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June 30 2013

20:31

There are no journalists

There are no journalists, there is only the service of journalism.

Yes, I know that in condensed form, that may sound like a parodic tweet. But please consider the idea.

scrivener

Thanks to the Snowden-Greenwald NSA story, we are headed into another spate of debate about who is and isn’t a journalist. I’ve long said it’s the wrong question now that anyone can perform an act of journalism: a witness sharing news directly with the world; an expert explaining news without need of gatekeepers; a whistleblower opening up documents to sunlight; anyone informing everyone. It’s the wrong question when we reconsider journalism not as the manufacture of content but instead as a service whose goal is an informed public.

Why must we define a journalist? Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan felt compelled to because the newspaper took it upon itself to decide who may wear the cloak, because of debates about Glenn Greenwald as an advocate, and because of questions of law. Her wise and compelling conclusion: “A real journalist is one who understands, at a cellular level, and doesn’t shy away from, the adversarial relationship between government and press – the very tension that America’s founders had in mind with the First Amendment.” Sadly, we don’t often see that definition of journalism played out from TV or the Beltway or especially the overlap of the two.

John McQuaid felt the need to ask why Greenwald is driving other journalists crazy. He concludes that asking who is (and isn’t) a journalist is often “a prelude to delegitimizing their work and what they have to say. It quickly devolves to tribalism.” Read: journalists v. bloggers. Sigh.

God help us, Dick Durbin felt empowered to propose that legislators should decide who is (and isn’t) a journalist, though in truth they already are when it comes to deciding who is protected by shield laws. But I certainly don’t want government licensing (or unlicensing) journalists.

All that discussion in just a few days. All that rehashing a question that has been asked and not answered — or answered all too often and in too many ways — for years. Enough.

Journalism is not content. It is not a noun. It need not be a profession or an industry. It is not the province of a guild. It is not a scarcity to be controlled. It no longer happens in newsrooms. It is no longer confined to narrative form.

So then what the hell is journalism?

It is a service. It is a service whose end, again, is an informed public. For my entrepreneurial journalism students, I give them a broad umbrella of a definition: Journalism helps communities organize their knowledge so they can better organize themselves.

Thus anything that reliably serves the end of an informed community is journalism. Anyone can help do that. The true journalist should want anyone to join the task. That, in the end, is why I wrote Public Parts: because I celebrate the value that rises from publicness, from the ability of anyone to share what he or she knows with everyone and the ethic that says sharing is a generous and social act and transparency should be the default for our institutions.

Is there a role for people to help in that process? Absolutely. I say that organizations can first help enable the flow and collection of information, which can now occur without them, by offering platforms for communities to share what they know. Next, I say that someone is often needed to add value to that process by:
* asking the questions that are not answered in the flow,
* verifying facts,
* debunking rumors,
* adding context, explanation, and background,
* providing functionality that enables sharing,
* organizing efforts to collaborate by communities, witnesses, experts.

So am I just rebuilding the job description of the journalist? I’m coming to see that perhaps we shouldn’t call it that, for it’s clear that the word “journalist” brings a few centuries’ baggage and a fight for who controls it. These functions — and others — need not come from one kind of person or organization.

Well but what about the legal question? Shouldn’t we at least have a definition of journalist so we know who is protected by a shield law? No. For that also defines others who are not protected. Those others are sometimes called whistleblowers and instead of protecting them, our government is at war with them and what they share: information, information about our government, information about us, information that will help us better organize ourselves as a free society.

No, we should be discussing this question — like others today — as a matter of principle: protecting not a person with a job description and a desk and a paycheck but instead protecting the ideals of a transparent government and an informed society as necessary conditions of democracy.

I’m speaking next week before the third World Journalism Education Congress. I was planning to ask them to challenge our industrial age assumptions about the relationships, forms, and business models of news and to reconsider what and how we teach journalism. I was also planning to suggest that if they call their programs “mass communication,” they should change that, since the title itself is an insult to the public we serve. For as Jay Rosen taught me long ago, sociologist Raymond Williams said: “There are in fact no masses; there are only ways to see people as masses.” No more.

Now I’m wondering whether we should discuss the idea that we’re not journalists. Even trying to define a journalist — to fence in the functions and value of the role to a particular job description — is limiting and ultimately defeats the greater purpose of informing society.

