Who Needs Journalism?

Last week, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced that she would not be running for another term in Congress.

This is fine (really), but instead of holding a press conference, she released a video explaining her rationalization for the move.

The video (I think far too long) was, however, very slick and well produced. Very professional.

She then posted it on the Internet.

In doing so, Bachmann was able to bypass the traditional press; no newspapers, no talk shows, no TV news, no journalists. And no unpleasant questions.

And... she got her message across, and lots of coverage.

But the message was very carefully controlled.

There used to be a time when politicians (and others) had no choice but to go to 'the press.' But increasingly, they are starting to realize that they don't need the press. In fact, it is the press that needs them. But now they are in control.

At the other end of the political spectrum, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner used his own video, posted on the web, to announce his candidacy for the New York City mayoral race.

You will note that CNN has no choice but to run Weiner's video -- content totally controlled by Weiner. And in this way, Weiner is able to avoid the obviously difficult questions about his adolescent Twitter photo habits.

Even though they are at both ends of the political spectrum, Weiner and Bachmann are amongst the first to 'get it,' in terms of what the 'new media' means.

Who needs reporters?

Who needs journalists?

Clearly, fewer and fewer people.

And we are just at the beginning.

As broadcast quality cameras become as complex to operate as point and push the button, and editing becomes simple for any nine-year-old (and software is free)... and the web allows you instant access to 2.4 billion people worldwide for free... what do you need the 'journalists' for?

Clearly, you don't.

Like all technology-driven realities, this is going to happen.

It is going to happen because, like water, technology seeks its own level.

This is not all bad news.

One of our clients is the UN. For years, the UNHCR has been in some of the most dangerous, difficult and newsworthy places in the world -- from Mali to Somalia to Darfur and beyond. For years, the UN has had to beg, borrow and cajole people like CNN or the BBC to 'please' come to Darfur. 'Please.' But for CNN or the BBC it is a very expensive proposition. And even if they do decide to go, they will only go for a few days, generally long after the crisis has begun, and even then, they are dependent on the UN to tell them what the story is and to direct their journalists and cameramen.

Just as the new technology allows Weiner and Bachmann to bypass CNN, so too does that technology now allow the UN (and others) to bypass CNN or The BBC.

And why not?

They are already there, they know the story, the speak the language and they have the contacts.

The shooting and the editing are the least of the problems.

And they can post the video online for the world to see, and for CNN and the BBC to use... or not.

This is where the technology is inevitably taking us, and like all technology driven changes, it can be used for good, or bad... or both.