how new stories unfold via new media

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One of the most interesting results of the Digital Information Age, to me, is how stories can play themselves out with all the major players having their own public online voice. The following example is ongoing & controversial, and I’m not asking anyone to take a side (nor will¬† I).

Long story short: The Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism is getting old. Eventually he’ll die, and his next “reincarnation” will have to be searched out and groomed to lead the followers of his (her?) faith. The problem? The Dalai Lama and the Chinese government have different ideas of how to do that.

This problem has been getting talked about for some time now, but has really come to a head in the past month.¬† Both the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Dalai Lama selected the Panchen Lama (the religion’s #2 leader) over a decade ago, causing an imbroglio that continues today. (See also, here). But now the battle is over who will select the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama himself. The CCP has stated that they are already beginning their search; the Dalai Lama responded in a long statement on his Web site two days ago. A spokesman from the Foreign Ministry has already countered.

It’s a complicated issue that I won’t try to elaborate or explain. Just check out the links for yourself if you have time. But one thing is certain: This issue is already causing further unrest in Tibet.

I find this so interesting because here we have a conflict that’s both religious and political – and because it’s a conflict that probably would have taken place away from the public eye before the Digital Information Age. The CCP and the Dalai Lama are having a flame war! And we can read it as it happens … ah, this modern world of ours.

It also raises an interesting question about our role as journalists. The best way for us to cover this story (that is, contribute to people’s understanding of the story) is through aggregation and analysis, rather than simply report on what’s been said. Anyone who wants to know what the Dalai Lama or CCP has said can find and read it on their own. Our job is to make that reading more comprehensive and informed. This article does a rather good job. Notice that it’s also a non-traditional news source (though The Economist does a good job as well).

What should be the next step for “reporting” on a story such as this?