Posts about networkedjournalism

Venture journalism

Dr. Michael Maier, founder of Netzeitung, the 7-year-old online-only newspaper serving Germany, is leaving to come over here for a Shorenstein fellowship at Harvard, I’m glad to report (for our sake). On the way out, Maier is buying the networked journalism project he started there, Readers-Edition.de, as a platform for German-language citizen journalism (Bürgerjournalismus) and the flagship for a new venture, Blogform Publishing, bringing Web 2.0 to journalism. Maier is a accomplished journalist — former editor of the Berliner Zeitung, Stern, and Vienna’s Presse — and an experienced entrepreneur, so I look forward to seeing what evolves. (Here‘s my Guardian column about Maier, Netzeitung, and Readers-Edition.) He sent an email to Readers-Edition writers (if I get the translation right) saying: “I believe that Readers Edition has great potential. . . . This changes the journalism fundamentally and it changes the society fundamentally.” Interesting that in the comments on the announcement at Readers-Edition, there was much discussion of payments. Which leads me to this. . . .

I found this checking out links at Medienlese, where I also saw a link to Thomas Knüwer, Handelsblatt journalist and blogger, talking about VCs supporting new journalism ventures (auf Deutsch). Which leads me to this. . . .

I wonder whether we will, indeed, start seeing more venture investment in not just media but specifically in journalistic projects. Some have said that the moguls thinking of spending billions to buy hunks of Tribune Company or the New York Times Company would be better off just starting new ventures that are not dragged down by the tremendous costs of old media’s infrastructure. There is money to be made in news and I do think it will be made a lot faster creating new ventures rather than trying to reform old ones.

Exploding TV: The BBC hands over its air

A few weeks ago, the BBC’s premier news program, Newsnight, invited its audience to make short films with the promise that the best would make it to air. (I contrasted the effort then to CBS News’ closed and now all-but-closed-down “free speech” segments.)

Their OhMyNewsnight competition has just concluded and the winners are mostly quite good. Some of the finalists are rather sophomoric or simplistic. But Newsnight Editor Peter Barron — responding to an Observer curmudgeon who growled that “Vodcasts and blogs are to the noughties what graffiti was to the Seventies: mindless scrawls reading: ‘I woz ere.’ It says: ‘I’m a moron, but worship me anyway’ ” as well as to one of his own presenter‘s sneers — concluded: “As far as I can see there’s not a funny animal or a moron among them.” He added later:

I’m bewildered that anyone could seriously suggest that allowing our viewers ten
minutes out of the hundreds of hours of airtime Newsnight produces each year to tell us what they think is important is somehow a negative development. At the very least we’ve had a great debate about the value of user-generated content, which has surely been the media story of 2006.

The winner is a film by rock musician Joe Blanks — who even made a Google video promoting voting on his video — about a school lunch program in Malawi inspired by George McGovern. I like it.

Peter Barron’s personal favorite was a shortened version of a riveting film about how cocaine is made.

This finalist makes a simple statement about multicultural London; this one a rather dutiful statement about being nice to people on the dole; this one tells one woman’s story as a hurricane approaches Cuba. I watched all the semifinalists. This one, about the evil of ID cards, was simply silly. This one, about the carbon neutralization industry, was interesting. Here’s a good interview with a homeless man who, because he doesn’t have problems (drugs, alcohol), he has a bigg problem: no help. This interview with a newsstand operator could be the start of a good series of first-person tales.

I only wish that Newsnight had had contributors tag their submissions on YouTube et al, for then we could have watched them all. I went searching and found a report about cross-race adoption and an effort at parody that was overtaken by Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman’s own.

Is any of this up to Newsnight’s par? Of course, not. That’s not the point. So what is? Well, not all cameras in the hands of amateurs are cultural weapons meant to feed the home page of YouTube and TV blooper shows. Give the people a camera and they can give us reports or perspectives we otherwise may not have seen.

