Citizens media meets bulldog journalism; finds the future of news

Citizens media meets bulldog journalism; finds the future of news
: I’m witnessing the future of journalism unfold over at

There, a bunch of webloggers sent there by the British Council (can someone explain them to me?) are covering the U.N. World Summit on Information Society with a vibrancy, immediacy, passion, imagination, doggedness, and openness you simply won’t find in big media.

They saw a rant I wrote about the conference — and the U.N.’s audacious talk of taking over the Internet — and turned it into a question for the U.S. ambassador to the session.

Then they asked for questions from the audience for the president of Iran — and they asked them and got surprising answers.

Next the webloggers from Iran who know what is really going on will answer him.

OK, you know where this is going. Cue the theme music. Cue camera 1. Roll teleprompter. And repeat after me: “News is a conversation.”

It reminds me of that great scene in Broadcast News in which Albert Brooks (networks producer) gives a question to Holly Hunter (fellow producer) who whispers it into the ear of anchor William Hurt and suddenly it comes out of his mouth. Except now you’re the ones whispering into the journalists’ ears, telling them what to say. And better than the movie, you’re getting answers back and starting a dialogue that will keep hammering until it gets to truth.

This is what journalism is meant to be.

This isn’t some new form of journalism. This is the result of a few centuries of the evolution of journalism.

We, the readers, get to ask the questions we want to ask of those in power and we get answers. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Now, it helps immensely that the people in Geneva for DailySummit know their stuff and also ask the right questions at every opportunity.

Give the chance to interview the man in charge of the Iranian Internet, they got to confront him and ask about the arrest of weblogger Sina Motallebi (the frightening event that first introduced me and many of us to the Iranian weblog revolution). The mullahs’ bureacrat lied and shuffled away from the point. But the confrontation tells them: The whole world is watching, boys. You can call that advocacy journalism or bulldog journalism or just good reporting. It’s all that.

The reporting at Daily Summit is smart and lively and up-to-the-minute like no other medium and it is also guided and influenced by what readers are saying in comments and on weblogs.

Compare that to the metronome-dull coverage of big media. In fairness to big media, this is not a really big story; I’m not suggesting that it deserves the kind of blanket coverage (or in TV terms, team coverage) of the summit.

But by not digging down or simply reading the weblog of those who are digging down, big media is missing some great stories. There’s a great story in confronting the president of Iran on Internet censorship (and finding out that he follows weblogs and even brags about how many his country has). There are lots of other good stories. So maybe it’s better to forego the roundup and piggyback on the reporting of these bloggers (just as bloggers always piggyback on the reporting of big media) and report something new, something interesting. This doesn’t have to be competitive.