Posts about networkedjournalism

The definition of networked news

I was asked to define networked news. Good question. Here’s my answer. What’s yours?

Journalism must become collaborative at many levels. News organizations should come to rely on citizens to help report stories on a large-scale level (e.g., some of the projects we’re considering at NewAssignment.net), at an individual level (citizens contributing reports to news organizations’ efforts), and as a network (news organizations supporting citizens’ own efforts with content, promotion, education, and revenue).

Journalism will become collaborative not only on this pro-am level but also pro-to-pro (we need not and cannot afford to send our own reporters to some stories just for the sake of byline ego but we can link to and bring our readers — and help support — the best reporting from other outlets).

The net results include:
* A change of the role of journalists — and their relationship with the public — from owner sof the story to moderators, editors, enablers, and educators.
* A vast broadening of the scope of journalism and news: together, we can gather and share more news than ever. The definition of news will also expand.
* Improved quality of journalism, as, with the help of the public, we have more means to get stories and get them right.
* A new architecture for news: one outlet does not own it all but becomes a gateway to much more (not just current news but also background and perspective).
* A new efficiency in the news industry, which it must find as revenue declines.
* New opportunities to act entrepreneurially, to develop new products and means to serve the public on a smaller scale with new partners.

The internet as amplifier

I think we’ll look back on the outing of Senators Ted Stevens and Robert Byrd as the fools who put a secret hold on an antipork bill as an important milestone in American politics and media — a far bigger event than the ousting of Trent Lott. And that’s not just because there are two more scalps on bloggers’ belts. No, what matters is that this Porkbusters campaign shows the power of the internet to organize, empower, and amplify.

Some still think that the internet and blogs won’t be meaningful until they’re coming into and out of every American den. But that’s the old, mass way of looking at things: you mattered (to media companies, advertisers, and politicians) only if you were part of a big clump of people who, by their mass, could not be ignored. That was mob rule. The internet came along to give voice and freedom to individuals. But more important, it allows those individuals to organize and take concerted action together, to make sure that they, too, cannot be ignored. The definition of critical mass has shrunk on a quantum scale. We are now governed by the 1 percent rule.

It’s significant that Bill Frist used — yes, used, in a good sense — bloggers and porkbusters to give him political cover in the Senate to force through this antipork bill. He didn’t have to use political capital. He didn’t have to cajole and lobby. He didn’t have to enter the smoke-filled room. The citizens did the work by pressing every senator for an answer to their simple question: Who closed the door on openness?

I don’t think we yet know our own strength. I’ve been arguing that we must give Congress cover to support the First Amendment against the so-called Parents Television Council and other self-appointed censors. If you wanted to be seen and heard in the past, you had to do what Brent Bozell did: form a fake organization, raise money, print letterheads, get PR from gullible reporters, and act like a mass even if you aren’t one. No longer. Instead, we can follow the Porkbusters model and just ask the right questions. The point is that the Porkbusters didn’t attempt to act like a mass. They merely did what reporters should be doing: They asked the right questions of the right people and kept asking until they got answers.

Is this a “netroots” movement? No, the netroots folks try to act like a movement, a mass (though it will be hard for them to claim ownership of the blogosphere and internet when every side is up to speed using the same techniques). I think the Porkbusters victory is more journalistic, fulfilling the role that news organizations should fulfill as watchdogs.

Note well that this was not a party effort; it was a bipartisan and ad hoc gathering of people — left, right, libertarian, in office and out — who banded together in a small critical mass (enough people with enough emails and phones) to take action around an issue: openness. Parties didn’t matter. Party structures were meaningless. Policy mattered.

I do think we’ll see more of that. In a Guardian column a few months ago, I wrote: “The internet is only doing to politics what it has done to other industries: it disaggregates elements and then enables these free atoms to reaggregate into new molecules; it fragments the old and unifies the new. So in the end, the internet gives us the opportunity to make more nuanced expressions of our political worldview, which makes obsolete old orthodoxies and old definitions of left and right. Thus both the Euston Manifesti and their opponents can claim the cloak of liberalism and we’ll see whether they can still band together to make a party.” Or change policy. Or possibly elect candidates. Or just keep a watchful eye on government.