I’m spending the weekend watching and grading similar videos made by my students at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Some of them are even rougher. But as I told the students after we screened their first efforts: There, now you’ve made TV. Now you can make it better. And that is the moral to the story of Oh My Newsnight.

: SOMEWHAT RELATED: Videoblogging in Iran.

The remixed Times, thanks to Kristof

Nicholas Kristof makes an amazing offer to his readers: ‘Remix me’:

Stories can be told in countless ways and understood in countless forms. Here’s an invitation to try your hand at a little interactive journalism.

Here’s a link to a collection of columns, videos, and photographs from my recent trip to Chad to covering the spread of the genocide in Darfur. Take a look at the material and, if you’re interested, I’d like to see how you would’ve told the story. Use some of the quotes, the stories, the facts and weave together your own column, essay, article — or some other kind of quilt. I can imagine someone writing a poem, a song, a map, video or audio slide show. Don’t let convention get in the way of your storytelling. And don’t feel as if it needs to be long; hey, a haiku is sometimes more effective than an epic.

I’m eager to see how you’d approach things – what you’d do differently. I hope you do better – these stories are too important to be told only once.

The only drawback is that it’s behind the TimesSelect pay wall. My CUNY colleague Sandeep Junnarkar had the great idea to turn our students onto this but they can’t get behind the wall. For this project and this subject, I suggest taking down the wall. It’s a good cause.

Apart from that, this is an important moment, for here is a journalist recognizing that his reporting will get seen by more people from more perspectives by allowing it to be remixed, by putting itself into the conversation.

The Independent

Just catching up with John Burke’s profile of the New Haven Independent, a lively new hyperlocal online news org.

Although he is an old media reporter, Bass finds that journalism on the Web is “definitely” more efficient than print journalism. For starters, the Independent doesn’t have an office. “Our reporters are out reporting all the time instead of talking in the newsroom,” explained Bass. If he meets with his staff to discuss stories, they do so in a local coffee shop. Secondly, Bass doesn’t have to wait until stories go to press; as soon as an article is ready, it is posted on the Independent’s site.

In what is perhaps the most efficient characteristic of Internet reporting, Bass and his staff have their stories proofread and fact-checked by readers. The Independent has even started a contest through which the reader who catches the most typos wins Independent paraphernalia.

Networked exercise

Well, it’s a form of networked reporting. Richard Simmons came on Howard Stern’s show last week to kiss and make-up after a decade’s feud and to push his campaign to make PE mandatory in all schools to combat childhood obesity. The way he’s doing it is taking a survey to find out what programs schools have now. That is a form of crowdsourced reporting, eh?

Edit me

I’m on a panel for the American Academy of Arts & Sciences next month with Jill Abramson, John Carroll, Geneva Overholser, and Jon Klein, with Norm Pearlstine presiding. They’re having us write our spiels beforehand so continued on the jump is my attempt to boil this blog down to five minutes. Take a look and comment, please:

News is not shrinking, even if newspapers are.

We are faced with no end of new opportunities in journalism as our definitions of news explode and as interest in news expands. We have new ways to gather, share, and judge news from new sources across new media.

So it is time to end the editorial Eeyoreing and newsroom protectionism that has dominated this discussion to date and instead to focus on the many opportunities we have to update, upgrade, and expand the scope and reach of journalism in society.

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Networked journalism on the track

The new NewAssignment.net site launches today and Tom Evslin writes about a very real networked journalism project to find whether there are the smoking guns of network (non)neutrality lurking in our ISP wires.

The NA.net blog is now filled regularly with reporting about networked reporting: lots of good stuff from founder Jay Rosen and the first editor, David Cohn. Time to add it to your RSS subscriptions.

I’m less enthused about another project they’re involved in: a networked photolog of polling places. Polling places are, by their very nature, excruciatingly dull.

But meanwhile, elsewhere on the frontier, Carnegie, Ford, and Open Society are supporting VoterStory.org, where we are encouraged to go file any tales of voting irregularities. Those tales clearly will need confirmation – that is, reporting.

