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Journalism that Matters Begins

From 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2007:

Chris Peck editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal is on the stage right now for our Journalism that Matters prelude session: “The State of Citizen Media Update.”JTMDC07 015.jpg

Here are my rough note, my paraphrasing of what was said, my blogging on the fly. CSPAN is taping it. So it should be on TV soon.

Audience is coming up with questions: What new skill sets do our journalism students need? How does an online site make enough revenue to main journalism? Do we want the community to be able to vote some journalist off the island? What is the best way to ensure accuracy, fairness, balance? Does the general public know what is going on, if not, how do we get them involved? How are young people involved in citizen journalism? Crowdsourcing requires a crowd, how to do it working in differing communities from New York to Montana? How does citizen journalism compete with monolith’s like Google?

So the audience asked their questions, now the answers.

Faye Anderson speaks about a code of conduct. She thinks a code of conduct is a bad idea. Idea of citizen journalism is that there is no arbitrary set of rules.

She now has a question for Jay Rosen: Has the mainstream media gotten too close to the powers that be?

Jay Rosen: I start with idea that if more people participated in the press, the press would be better off. The people have the power to own the public life. There are bloggers of all kinds from partisans to objective, but all believed the people should participate. Readers are now writers, every citizen is a political actor.

Jay question for Merill Brown chair of NowPublic: You have thousands of correspondents from around the world and you have $10 million. What are you assuming all the people can do, what is the capacity of the citizen journalists, when you have money to spend on citizen journalism?

Merrill: We have to create great tools, we need offices to work nearby our contributors, will not just be a vehicle for them, but will provide cameras or training or a thoughtful citizen journalism, maybe pay them. We haven’t figured out much about it all. We are making it up as we go on. We are lucky enough to have some money to make this happen. It is not about office space or high priced employees; it is about empowering people all around the world.

To Dan Gillmor: Are we in a good place right now with the citizen journalism?

Gillmor: On balance we are seeing progress, there are literally thousands of experiments going on. Most of them will fail, but also keep in mind that the cost of experimenting with new products, new ideas is almost down to zero. There will be widely distributed experimenting. Most things fail, but some don’t. The barrier between trying an idea is almost invisible. The big idea is keeping track. How do keep thoroughness, transparency, fairness etc. Then if we add real media literacy, I think we will get this right. I am enormously optimistic..

Question to Peggy Kuhr: What have you learned from citizen journalism training you have done?

Peggy Kuhr: Worked with all kinds of citizens were interested in journalism. People loved it. All had an interest in what was going around them and what journalism is about. Interested in photojournalism, and they wanted more homework assignments. They liked the critiquing of their work. Some wanted edits to their copy.

Cody Howard is doing the journalism every day, has trained journalists. What have you learned from your experiences?

Have about 40 journalists in their five week course. What is the expertise that the citizens have that our journalists don’t have. We were surprised by the level interest immediately. Some 200 people got applied. Some of them have taken it on as a freelance. People craved homework, feedback and what to participate. How do you bring all the people together and reign in their interest. Maybe they are not sure how to contribute. How to become part of the conversation.

Jay Rosen: I am trying to figure out if there is an open system. An open platform, meaning thousands of people working on one story. In thousands of people signed up. The internet today is allowing like-minded people to find each other and share information. Allows lots people to be involved in information production. At the same time as we have the old system learning to be more participatory, we have the new system trying to be more journalistic. People want to participate, they don’t necessarily to know how. If you can design a project that meets people needs and time, you can succeed. We don’t know if these open methods can work. I am not trying to reproduce traditional journalism. I am trying to get far beyond that. Americans do not believe that journalism ever belonged to the people. Last 10 or 15 years, press has shifted location. Part owned by the press, part by citizens and then other actors like nonprofits. The press was 85 percent by professionals in the industry. Now it’s maybe 45 percent. What will make a better journalism a shared press or one owned by just by the press?

Question for Jan Schaffer: You were a traditional journalist and now you are on a journey to citizen participation? What item of professionalism did you have to change your mind about or abandon?

It is not about abandoning. It is adding. In the past, there was no aspirations to get involved with the public. A lot of journalism is broken. The conventions get in the way of good journalism. Citizens for example do not frame things in terms of conflict, like traditional journalists do. Last election I got more information from op-ed columns than I did from the news side of the press. We are trying to save legacy journalism. Instead we need more participation. We need to pay attention to equilibrium, the participants have to get something back from their production.

Merrill Brown: We will make it easy to upload photos, to make connections to other people in the network, to get press passes to events or simple civic meeting. Making it easier to do task that journalism in the past have provided obstacles. If a paper fails in your town, will it matter?

Jay Rosen: If some failed that might be positive, because something would replace them

Shaffer: A lot of regional news organizations will not survive. But others will arise to fill the information gap. A lot of them will have journalism like values. Accuracy, objectivity, transparency….it is not rocket science.

Rosen: Some of the bad newspapers deserve to die. The need for information comes from human curiosity and shared problems.

Faye Anderson : In the 2004 election saw a headline: Low black turnout responsible for democratic loses….I worked with lots of voter empowerment groups..I knew what happened on the ground. I saw that headline, and I am wondering where are they getting this information. The journalists got it wrong, we organized a media briefing , to tell our side of the story. Today the last thing would be to have a media briefing. Now we can tell the story that the mainstream got it wrong.

Dan Gillmor: Lots of changes. Gannett is a leader in making this

Rosen: It was a great business for 80 years; it had a good run.

Clyde Bentley: Are we trying to save the journalism or the industry?

Schaffer: The entities are in danger, but the final product is being produced by a can do mindset.

Rosen: We would not try to hold on to newspapers, but I do think we need news organization that endure and equip people to do great journalism.

He is on the board. Eight days we have $10 million dollars in venture capital.

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