Archive for July, 2006
So I followed the sun round the planet for seven hours for this Media Giraffe thing – innovators and risk takers who stick their necks out. The last of my notes from the bunker:
Jay Rosen, NYU journalism: “George Bush is great for civic engagement. The fact that it is so polarised that has brought ppeople in to the debate.”
Bill Densmore, Media Giraffe director: “This is a scary time in journalism and in the 230-year history of our nation’s democracy. We don’t know if democracy can survive without a principled and independent media.”
Tom Rosenstil, Project for Excellence in Journalism: “If I dropped a grenade in that room last night [the opening discussion] I couldn’t have hit a Republican.”
Peter Bhatia, Portland Oregonian: “Our circulation is down but readership is up, sometimes by 30 per cent – because it’s boosted by online readership.”
Teresa Hanafin, editor Boston.com: “Blogs by journalists could be a dicey proposition if they fell into just opinion, but they present a different voice for the newspaper – more irreverent, more conversational and taking advantage of the web as an intimate medium. The web doesn’t get credit for that – helping to make journalism more transparent and putting a more human face on the print product.”
Paul Bass gave a stonking performance on how corporate media is ‘destroying our cities’.
Bass has been a reporter for 25 years and was inspired to go it alone online because the souls of local, corporate newspaper businesses are dead, he said. He’s vitriolic about the state of corporate media: “Newspapers aren’t dead, but we’re doing the innovative [stuff] and you’ll be following us. The right-wing media monopolies have destroyed our cities.
Read the rest on mediabistro.
I wrapped up for them too and chose my favourite giraffes including Adrian Holovaty, Washington Post’s mad scientist – the dude below.
That’ll be up soon, no doubt, but it’s July 4th holiday time over here. I’ll stick up the link when it’s live. It’s live now – read my wrap up. It starts:
In the wrap-up Friday, some rather earnest local citizen journalism types were slaying the “proper journalists” for reeling out the self-congratulatory participatory media spiel and then leaving early. No names mentioned, but New York’s journorati did make a swift Amherst exit yesterday morning leaving the rest of us to wallow in a worthy discussion on media education and the role of journalism in a democracy. It may not be as sexy as evangelising about Journalism 2.0, but it counts.
One thing I didn’t include from that session was a mind-boggling demo by Adam Claytom Powell for University of Southern California. He showed how their research lab has been meshing together all sorts of maps and databases to create a real life Sim City. So they pulled together a satellite map, road map, database of tram routes, campus map, 3D images, live CCTV cameras… all of these elements are knitted together to create a three dimensional, real-time image of the campus – you can see people moving around. “You can’t quite read licence plates, but it’s not far off,” said Powell.
Needless to say there’s been interest from the government in what the lab is doing, but Powell said the objective is a bit less sinister than it seems. Like big brother, but making that information democratically available to everyone. Still makes me rather uncomfortable.
I videoed a bit of this but it’s stuck on my memory card – I’m sans cable. If it’s any good I’ll stick it up when I get back to Blighty.
Someone just said I’m the hardest working person here. [Blushes] Well I am, dammit.
Just a couple of things I noticed earlier this week, reading the New York Times on the grass outside the conference bunker. Firstly, this front page is from Friday 30th but the news stories put the date as yesterday. So everything already appears as a day old.
Secondly, there’s very little cross promotion. Surprisingly the only mention of the site I could see on the front page was a tiny plug in the bottom left. Think it was the Wall Street Journal that rebranded earlier this year and put the web address into the masthead.
US papers look very dated. All those mushy, serify fonts…
Incidentally, Rolling Stone (which has a lush Johnny Depp special…) heavily plugs its site all the way through the print mag. And billboard ads for Psych on TV plug character blogs and ads for Little Man, the film, offer a podcast.
And lots of young women (six, at the last count) in New York City are wearing wellies. In the city. In July.
Technorati Tags: newspapers
I stand by my claim that it’s not networking if you’re just having chance conversations with interesting people you bump into. But here’s some of the guys and dolls/sites/conversations of the past week:
Robb Montgomery, visualeditors.com?John Wilpers (”One of the best editors I’ve ever worked with,” said Robb)?Philip Meyer, University of North Carolina?Josh Wilson, newsdesk.org?Gary Keebel, Knight Foundation?Fabrice Florin, NewsTrust?Tish Grier, Corante Media Hub?John Boyer, Media for America?Paul Bass, New Haven Independent?Daren Gill, choicestream?Gordon Joseloff, founder of Westport Now?Robert Washman, Journalist and tutor from Ontario, Canada?Benjamin Melançon, The Fund for Authentic Journalism
?Plus, plus, plus…
Seeing as most journalists left first thing yesterday (ahem), there was plenty of room in the wrap-up session to say how the mainstream doesn’t get it and they are just out to exploit the citizen journalism movement.
The Knight Foundation’s Gary Keebel defended the big guys: “It’s just not true that mainstream media doesn’t get it. The people here are leaders and should accept that role, but I don’t buy this ‘us and them’ talk.” That was exactly what Jeff Jarvis said he didn’t want to hear when he opened on Wednesday night (Lord – that seems a long time ago!).
- Jordanian student Eman AlAraj from Project Harmony: “No-one can represent us but us. I think you should involve young people more in these conferences because we do care.”
- Chris Grotke, iBrattleboro: “I worry that some people will leave this conference and think that If we just add blogs and a podcast, we’ll be doing it. That’s not it.”
- Blogger Aldon Hynes: “I don’t know if I learnt anything but I know what I reaffirmed – that we are at our best when we are sharing and making connections.”