: LATER: Betsy Devine dispatches people to take pictures of the campaign flyers on car windows at church. More networked journalism, more crowdsourcing.

Criticism is free

The Guardian has taken the Comment is Free model and extended it to arts and entertainment.

That model: They take their columnists and throw them into the conversation (whether they like it or not). They add in new voices and opinion leaders from many different perspectives to broaden the conversation more than the bounds of paper could ever allowed. Then they open the gates to anyone to comment and converse, discovering more interesting voices. It’s a wonderfully rich and spicy stew. In a short time, CiF has become a platform for opinions and, like its foremother, HuffingtonPost, has been used as a place to announce positions (e.g., Jimmy Carter and the Euston Manifesto on CiF, John Kerry on HuffPost).

So now the Guardian brings this to arts and entertainment, which makes perfect sense. Now critics find themselves in the conversation . . . with other critics (formerly known as the audience). What’s so right about this is that the conversation is going on anyway; by helping it to come together, the Guardian puts itself in just the right position, in the middle of the talk. It becomes the water cooler. If I started Entertainment Weekly today, it would look like this, with links to stories, clips, sites, and more.

I can see this working beautifully in sports because, again, it only facilitates the conversation that is going on already among fans — and any opinion there is about as good as the next. [UPDATE: Proving once again that I am not a real man, I never look at sports sections and thus didn’t see that the Guardian had already put up its sports columns CiF style; thanks to the real man in the comments who informed me.] The paper becomes the pub. I wonder whether it might work in business or at least in market coverage — why not provide a place for the crowd to dissect, for example, the Google/YouTube deal because we are doing this already. And I think a variation of this can work in local, only instead of trafficking mostly in opinion, this becomes a means for people to share reporting as well. More on that in a minute.

Many months ago, I sat in the office of Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger as we talked about the extension of the CiF model and he drew a diagram showing the new relationship of the journalist — columnist and critic but also, I believe, reporter and editor — to his or her public. He drew a funnel with talk flowing in and out and I can’t recreate that now. So I’ll give you a very mixed metaphor: Journalists should no longer act as choke-points in that funnel but instead as pumps and filters, keeping the flow of opinions and information going in, around, and through — and contributing to and improving that flow along the way.

And that is the important thing to watch here: What is the role of the journalist in this new, networked world? Moderator. Enabler. Even educator. I think the Comment is Free model works beyond merely opinion and conversation as journalists’ roles change.

First, there is the informational role. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the journalists saw questions, curiosities, or misinformation swirling around the conversation and then went and fixed that with reporting: ‘Since you asked . . .’ ‘Here are the facts. . . .’ That is their first contribution. Of course, this is what jounalists do already: They report. I’d like to see the reporting and the conversation around it come closer together in the CiF model. And then, of course, the reporters aren’t the only ones reporting. This becomes an example for anyone; it empowers us all to go get facts, to improve the conversation, to make the crowd wiser.

Second, I think the journalist-as-moderator needs to be more of a magnet, to both attract and actively go out and find the really interesting voices and the knowledgeable experts and bring them into the conversation. Again, this is what reporters do already when they find the right people to quote. But now they can do more than quote those people; they can invite them to the party. And the party only gets better.

Third, editors should see themselves more broadly. I hesitate to say that they should edit and educate the crowd, for I can hear the crowd shouting back at me, ‘We don’t need no stinkin’ editing!’ But at CiF, when comments started to go wild, I suggested that instead of concentrating on the bad guys, they concentrate on the good guys and they found and highlighted some great new voices. That is one role of an editor: finding and cultivating talent. I also think an editor’s contribution to a conversation — as to an article — can and should be to push to make it better, to ask the right questions, to focus the narrative, to push for more reporting. That is how editors will operate in NewAssignment.net. Yes, in this sense, we are all editors. Except I think what’s missing is for the paid editors to bring those skills to the conversation. And the conversation will be better for it.

I think that the CiF model is an important step on the way to networked journalism, for it brings together the pros and the ams to do new things together.