Whistleblower.tv

Some of you laughed when I said that today, Deep Throat might have a blog. OK, I was wrong. Instead, it appears he’d have a vlog. MediaDailyNews has the story of a whistleblower who couldn’t get heard by MSM so he made a vlog and put it on YouTube and then he was heard.

THE WHISTLE-BLOWER WHO AIRED ALLEGATIONS on YouTube that Lockheed Martin sold the U.S. Coast Guard $24 billion worth of refurbished Coast Guard patrol boats with significant security flaws and other deficiencies says it was a decision of “last resort.” He turned to YouTube when the mainstream media dismissed his claims as “outlandish.”

“I contacted every single mass media outlet on television and probably 75 separate reporters at different newspapers,” says Michael De Kort, the 41-year-old former engineer for Lockheed Martin. De Kort was laid off by the military contractor days after he posted his 10-minute video on August 3, soberly detailing shortcomings in the boats’ security cameras, communications abilities, and cold weather capabilities. “They wouldn’t do the story.”

Following De Kort’s YouTube airing, however, his allegations were subsequently reported in the Navy Times, and then picked up by The Washington Post, NPR and other news organizations. The video has become the latest example of new media driving the old, cited by ABC News as “further evidence that the Internet has given the average person a way to be heard.”

Amen. But this drive me nutty:

Is this a case of citizen journalism sounding an alarm so loud that the mainstream media has to act? Not really, says one expert. “This is terrific, certainly if the guy is speaking the truth. But it’s not journalism,” says Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of Journalistic Ethics at Washington & Lee University in Virginia. “It’s his story–his side of things. A journalist would take his claims and talk to other people to reach the truth.”

Journalism is a process, damnit. It starts with people who know or witness something we should know getting that out. And the official journalists sure as hell didn’t do their part in this story. So the guy got his story out the only way he could. I call that an act of journalism. So is the followup that finally came from the official journalists. In any case, journalism isn’t about stopping the news from coming out… not anymore.

Note, by the way, more coverage of the story, finally, from TV news than from print. I guess that’s because it’s a video story.

The flaming battery story: People powered

Steve Hamm at Business Week has a good chronicle of the blog pressure that led to Dell, Apple, and Sony’s recall of their batteries.

The cybermedia didn’t merely expose the dangers of computers catching fire. They kept the heat on the manufacturers to do something about it and helped the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conduct an investigation into the burning batteries.

Note well that the now-blogwise Dell thanked bloggers:

Dell credits the blogosphere for helping it get through the crisis. “Information travels around quickly,” says spokeswoman Gretchen Miller. “Also, it’s another channel to get the message to our customers so they can be safe.”

This, too, is networked journalism: customers able to gather together as an effective watchdog.

Networked journalism at work

A bipartisan posse of bloggers managed to out Ted Stevens — everybody’s favorite punchline these days — as the senator who had put a secret hold on a bill to allow us to search and destroy pork in federal spending.

An unusual collaboration between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Internet bloggers on Wednesday led a senator to publicly acknowledge that he’d been blocking a vote on a government accountability bill.

The admission by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, also offered a glimpse into the increasing role that online pundits play in U.S. policymaking.

Stevens’ confirmation that he was behind the legislative ‘hold’ on the bipartisan legislation came a day after Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, posted a Web log entry asking colleagues to cooperate with bloggers who were trying to identify who was using the legislative maneuver to stall a vote. . . .

The legislation, by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., would create a database that people could access online to learn the worth and the recipients of government contracts, including those secured through pork-barrel spending, or earmarks. . . .

‘When you have InstaPundit and RedState, some of the most influential conservative bloggers, working with (left-leaning) DailyKos, that’s sort of a powerful grassroots alliance,’ said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

But blog reporter Paul Kiel, who posted confirmation of Stevens’ announcement on TPMmuckraker.com, said he doesn’t see himself taking on a greater role in policymaking.

In this case, he said, the activism was about greater public disclosure, not any ideological issue. ‘We consider ourselves to be in the tradition of traditional journalism,’ Kiel said in a telephone interview. . . .

Frist wrote, ‘I am calling on all members, when asked by the blog community, to instruct their staff to answer whether or not they have a hold, honestly and transparently, so I can pass this bill.’

There is a textbook example of networked journalism.

Here are the TMP Muckraker report, the Sunlight Foundation report, the Porkbusters plea, and Mark Tapscott’s roundup.

Where’s the Pulitzer for bipartisan, pro-am networked reporting?