and reinforces our energy dependence and interconnectedness, most of us are likewise dependent on the newsphere—the 24/7 global news and information delivery network. From Twitter and Facebook mini-feeds to the Associated Press and CNN, the media landscape is constantly evolving. Previously, news moved from producers to consumers in a primarily unidirectional way—newspaper publishers, editors and reporters decided what was news and what was newsworthy, and they created a product—the daily newspaper—to deliver news to the citizen consumer. The unidirectional legacy news model has been replaced by a much more fluid, flexible schema, which greatly broadens the capabilities of ordinary citizens. Much like the First Energy engineers faced with the power to choose whether or not to shed load and cut off their region from the grid, individuals are now creators, consumers, and circulators of news.
News Creation and Distribution Is an Ongoing Process
The newsphere places novel yet real and pressing demands on the news consumer now challenged to embrace a new version of news literacy to meet the demands of news stories that are decentralized, unfiltered, many-to-many, and egalitarian. This powerful shift is dramatically changing the newsphere and all the news within it. What is now needed is a new and truly ecological definition of news:
When viewed as an ecology, news is not a product to be consumed but a conscious act to engage with and produce shared information that has value in a community: This is how cultures and societies create their histories.
When viewed in this context and in this new perspective, news is no longer viewed as a hierarchically derived economic transaction but as a progressive and egalitarian opportunity, responsibility and challenge for citizens to create and build community through genuine dialogue. A simultaneous focus on both consumption and production—a genuine ecological approach to news—allows us to open up public discourse to the collective level in new ways.
When viewed as a system and an ecology, consumption of news becomes a conscious choice involving knowledge generation, information creation, and public distribution. It requires the audience to question and it shifts the location of news judgment from the externally oriented editor to the internally focused individual.
An ecological mode of news puts quality not quantity in the foreground. Consumption of news, as defined here, is a conscious choice necessitating informed thought. It sheds a different light on the traditional concept of news judgment. It allows the audience to question, and it requires its participation. By questioning traditional news judgment, audiences can set an alternative agenda and close the loop in the consumption-production components of this ecological approach.