The Center for Citizens’ Media

The Center for Citizens’ Media

: It’s time for me to talk about an initiative I’m trying to start (with NYU, if I’m lucky) to create a Center for Citizens’ Media to enable the growth — and quality — of this new medium. I’m inspired to tell you about it now because of the Howard Rheingold quotes below.

I have a much longer spiel — ready to send to any foundation! — on the mission of the center but in a nutshell, I believe that we can serve four constituencies:

> Citizen journalists can benefit from education in some of the tricks of the trade (e.g., how to avoid libel, how to file freedom of information requests, how to write a killer lede). I’m not saying that bloggers need to be like big-media journalists but I am saying that media must to embrace this new wave of journalists.

> Journalism students can, for the first time in history, think and act like entrepreneurs (see Gawker, Gizmodo, Engadget). They can use weblogs to create a body of work that will get them hired. They must learn how to interact with their publics in new ways.

> Big media needs to learn how to interact with and serve and, most importantly, listen to the citizens formerly known as their audience.

> News sources — in politics, government, business — need to learn how to relate to citizens who can now, finally, speak to them.

I have much more to say on the topic but I’m motivated to give you a preview because I just read quotes from Howard (Smart Mobs) Rheingold, who gave a wonderful interview to Business Week on the Internet and politics… and journalism:

Rheinhold: I think there’s a Darwinian process when you have a large number of people doing it. If 10 million people are publishing their own opinions instead of sitting slack-jawed in front of the tube, that’s got to be healthier for the public sphere. The mass media have disempowered people from the process and made them feel disempowered.

Business Week: What could make blogging more useful to the masses?

Rheingold: What’s lacking is grounding in good journalism. It’s a learned skill that requires some tutelage by people who understand it. I wish that the people in the news business, instead of fearing the bloggers, would help educate them.

I’ll be teaching a course at NYU — the first to bridge the department of journalism and ITP, with Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky — this summer and fall as a first step toward creating this center and serving the needs Howard identifies.