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Re-imagining Journalism 2.0 November 14, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Journalism, MIT5, News, Reviews, Social Media, Trends.
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It is time to re-imagine journalism now that the Web and affordable digital media tools have empowered anyone to decide what’s news, to report it and deliver it. There are many opportunities in the concept of a “news info-structure” for people who want to commit random acts of journalism.

Alternative channels of information cannot be dismissed. Jan Schafer, Executive Director of J-Lab at the University of Maryland and a leading thinker in the journalism reform movement asserts that the new core mission for journalism is one in which news will become less of a concrete deliverable.

Indeed, it is time to revisit journalistic practices to decide what to discard and what to keep so that journalism is repositioned in our communities to include all voices. Take a look at these innovative recent models:

Placeblogger.com, a portal that aggregates and researches community news and commentary sites. GlobalVoicesOnline.org, curates, translates and aggregates news from under-represented communities from more than 200 countries.

BlogHer.org, a portal that indexes news and information from 10,500 blogs, mostly by women. And just all of two-weeks old, SCOOP08, a new kind of Web newspaper by students for students covering the 2008 US Presidential elections.


SCOOP08 Video Contest trailer

The new News is not about requiring a conflict before information is decreed a “story.” It is not about parroting quotes because someone important said them, nor reporting lies, because high officials said them.

“Journalism needs to be re-imagined beyond stories or packages of stories occupying some form of real estate online or on the printed page – and become more of an ongoing process of imparting and learning about information,” says Schafer.

“This new mission requires journalists to embrace new partners, validate supplemental news channels, and support -without always controlling – a vibrant local newscape. “Denouncing these alternative channels of information as not ‘real journalism’ will no longer work.”

That mission calls for building an overarching local ‘info-structure,’ one created to support new definitions of ‘news,’ new participants in content creation and interaction, and new pathways for news and information.

News organizations need to construct the hub that will enable ordinary people with passions and expertise to commit acts of news and information.

JAN SCHAFER, Executive Director, J-Lab

Professional journalists can add value by focusing their expertise and skills on doing investigations, identifying trends, building databases, holding public officials accountable and articulating the master narratives in their communities.

News orgs need to think beyond employing journalists, too. Here are some of the roles Schaffer sees expanding:

Can do-ers “instead of those who whine about what they can’t do.”

Computer programmers to build searchable databases or news games.

Collaborators with “the sensibility to see the possibilities of working together instead of moving into kneejerk competitor mode.”

News analysts to “trawl incoming information looking for Big-J opportunities.”

Tribe expanders: “Journalism in the future will come from many places. We should contribute to the momentum of the best and most responsible efforts and recruit them for the info-structure.

One take-away lesson is information design. Consider doing “charticles” for simple updates. Tell what happened, what’s at stake, what’s next – and put it in a box. Link to a timeline with background on your Web site. If readers need it, they will find it.

While citizen journalism may be a new form of volunteerism, Schafer notes that there should be a balance between the giving and the getting, in these initiatives. “People contribute for a reason – either because of a personal passion, to effect change, to learn something, or even to get smarter about technology.”

The new News can make room for citizen journalists, student journalists, think tanks, nonprofits, individual bloggers and advocacy groups in the community who are paying attention to what’s going on.

For instance, “Crisis Guides” offers a comprehensive examination of international crisis zones and TechPresident.com tracks online activities of presidential candidates. These resources deserve to be supported with space, attention and even small grants to encourage them to contribute to the info-structure.

For example, residents of Deerfield, N.H. created their own paper when they had no available media. The Forum is now an online newspaper with 220 contributors who produce about 40 original stories a week.

Other examples: NewHavenIndependent.org and the Twin Cities Daily Planet have attracted support from community foundations that traditionally look to build community capacity.

Related Reads:
Construct Your Community’s Info-Structure by Jan Schafer
Impact of the Internet on Teaching and Practicing Journalism by Joanne Teoh
Be a Better Journalist by Unlearning What You Know by Robert Niles

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