Posts about live

A poor craftsman blames others’ tools

Compare these two columns about Twitter: one by Mike DeArmond, a sports hack in Kansas City, and one by Roger Cohen in The New York Times. They are each frustrated that Twitter doesn’t fit into their set-in-concrete view of what they do and what journalism is – and how others fit in.

The sports guy’s column is, of course, the sillier:

Let’s quit tweet, tweet, tweeting like the birdbrains do. I don’t care what your friend had for lunch. . . .

I really don’t object to the message so much as the medium. . . .

I became a journalist because I love words. The way they can be used to paint an image, to link observation and explanation.

It is why I think it is wonderful to write about how some questions are so rambling that they climb the wall, scoot around a corner, take a stop in the men’s restroom, and only then arrive at their intended point.

You can’t do that with Twitter. You’re limited to 140 characters. And most people waste even those.

Now Cohen:

Twitter’s pitch is “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” That’s what it does — up to a point. It’s many things, including a formidable alerting system for a breaking story; a means of organization; a monitor of global interest levels (Iran trended highest for weeks until Michael Jackson’s death) and of media performance; a bank of essential links; a rich archive; and a community (“Twitter is my best friend.”)

But is it journalism? No. In fact journalism in many ways is the antithesis of the “Here Comes Everybody” — Clay Shirky’s good phrase — deluge of raw material that new social media deliver. For journalism is distillation. It is a choice of material, whether in words or image, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation.

It comes into being only through an organizing intelligence, an organizing sensibility. It depends on form, an unfashionable little word, without which significance is lost to chaos. As Aristotle suggested more than two millennia ago, form requires a beginning and middle and end. It demands unity of theme. Journalism cuts through the atwitter state to thematic coherence.

In each case, The Journalist is confronted with something new and if it doesn’t fit in with their world and worldview, they find reasons to reject it, to diminish it, to make it the province of others, not The Journalist – because it’s The Journalist who is empowered to say what journalism is. DeArmond’s going for laughs, Cohen for profundity, but they’re each only showing that they are not imaginative enough to recognize the power that comes from a new tool – no, not the tool but the connection to the people who are using it. I’d never let my students get away with that. I always try to get them to look at a tool and see how it can be used to improve journalism, not just violate its age-old dictates.

In these screeds, we also get a glimpse of these Journalists’ definitions of journalism. I say that news was made into a product by the necessities and limitations of its means of production and distribution in print and broadcast. News is properly a process, I believe. Cohen says, no, it must have a beginning, middle, and end, a narrative he sets, an order he gives, a chaos he rejects. He says elsewhere in his column that presence is necessary to do journalism; he thus says that it takes a reporter to report, that news without the journalist him or herself bearing witness to it is not real news. He puts The Journalist at the center of news. I say the journalist is the servant of news. I tell my students to add journalistic value to what is already being spread – reporting, fact-checking, perspective, answers – but recognize that the news is there with or without them. It is gathered and spread by the people who see it and need it with new tools, like Twitter. Like it or not.

: LATER: But at the same time, here‘s The Times’ David Pogue using Twitter to talk with the public to do his journalism.

Google Wave and news

Never underestimate Google. That should have been my 41st WWGD? rule. Just as I was thinking they were behind the curve on the live web – and argued they should buy Twitter - Google attacked it from the left flank with Wave.

In Wave, I see more than a new generation of email cum wikis cum Twitter cum groupware. Because it can feed blog and web pages and Twitter, I see a new way to create content, collaborative and live. I see a new way to make news.

Imagine a team of reporters – together with witnesses on the scene – able to contribute photos and news to the same Wave (formerly known as a story or a page). One can write up what is known; a witness can add facts from the scene and photos; an editor or reader can ask questions. And it is all contained under a single address – a permalink for the story – that is constantly updated from a collaborative team.

Here, I speculated about the topic becoming the new atomic unit of news, supplanting the article with wikis that contained a snapshot of what we know now, blogs that treat news as the process it is, links (do what you do best, link to the rest), discussion, and media of all types, some even live (Twitter, Qik.com). Marissa Mayer also gave journalists advice on the new form of news, telling them they needed to maintain updates under a permalink for the story so it could be searched and found.

