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Knight, WAN: Please Share Knowledge Freely, Immediately

Two books/reports were released this week: News Improved: How America’s Newsrooms Are Learning to Change was backed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the second is Trends in Newsrooms: The Annual Report of the World Editors Forum.

In this blog I want to review process rather than content. The people at the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), which supports the publishing of the Trends in Newsroom report, apparently don’t fully understand that media organizations alone are not going to save journalism. They need audiences and they need the dozens, maybe hundreds, maybe thousands of people like me, who in big and small ways, are trying to save journalism by improving it.

However, if we want to read Trends in Newsrooms, we must pay 169 Euros, which is $226 US just for the PDFs. The content for the report, and this is a good thing, is a distillation of a year’s worth of blogging at the Editors Weblog. At least we saw it along the way, but the logic of an agency, that I would assume wants to save journalism, to keep vital information out of the hands of the public, due to price, is simply not very smart. They should read Eric Von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation. In it he tells how important users are in the innovation process and how some companies provide toolkits so their users can help them develop better products. To me a book of ideas is a toolkit. So why price it out of the users’ reach?

By the way, you can buy von Hippel’s book for $32 at MIT Press or, listen carefully folks at WAN, you can download the PDFs — for free.

Now on to News Improved: How America’s Newsrooms Are Learning to Change by Michele McLellan and Tim Porter. I am in the process of reading a review copy and I will publish the review sometime next week. However, again I want to speak about process. Porter, who writes First Draft, has been a driving force in the newspaper change discussion. But since June of 2006 he has been missing in action while getting this hard copy book together. Why? This book should have been written totally in the open–probably open source. The readers should have gotten a steady stream of his ideas. I mean the man is a walking, talking toolkit.

Recently I attended a speech by Chris Anderson, editor of Wired who wrote The Long Tail. It was written as an open source book vetted on the Internet. I asked him why he chose that route. He said he could not stand spending a year or two keeping ideas to himself while writing a book. Besides, today things move so fast, especially in the news industry, that if one holds on to ideas too long, they become after thoughts.

I am not quite sure of the reasoning behind the nine month Porter First Draft hiatus; after all, Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation, which is all about open source ideas, helped edit the book.

Me? I am thinking of writing a book, and I guarantee it will be open source…unless, of course, I can find someone who will sell the PDFs for $226 a copy.

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