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Representative Journalism: Advancing Journalism One Network at a Time

Tomorrow I will be helping host the Journalism that Matters DC session and probably talking up an idea I have been privately developing for the last few months. I am calling it Representative Journalism.

I was hoping to have a Representative Journalism site up and running at which we all could vet the idea over the next few months; it’s a little late, but will be coming soon. Here is the kernel of the idea which I will be freely revealing in much greater detail in the coming weeks:

Representative Journalism is a term I am coining to mean journalism that represents the interests of well defined, highly engaged groups or networks of people, by providing them high quality news and information that addresses their passions or interests — and for which they are willing to pay. The Representative Journalism blog will provide a how-to approach to build these small interest groups and link them into larger journalism networks.

Representative Journalism is community based, but with community broadly defined, ranging from a community of interests to a geographical community to a socio-economic community. There are no limits to community types. Each will be self defined by its own Representative Journalist and the people who comprise that community. It can be as lofty as a group with a passion for, let’s say, Constitutional Law or as ordinary as a group interested in public service delivery systems including garbage collection and fixing potholes. It can reach out to explain the world’s ecological systems or be as parochial as writing about the life of birds in northwestern Georgia . It can concentrate on the Great Books or romance novels. It could focus on women’s rights or nursing mothers, and yes, of course, there is crossover in many of these issue groups as will be explained as the idea unfolds.

The approach is a radical switch in how journalism is practiced and financed, so the first reaction to it will be expressed via red flags, and that is good. My aim is to anticipate and answer those red flag issues to ensure high quality journalism, that is, in fact, better than the way mainstream journalism is practiced today. Mostly, though, it will be built on the best practices and ethical considerations of traditional mainstream journalism.

I am looking to post my ideas in an open-source context because as I once wrote at Romenesko I believe academics, critics, the industry, journalists and citizens can produce “ideas for the future of journalism that will guarantee its rightful place in a functioning democracy.” I am hoping Representative Journalism will be one new way of conceiving what journalism’s future might be like.

In developing this idea, I started out thinking big. This can be a national movement and indeed it will work best if it were. On the other hand, I am very certain that it can and will be used on a limited basis and might even save some journalism jobs, including, perhaps, yours, or your students’ or your employees’.

I am free revealing my ideas here because I want to do my little part to save journalism. In return I am hoping you, the people who read these ideas, critique them, add to them or present your own. When the new Representative Journalism site is up and running, it will be much more interactive and friendly than what we have here.

In open source software development, someone comes up with an idea for a program. He or she starts writing the program. Then releases early and often each time knowing full well it will have bugs. Then people who want to use the program, report the bugs, while at the same time hackers jump in and write pieces of programming to help fix the bugs. And sometimes the users and hackers are the same people. By the way, in open source programming hackers are the good guys. So that’s what I will be doing I will be talking about bits and pieces of my ideas here and will be putting them more fully on an adjoining wiki. As an open-source developer, you will be able to add your comments or even go to the wiki and make changes to the more developed copy. It will be up to you decide how involved you want to get.

Every few days I will be putting up more materials. The next Representative Journalism post on is own site, hopefully ready in a week or two, will give information on what the financial model might look like.

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