Wave takes this to the next level. It combines the notions of a process as people add and subtract and update; it has the benefit of a wiki – a snapshot of current knowledge; it can be live; it can feed a blog page with the latest; it can feed Twitter with updates; it is itself the collaborative tool that lets participants question each other.

Wave isn’t just the email we’d invent if email were invented today, as was Google’s goal. Wave is what news can be if we invent it today, as we must.

Wave is the new news.

: LATER: I just got email from Jay Parkinson, who is remaking health care at Hello Health. He, too, was impressed with the opportunities in Wave.

Replace news story with “disease you suffer from” and reporter with primary care doc and editor with specialist and photos with lab results, etc, and you can see its potential.

What about your line of work?

Guardian column: Witnesses take over the news

Here’s my Guardian column this week: reaction to witnesses’ growing role in the news in Mumbai.

The last mass-news story was 9/11, packaged from a distance. The 7/7 attacks on London and the 2004 tsunami then brought the perspective of witnesses via their cameras. The Sichuan earthquake and the Mumbai attacks brought the urgency of Twitter. The next news story will be seen live and at eye level. . . . Such will be our new view of news: urgent, live, direct, emotional, personal.

Out of the cacaphony of people sharing what they know – on the ground, in the area, then around the world – comes a greater need to make sense of it all. Thus, I conclude, organizing news will be the most important role of news organizations.

: After sending the column in, I got email from GroundReport’s Rachel Sterne telling us that:

* GroundReport.com had a full-length Mumbai attacks story on our homepage before any mainstream western outlet.
* We have published over 70 full-length articles, videos and op-eds from people on the ground there since the start of the crisis.
* GroundReport consistently published updates on terrorist whereabouts and casualty counts hours before mainstream media.
* During the attacks I used Twitter and #mumbai to recruit people on the ground in Mumbai to report, significantly adding to our coverage….

When witnesses take over the news

I’m writing a Media Guardian column on the news after Mumbai: When witnesses take over the news, the impact on our experience of news, the impact on the news event itself, on the role of journalists, on what new we need in news (organization), on what comes next (live video, of course, and assigning witnesses). As always, I’m grateful for your observations, opinions, and links.

: Great collection of links here (via sujeet).

: Wonderful observation about the absurdity of joining pundits on American TV to talk about news from Amit Varma, who found safety in a hotel hard on one of the attacks.

I was on Larry King Live on CNN about three hours ago. They called me and asked me to be on the show as an eyewitness, at which I protested that I hadn’t actually seen anything, I was merely in the vicinity. But they’d read what I wrote in this post earlier, and they wanted me to talk about that. So I agreed, and came on briefly. King asked me if I’d actually seen any terrorists—I felt guilty that I couldn’t offer him any dope there.

Deepak Chopra was also on the show, speculating that the attacks had taken place because terrorists were worried about Barack Obama’s friendly overtures to Muslims. (I know: WTF?) That sounded pretty ridiculous to me, but such theories are a consequence of our tendency as a species to want to give gyan [knowledge]. A media pundit, especially, feels compelled to have a narrative for everything. Everything must be explicable, and television expects instant analysis.

This is foolish, for sometimes events are complicated, and we simply need to wait for more information to emerge before we can understand it. But many of us—not just the pundits—don’t have the humility to accept that. We want to feel in control, at least on an intellectual level, so reasons and theories emerge. But the world is really far too complicated for us. Yet somehow we muddle along.

The right kind of gyan, in the immediate aftermath of this, is historical perspective, which Christiane Amanpour provided on King’s show. Anything else is premature.

: Amy Gahran tries to track down the rumor – and that’s what it is; an unconfirmed and unsourced reprort – that Mumbai police asked tweeters to stop.

: Mindy McAdams on 10 changes in the news.

A newspaper’s life-and-death struggle, played out in a new medium

At the Star-Ledger’s new LedgerLive daily news show from the newsroom (unofficial motto: It’s not TV, damnit), we are watching a big, old paper fight for its survival as it announced buyouts and a possible sale. And the grand irony is that we’re watching this even as the paper reinvents itself in a new medium: online video. The new show and the momentous news about the newspaper came in the same week.

I was in the newsroom on Friday to watch LedgerLive being broadcast and I heard the staff talking about the paper’s and their future, of course. Some of these folks are going to be, well, independent in the fall if they elect to take the buyout and it comes off as announced.