So what are we? We are servants of an informed society. We always have been.

August 14 2012

15:38

September 03 2011

12:13

Is journalism as we know it becoming obsolete? - No. (Shortest possible answer)

GigaOM :: In a blog post on Friday, Winer argued that “journalism itself is becoming obsolete” because now anyone can do it. Is he right? In some ways, yes. One thing is for sure: Journalism is being transformed by the web and by real-time publishing networks and what Om calls the democracy of distribution.” Whether that’s good or bad depends on your point of view.

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

October 27 2010

12:27

Games Designers and Journalists exploring new narratives.

Presenting Ideas

Presenting Ideas

Meld ‘upped sticks’  to London for its latest foray into new forms of cross platform narrative.  Coinciding with the London launch of Sandbox, UCLan’s creative and digital industries centre at the British Film Institute, journalists invited from the BBC, the Independent, the Guardian, SKY News, Johnston Press, Haymarket Media were joined by Skillset and the Broadcast Journalism Training Council to work with professional games designers and students from UCLan’s MA Games Design programme.

The aim of the day – to collaborate and develop a new game on the theme of ‘democracy’. The cross disciplinary teams were given a basic structure to work within. As well as making sure the end result was compelling, simple and innovative the games needed to:

  • demonstrate cause and effect (results from actions)
  • build/create a user community,
  • grow and develop with that community,
  • respond to users not direct them,
  • be social, inclusive and free.

The Sandbox team were on hand leading the newly formed groups through a series of exercises designed to foster creative collaboration. Four teams each produced a game concept and pitched it to their peers before assessing its viability and desirability.

One of the teams at work

One of the teams at work

Paul Egglestone, who set the project up, said: “What’s really interesting about a process like this is the very different approaches both Journalists and games creators take to narrative. Journalists think of themselves as ‘storytellers’ – as do games creators – but their priorities are very different. Gamers want to build a great game. A decent story provides the vehicle for the game whilst the focus is firmly on the gaming experience. Journalists don’t generally focus on the user experience – they concentrate on telling the story.”

This is the latest chapter in an ongoing project that draws together senior editorial personnel from the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Haymarket Media, Nokia research as well as freelancers, Indies and sector skills representatives. They’re all committed to working out where the future of journalism lies and to explore new ways of telling stories on digital platforms.

Developing ideas

Developing ideas

Andy Dickinson is leading the project for the School of Journalism, Media and Communication. He recognises the value of this contribution from working journalists taking time away from the cut and thrust of the day-to-day news cycle to collaborate across print, broadcast and online to determine the skills future journalists will need. He says: “The project is at a really exciting stage. We’ve already used the Sandbox method to develop three new MA level modules aimed directly at working journalists. The new digital journalism masters will survey the digital landscape and offer a range of intellectual, creative and digital or technical skills that our ever growing industry panel tell us they’ll be looking for in future.”

This part of the process isn’t due to finish until January 2011 but the first of the new digital modules are ready for delivery online and the School of Journalism, Media and Communication will be recruiting from September this year.

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October 14 2010

16:05

Hacks and Hackers hack day Manchester

Any sufficiently complicated regular expression is indistinguishable from magic

A bit of a nod to Arthur C.Clarke there but something that hits home every time I do any hacking around under the bonnet of the interwebs.

When it comes to this data journalism malarky some might say (to steal another movie quote) a mans got to know his limitations. But I firmly believe a good journalist, when stuck, knows who to ask. I’m very excited that more and more journos are realising that there are no end of tools and motivated people who can be part of the storytelling process.

So I was delighted to be asked to be one of the judges for ScraperWiki’s hacks and hackers hack day in Manchester tomorrow and see that in action.

The event just one of a number of similar days around the UK.  The successes in Birmingham and Liverpool amongst others, mean that tomorrow should be fun.

If your going, see you there (later on). If not I’ll tweet etc. as I can.

