When journalism was local, the math of reporting was pretty simple: you found a trend, an event or an issue that was important and you wrote about it. After all, you were the voice to your readers. Being in sync with a hundred or a thousand print journalists around the world was important, otherwise your readers woul'd be left out of a story everyone else knew about. And being in sync let a reporter know she was working on the right stories.
It wasn't lazy. It was smart. Your job was to report to the people in your town first, and to report what would be important tomorrow, which was the same thing everyone in every other town was doing.
But it led to events like this one:
Of course, now there is pretty much no such thing as local when it comes to news. Anyone in the world can read about anything in the world. As a result, this habit of being in sync completely undermines what we need from professional journalists.
How many times have I read the story about Louis CK in the last week? Did I need a newspaper to write precisely the same story days after I read it for the first time? How much do we care about the race for 'first' when first is now measured in seconds or perhaps minutes?
We don't need paid professionals to do retweeting for us. They're slicing up the attention pie thinner and thinner, giving us retreaded rehashes of warmed over news, all hoping for a bit of attention because the issue is trending. We can leave that to the unpaid, I think.
The hard part of professional journalism going forward is writing about what hasn't been written about, directing attention where it hasn't been, and saying something new.