Networked journalism

I think a better term for what I’ve been calling “citizen journalism” might be “networked journalism.”

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

I carry some of the blame for pushing “citizens’ media” and “citizen journalism” as terms to describe the phenomenon we are witnessing in this new era of news. Many of us were never satisfied with the terms, and for good reason. They imply that the actor defines the act and that’s not true in a time when anyone can make journalism. This also divides journalism into distinct camps, which only prolongs a problem of professional journalism — its separation from its public (as Jay Rosen points out). In addition, many professional journalists have objected that these terms imply that they are not acting as citizens themselves — and, indeed, I believe that the more that journalists behave like citizens, the stronger their journalism will be.

In networked journalism, the public can get involved in a story before it is reported, contributing facts, questions, and suggestions. The journalists can rely on the public to help report the story; we’ll see more and more of that, I trust. The journalists can and should link to other work on the same story, to source material, and perhaps blog posts from the sources (see: Mark Cuban). After the story is published — online, in print, wherever — the public can continue to contribute corrections, questions, facts, and perspective … not to mention promotion via links. I hope this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as journalists realize that they are less the manufacturers of news than the moderators of conversations that get to the news.

This came to me on the drive back from Media Giraffe with Jay Rosen: the mobile master class. Somewhere in midConnecticut, we were talking about how journalism can, should, and will work when we can all join in and it hit me like a lightning bolt: this isn’t about citizens or amateurs vs. professionals. We’re all in this together. Journalism is a collaborative venture. Journalism is a network.

: LATER: Terry Heaton points us to earlier thinking in this vein. Just to be clear: I’m by no means trying to claim any provenance in this, only indicating a shift in my own thinking.

: LATER STILL: Chris Nolan adds in email:

Stand-alone journalism depends on an audience of people who understand that connection. The web is a flexible medium so readers come and go quickly. So there’s a contradiction: The newsroom has left the building but no one site can really stand alone and prosper by demanding that readers come to it. The business challenge is to make that flexibility part of how we do business if we’re going to grow and keep readers, Smart guys like WashPo’s Jim Brady and Yahoo’s Neil Budde know this; that’s why they’re not demanding exclusivity. That’s also why Spot-on’s pushing the syndication part of our business ahead of everything else. We want to go to our readers wherever they are, rather than wait for them to come to us.

Julian Sanchez of Reason said in email that he’s using “distributed journalism” and I agree with that. I use it, too, in certain company. Only problem is, when I say that in front of newspaper folks, they think trucks.