September 28 2010

08:54

September 20 2010

19:14

July 09 2010

01:59

Journalism Jobs : How to Become a Journalist

Becoming a journalist can begin the world of radio as a disc jockey and evolve into writing for newspapers. Distribute resumes to become a journalist with tips from an award-winning journalist in this free video on journalism. Expert: Bruce Edwards Contact: www.rutlandherald.com Bio: Bruce Edwards is an award-winning journalist with the Rutland (Vermont) Daily Herald. Filmmaker: Rich Alcott

DISCOUNTS: www.theyoungturks.com FREE Month Of Movies(!): www.netflix.com New TYT Facebook Page(!): www.facebook.com Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com TYT Network (new WTF?! channel): www.youtube.com Check Out TYT Interviews www.youtube.com Watch more at www.theyoungturks.com
Video Rating: 4 / 5

March 22 2010

16:46

NUJ’s Journalist magazine gets a makeover

The National Union of Journalists magazine, has had its first proper redesign for 17 years, under new editor Christine Buckley. The Journalist worked with designers SurgeryCreations to make the publication more “modern, attractive, informative and engaging,” she said.

And from the electronic version we’ve seen, we think it looks rather nice with some good content, including pieces by former Times media editor Dan Sabbagh and former Guardian journalist David Hencke. “We’re keen that the publication produced for the journalists’ union is of the highest standard, since our audience of  media professionals expects a professional magazine,” said Buckley, in a release.

“I’ve sought to make the new magazine reflective of the diverse, active union that the NUJ is, and I intend that it should echo the voices of our members from across the union.”

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February 01 2010

17:10

Skillwalls not paywalls

Fern Growing from Brick Wall
Image by pigpogm via Flickr

Tomorrow I’m off to Skillset to talk about their new standards framework for journalism. I’m looking forward to the chat around what skills journalists need and not just because I’m involved in delivering this stuff to our future journalists. What I’m equally interested in is what skills the industry think they need (the framework has been created in consultation with industry and accreditation bodies) as it says a lot about what they think a journalist actually is – what defines the job.

It’s been something on my mind since the newsrewired conference a few weeks ago when the vexed debate of identity reared its head. That debate is best paraphrased as “grumblings on why people can’t be called a journalist” and left at that.

But the skillset visit and a chat with Francois Nel about onions and data, pushed it to the front of my thinking again.

The best way I can sum-up where that thinking has got me is Skillwalls.

A skillwall is the best way I have found to balance the argument (in my head) of what sets journalists apart with the issue of what will people pay for.

In terms of the ‘definition’ debate a journalist would be defined by which skills your average punter/blogger/anyone-you-don’t-want-to-call-a-journo does not have or is unwilling to develop. The skillwall is too high or too much effort to climb.

Skillwalls help define the paywall debate for me in terms that are more tangiable. People will pay for stuff that they can’t do themselves. If you have the skills to do that ,they may pay you. Thinking about it as a skill issue works better for me than trying to assess a value proposition.

The web has become a place where people can do things – it enables. The successful sites are those that enable them to do things it would be hard to do otherwise. Things that would take new skills.

Skills Vs. experience or Skills and Experience

This is where it gets difficult for the industry and why I think recent discussions have been so interesting for me. Yes, the knowledge and experience is valuable but is it a skill? Is going to lots of council meetings a skill? Is knowing the PM’s press secretary a skill? Valuable, yes, but a skill? No. Being able to get that stuff online in an interesting way is.

Unless you can do one people won’t see the value of the other.

It’s easy to be dismissive of skills. They can be seen as functional, low level things. But skills enable. Get over the skillwall of data gathering on the web and you can add the value of your knowledge and experience.

Of course a skillwall is not an exclusive or all encompassing barrier. It’s a peculiar new obstacle/challenge that digital has thrown our way. But it’s also a powerful opportunity for journalists to exploit.

So where is your skillwall and what are you going to do to get over it?

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December 09 2009

12:37

The 2012 Journalist: Your future?

Top Journo and  launch editor for Guardian local Sarah Hartley was one of the delegates at our recent Meld event to look at the future skills of journalists (and the world they will be working in). She’s been pondering  the future, how close it is and what others think it will have in store.

This post first appeared on Sarah’s Blog

A journalistic world where personal branding is a lifestyle, managing micro communities is second nature and developing areas of specialist knowledge is essential for survival in what is a freelance work sphere where multiple revenue streams as a sole trader are the norm.

Welcome to the lot of a journalist in 2012!

