Fixing journalism

Fixing journalism

: I’m in Toronto at the AEJMC (it stands for something having to do with journalism and education) confab; subset: public journalism.

Len Witt, who brought us together, said that the public journalism movement, 16 years old, was in danger of fading due to the entrenched nature of big media, but it has been revived in the last 18 months.

Why? A growing acceptance, he said, that “the practice of journalism is broken.”

I wonder if one surveyed journalists whether they would agree — and then whether they would agree that their public is part of the fix.

: Dan Gillmor is giving a primer on the technology that is changing everything.

: Canadian journalist Warren Kinsella takes the stage and calls blogging “punk-rock journalism.”

: Onto Jay Rosen, who immediately rebuts Kinsella’s advice to corporations to speak with simplicity, repetition, and volume. Jay pushes for complexity, length, and nuance. “This, of course limits the success of my weblog. I want to limit the success of my weblog.” He knows and likes his public. He says his ethic of drawing people to the site competes with big medias: His is, “I don’t care whether you like it…. The very last thing I would assume about my audience is that they need something drilled into their head…. It’s the opposite: They need space to expand their own thinking.”

He explains his blogging of the convention and how he approached it: He said the “convention was a mystery that needed explanation.”

: Up on the panel now. Jan Schaffer of J-Lab, spoke about participatory journalism and said she does not like blogs because they are “not useful… narcisistic… and niche.”

I said that as Rosen rebutted Kinsella, I would rebut Schaffer. I said that many don’t like big media because it too often useless and too often narcissistic and not often niche enough.

Jan is raring to rebut the rebut. She said I was plagerizing use of “conversation” in all this from public journalism. [I had that wrong before and said the word was “citizens.”]

: I should not be surprised, I suppose, that is is — in pockets, at least — a resistant bunch — just as big-media folks have been resistant, but maybe a year behind them. That could be because they don’t feel the economic pinch the big-media folks feel. Or it could be because this group in particular is holding onto definitions of “public journalism” that they came up with years ago. To them, blogging is an upstart of a different sort. Big-media folks think — mistakenly — of blogs as upstart competition to content while some of these folks seem to think of blogging as upstart competition to their movement. Both are wrong. Blogging and citizens’ media are ways to improve journalism and citizens’ movements.

: Now Mary Lou Fulton is telling the group about the great work she is doing in Bakersfield — yes, Bakersfield — gathering the content of the people and then freeze-drying it onto a paper that is distributed to 22k homes, with 6k more in racks in town.

I’m jealous as hell because I wanted to get this done first. But it’s even better learning from Mary Lou.

She says that her goal is to “say yes to everything.” A story about a girl selling lemonade to make money for her librarian who has MS is news. And publishing that news respects the people. Amen!

The best thing she hears is that “I saw part of me in this.”

She says that some of the news that should be coming into papers doesn’t because people tire of going through the gatekeepers. “That’s the problem with buildling gates: You’re keeping people out rather than letting people in.”

She’s giving good tips. Something fascinating: Businesses wanted to be involved and Mary Lou et al decided it really wasn’t fair to exclude that one group. So they sat down and said that a business could write one article a year about its expertise (not its business): Smart. Gets them involved. And they make sure they are transparent about the relationship.

: Joey deVilla is summarizing one of a half-dozen breakout sessions (what’s a conference without breakout sessions?). He says of bloggers and media: “If there weren’t a void in the first place we wouldn’t be rushing in to fill it.”