But what struck me listening to them is that they are not prepared for that independent life. I was looking at this from the perspective of being both a former newspaperman who did find a new life in the academe and elsewhere and from the perspective of now being a journalism educator. It is vital that we prepare journalists for this new and independent life or we will lose their journalism. Preparation, to me, means both training – it’s a great thing that Ledger print people are making video in the Rosenblum Method – and setting up an infrastructure to help them create sustainable journalistic enterprises if at all possible. The first factor is why I’m trying to establish a continuing education program for professionals at CUNY. The second is why I’m holding a summit for new business models for news there. That’s my perspective.

I thought the journalists there would benefit from hearing from someone who found life after print and so I suggested to the Ledger’s digiczar, John Hassell, that they get hyperlocal postergirl Debbie Galant to make a video for an upcoming episode of LedgerLive. It didn’t turn out exactly as I’d predicted but it did turn out the start of an entertaining discussion that captures the life-and-death questions journalists across the country are facing now.

Debbie’s message aired on Tuesday from her (very nice) garden in metaphorical PJs:

Baristanet weighs in on The Star-Ledger

On today‘s LedgerLive, reporter Carol Ann Campbell responded in her PJs:

A clip from Ledger Live 08-06-08

Unfortunately, this reprises an us-v-them, pro-v-am rivalry. Fine. Let’s get that out of our system.

And then I’ll challenge Deb to come back and now share her secrets with her still-ink-stained peers: How do you find life after print, Deb? What would you advise a print journalist in the post-print era to do? And I’ll challenge Carol to imagine a new world where she might operate independently. It’s hard but it may be very necessary.

Live

Here’s the first example I’ve seen of a witness broadcasting live from a news event with a mobile phone on Flixwagon. It’s very rough — extremely rough thanks to a finger on the lens! — but it’s just a glimpse of what we’re going to see more and more as witnesses are equipped to share what they experience in news.

How to get your antennae up

A while ago, I said that once witnesses can share what they see live to the world from wherever they are, one of the great challenges for news organizations will be finding this stuff as it happens. The challenge, I said, is keeping our antennae up.

Robin Hamman has been trying to answer the challenge with a Yahoo Pipes demo that looks for newsy keywords — e.g., explosion, evacuation — across many (pardon me) user-generated-content services (Flickr, Twitter, et al). Very clever. It doesn’t work terribly well right now. But the idea’s right. Next, he tried to take news stories from the BBC and match that with chatter online. Also clever, and it will surely generate after-the-fact coverage from witnesses. But it won’t solve the problem of live.

How do we solve that? I’m not sure. One answer is Digg and its ilk: thousands of editors telling you what’s hot right now. Another may be producers charged with combing the live world online to find interesting stuff (that won’t scale, though). Another may be sniffers that see clusters of links and traffic around spots online where live content may be (we don’t know what’s happening here, but the crowd is telling us that something is).

The next challenge, of course, is to figure out who’s legit. But first things first. We have to get our antennae up.

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My blog is my network

Flixwagon, one of the companies offering the ability to broadcast live on the internet from your mobile phone, has added the feature I’ve been wanting: a widget-player you can put on your blog or web site so people there can catch your live broadcasts. Now, you have to put up a link to sites like Flixwagon’s and Qik’s and embed your video in your blog after it’s over.

Between this and Twitter, it begins to turn blogs live. Of course, we often live-blog events. But now we can also have a live flow of text and video from anywhere, anytime.

I’ve written about the challenges and opportunities live broadcast from anywhere brings to news. It’s also interesting to see the impact this will have on blogs. I can’t watch 10 bloggers at once. How can I know who’s live doing what where right now? It’s another need for live search — or call it live discovery. It makes me think I want an alert service — but then, the last thing I want is a bunch of those irritating tweets that tell me that so-and-so (you know who you are) is broadcasting live. I want context: the live TV Guide. But that’s hard, too: As I’m broadcasting, how can I tell you what I’m broadcasting? If someone else watches and alerts others to the fact that I actually have something interesting to say, then that’s necessarily syncopated; it’s not live.

All that aside, I’m glad to see Flixwagon’s widget and I look forward to seeing how YouTube handles live.