Linnebank: 'Old media' must re-evaluate role

"Old media" organisations such as newspapers can survive in a digital media
age so long as they give users
what they want and stay relevant, former Reuters editor-in-chief Geert Linnebank has told a conference.

Linnebank, who is now senior advisor to the chief executive at Reuters, told the Guardian Changing Media Summit this morning that editors must re-evalute their role and stop "using a megaphone to shout" to their readers.

Linnebank said Reuters itself was an "old media" organisation, and old media "did not always have positive connotations".

One of the biggest challenges facing traditional news organisations was users "changing from channel to channel and from website to website", said Linnebank. In an online world the question has become: "How do you transform audiences into communities?"

Reuters has struck a deal to post content from bloggers alongside its online news coverage, a move Linnebank said was typical of the way journalism needs to accept that "the wall has been breached" between a news organisation and its readers.

"Blogs can bring expert analysis which most journalists simply do not have. [Blogging] shows what people are interested in," Linnebank said.

"Now everyone can be a reporter, commentator or a film director — the days of owning and controlling these processes are over."

But there are downsides to user-generated content in a news world, he said.

"To remain relevant, the role of editors has to change from someone who uses a megaphone to someone that brings people to the table."

Editors and news organisations, he said, needed to be the brands that signify trust.

"Trust is an essential ingredient in our success in the digital age. We will always need a place for news organisations whose watchword is trust. Your independence will mark you out."

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