New rules for news

Paul Raven @ 12-10-2009

Via Chairman Bruce, here’s a list of 22 rules for the New New Journalism from Dan Gillmor at The Guardian. As Bruce points out, there more than a hint of the idealist networked society about them, but they’re still worth reading – think of it more as a manifesto for a society where journalism was actually meant to keep people informed rather than confused.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

2. We would invite our audience to participate in the journalism process, in a variety of ways that included crowdsourcing, audience blogging, wikis and many other techniques. We’d make it clear that we’re not looking for free labour – and will work to create a system that rewards contributors beyond a pat on the back – but want above all to promote a multi-directional flow of news and information in which the audience plays a vital role.

Nothing too new there, but the promise to acknowledge the origin of crowdsourced material is good.

7. We would replace PR-speak and certain Orwellian words and expressions with more neutral, precise language. If someone we interview misused language, we would paraphrase instead of using direct quotations. (Examples, among many others: The activity that takes place in casinos is gambling, not gaming. There is no death tax, there can be inheritance or estate tax. Piracy does not describe what people do when they post digital music on file-sharing networks.)

Translation: “we’ll not advance or defend the political and economic interests of businesses with obfuscation”.

14. The word “must” – as in “The president must do this or that” – would be banned from editorials or other commentary from our own journalists, and we’d strongly discourage it from contributors. It is a hollow verb and only emphasizes powerlessness. If we wanted someone to do something, we’d try persuasion instead, explaining why it’s a good idea and what the consequences will be if the advice is ignored.

Translation: “we’ll encourage people to think for themselves rather than spoon-feed them other people’s agendas”. Probably the bravest item on the list, and – sadly – the one that will lay any venue that adopts it open to being slaughtered by its competition. In a den of liars, honesty is suicide; these rules would be a great manifesto if you were founding a new civilisation on a distant planet, but trying to push them onto the existing media  infrastructure is probably an exercise in futility.

I suspect that if the character of media is going to change, it will do so because the bulk of those of us who consume it start making it as well… and even if that happens, there’s no guarantee that everyone’s going to share the same ideas about how it should be done.

If you could impose one new rule on journalism, what would it be?


Investigative journalism to make an online come-back?

Paul Raven @ 22-11-2008

Following on from Tom M’s mention of Spot.us, the New York Times has an article on the organisations that may well end up replacing it. Local news websites like VoiceOfSanDiego.org are looking to beat both the current newspaper and web news models by returning to solid original journalism on the matters that matter:

Voice is doing really significant work, driving the agenda on redevelopment and some other areas, putting local politicians and businesses on the hot seat,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I have them come into my classes, and I introduce them as, ‘This is the future of journalism.’ “

The problem being that, currently, online advertising doesn’t provide enough income to run a proper newsroom, even with the lower overheads of the straight-to-web model. But will that always be the case? I’d be a lot more tolerant of internet advertising if I felt I was getting decent content as a result of it.


Tomorrow’s news: Journalism’s future will look like … ?

Tom Marcinko @ 18-11-2008

As Ed Wood said, future events such as these will concern you in the future. With newspapers shriveling up on our breakfast tables, and TV spewing out tabloid and opinion, what’s going to happen to investigative journalism? Reporter-maven DigiDave says:

What we need right now is 10,000 journalism startups. Of these 9,000 will fail, 1,000 will find ways to sustain themselves for a brief period of time, 98 will find mediocre success and financial security and two will come out as new media equivalents to the New York Times…. I don’t know what that organization will look like or who it will be – but that’s what we need and we face some serious challenges along the way.

Dave’s behind Spot.us, a venture in “community-funded reporting.” People submit tips and fund pitches, and the resulting stories can be used by anyone under Creative Commons. About 10 projects are on the boards. A pitch on the after-effects of a year-ago oil spill on San Francisco Bay’s beaches has raised $500 and needs $300 more. Sounds like slow going, but it beats whining about the good old days.

[Story tip: Journerdism]


WIRED autopsies crowdsourcing experiment

Paul Raven @ 16-07-2007

Crowdsourcing is one of the slew of neologisms that the past year or so has thrown up – and like a lot of neologisms, everyone who uses it seems to have a different idea of what it means. WIRED attempted to put theory into practice in the field of ‘citizen journalism’ by crowdsourcing a series of articles on crowdsourcing – very meta. While they got some pretty interesting articles out of it, including an
interview with Douglas Rushkoff in which he writes off the term as a way for corporations to get work done for free
, it didn’t work out to be the bed of roses they had hoped – the dissection of the project is well worth reading.