- Maureen Mann from The Forum said she got the impression from the mainstream journalists here that sites like theirs and like iBrattleboro are just playing. “But the reason that our sites exist is because mainstream media didn’t provide what we needed in our communities. It doesn’t serve these very small, local groups.” She said there were three types of delegates here: people interested in their communities, people interested in the process of citizen journalism and people interested in power. “We’re all aiming in very different directions.”
Paul Grabowicz from the University of California at Berkley. It’s not enough to just to stick up a video version of a story alongside the text version: “We have to take control of the technology and not let the technology dictate to us”.
He recommends storyboarding elements of the story and working out which medium suits it best: “If you have data, don’t put up a chart – put up a database and let users search it. If you want to create a mood and get people to feel a certain way about a story, use photos. It it’s action – tell that in video.”
This is great. He’s composing a ten-step recovery programme for newspapers. For starters, he said for one week drop news reporting and just run wire stories instead. By the end of the week, see if anyone has noticed. He guarantees that newspapers would get a far smaller response than if they dropped a popular comic strip. And that says that “nearly everything we’re doing is wrong. We’re just not reaching people”.
Secondly, he said reporters should ditch the Roladex for a week and go out to talk to people they’ve never talked to before. “Go to bus tops, beauty salons and bars and talk to regular people. Find out what they care about, start recruiting them and when you find someone very articulate get them to contribute to a blog. Listen to people.”
Robb Montgomery from VisualEditors.com: “To get where I am after 20 years in newspapers I’ve had to embrace an inversion of my thinking – sometimes a heretical inversion of my thinking.” He did the video blog for the World Editors Forum in Moscow in June alongside John Burke. Both of them are very good at snooker.
John just pointed out that there are only two very old entries in my shoe category. That’ll be because I moved to the sticks and have no money. But one of these days I’m going to archive the whole collection. My record was 42 pairs. Must buy some more soon, or set up a tip jar…
I’m always looking, but there are very few independent citizen journalism initiatives in the UK so I’m in a session looking at four successful US projects.
Westport Now founding editor Gordon Joseloff spent years as an international reporter for several big organisations including CNN CBS but wanted to exploit his new-found freedom when he moved to Westport. A few years on and he’s had to step back from it after being elected something like Mayor, but he’s also fostered a wifi town hall. The Westport Now reporter gets council meeting coverage online in almost real time and people have a thirst for this now, thanks to the prevalence of near real-time news on NYTimes and so on.
“People will get home from the meeting and go to our site to read it. The other day a woman heard sirens and didn’t know what they were – ten minutes later there was a picture up on Westport Now of a burning house fire.”
The site gets more reader submissions than it can use but won’t put everything up – it’s all professionally edited (and yes, the photos do look really good). The site gets 5-7,000 visitors per day from a community of 25,000. Joseloff also said that early on, the site made more money from syndicating local people’s photos than it did from advertising.
ibrattleboro is pretty well known – a better looking citJ site started by two web designers. Christopher Grotke said he thought of the founding fathers to promote the site: “They joined every group going and casually mentioned the independence movement…”
A split between Joseloff’s traditional journalism background and web designer Grotke: Westport Now sticks to the AP style guide and edits all contributions. “The subtle conformity to professional standards enhances our credibility and brings more people to the site,” said Joseloff.
Rutland Herald reporter Dan Barlow agreed: “The spread of citizen journalism will come hand-in-hand with more media awareness. If content is badly written or inaccurate it will damage your credibility”.
But on iBrattleboro: “We don’t edit people and we haven’t had a problem with it either,” said Grotke, adding that he tweaks formats (like line breaks and capitalising headlines – I hate that!) and has only ever been called twice to correct a factual change. “We don’t train people and we don’t expect people to write like journalists.”
“It’s a community of 4,000 and there’s no newspaper coverage of anything in town at all unless it’s a serial killer. There are real junkies who enjoy doing council meetings and can be depended upon to report upon those. If someone lets us know something’s going on we’ll cover it but it’s very hard. But we’re pretty happy with the result.”
Not making money
Terribly worthy, but they really do mean it: money is just not important. No wonder newspapers are having trouble getting their head round this all.
Grotke: “We try to cover costs, a little bit of our time and enough to add new features. But everything on our site is owned by the people that put it there. It’s not about money – it’s about news and information. We wouldn’t be doing this if we were getting what we needed in another place. The money question always comes up but if we did make a million dollars we’d probably give it back to the community.”
iBrattleboro already runs field trips and meet-ups – interestingly because they think it helps diffuse some of the flame wars that can erupt online.
Maureen Mann from The Forum (there’s a big posse of them here) said their arts section is extremely popular with poets and writers who all retain their own copyright when they contribute to the site: “It means an enormous amount to them and it’s one of the most important things we do, letting people have a venue for their arts.”
Williams quoted Dave Winer: “You’re going to make more money because of your blog than from your blog”.
As for start-up money, Backfence got $3 million in venture capital but there was some doubt here about its strategy of using one editor to cover multiple regions.
Success requires the writers to be right in the middle of their communities – a return to that ‘proper’ journalism then. So the web appears to be fostering a new era of healthy, community-focused local reporting…
- Lisa Williams, H2Otown, on getting started: “Write a blog for a year. You’d better be willing to do it indefinitely by yourself.”?- Barlow: “I was always frustrated with ivory tower of journalism and the way people could not easily interact with journalists.”
- Barry Parr from CoastSider.com said requiring the audience to register with their full real name was the best thing he ever did. “Getting real people to take real responsibility for their remarks”. That was after a libellous comment was posted… ouch.
Oopsy – did I say audience? That should’ve read “the people formerly known as the audience…”