That’s my personal summary of far more detailed discussions spent considering such things as part of the MELD experience last week.

Held at the futuristic Sandbox at UCLAN, the two-day industry think-tank to consider what skills the journalist of the future might need prompted some interesting dilemmas.

Looking forward such a relatively short amount of time was a tricky experience, not least because the audience who will be old enough to vote in three years time, are one of the first who will be true digital natives.

Today’s teenagers have only ever known mobile phones, games, the internet and on demand services. They are also unlikely to have got the newspaper habit, so how will their experience of the world impact on journalism?

But as we all wrestled with the issues of who will be funding the journalistic endeavour of the future, how organisations will need to change their structures and the skill sets individuals might be faced with, there was one aspect which sparked little controversy – that the next generation journalist is most likely to be a freelance worker.

And for that individual journalist, the future which emerged from our discussions operated in a complex personal ecosphere where some sort of web presence was the essential hub of activity, where earnings could come from sponsorship and affiliate relationships alongside mainstream media commissions for content packages, or access to the special interest networks which they had nurtured and managed.

Contemplating the short-term with some of those who may help shape the future of the industry was a thought-provoking experience  – and wasn’t purely an intellectual exercise.

Some of the input from the sessions will help inform journalism educators about the tools the journalists of the future might need.

I’d be very interested to hear what other journalists think the future might hold – join in with the time travel if you will! What do you think lies in store? Is the scenario detailed above a world which you’d embrace or recoil from? Where do you see the journalist of 2012? Thoughts most welcome.

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November 24 2009

19:13

The New Journalist in the Age of Social Media

I'm at Day 2 of a remarkable two-day conference that is bringing nonprofits, citizen journalism and social media together in ways I've never seen before.

I'm jazzed, hopeful and intrigued by the challenges ahead. The passion in the room is palpable. The 40 people who convened at the Visioning Summit yesterday in San Francisco, and the 30 participants who are steering the program today, consist of some of the most talented and forward-thinking innovators — nonprofit execs, strategists, journalists — that I've come across in recent years.

Above is the presentation I gave at this gathering, organized by a group of nonprofits in a project called the New Media Lab (there's no public presence yet, just a private wiki). And while its focus is squarely on the role that journalist/media producers will play in our project, I've taken the liberty of extrapolating it to the new roles that journalists should be expected to take up in an age of social media if you work for a startup, whether it's for-profit or nonprofit.

Called Doing Good 2.0: The next-generation's impact on communication, media, mobile & civic engagement, it looks at the forces driving Web 2.0 and the next-generation Internet, the role of mobile, the new cultural norms that social media is ushering in, and the role of the New Journalist: how we need to still tell compelling stories about people and causes but how we also need to expand our repertoire in this new arena by wearing multiple hats:

• entrepreneur
• conversation facilitator
• social marketer
• futurist
• metrics & research nerd
• journalist/storyteller

Here are some of the questions we've just begun to tackle:

Should nonprofits create their own media?

What should be the business model for social cause organizations in the future?

How can the media producers funded by this project work with nonprofits to build a sustainable business venture that connects to their core constituencies?

How do you turn passive audiences into engaged communities?

What happens when you bust the silos that keep us from working together across sectors?

I've signed on as a paid advisor to the yearlong project, which will happen largely virtually. The idea is that the alternative, progressive nonprofits — the National Wildlife Federation, National Civic League, Freespeech.tv, Mother Jones and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy — will assign point people to work with producers selected by San Francisco State's Renaissance Journalism Center.

Leveraging free and open source tools

Some of the ingredients that will be sprinkled into the project's secret sauce: use of mobile; an emphasis on social media; use of high-quality video across multiple platforms (Web, cable and broadcast TV); and business plans from Manas Consulting to make it all self-sustaining.

The goal, in a phrase, is to "help non-profit partners find innovative ways to get their members to engage in conversation, volunteer, subscribe, donate and advocate."

The role of the "New Journalist" — which we're calling media producers — in this project is paramount: The producers (who hail from SF Gate, the Miami Herald, an Emmy-winning documentarian and others) will be sitting down this afternoon to map out how to weave a tapestry out of all these moving parts.

"This is a project for those who like to play around, who are comfortable with things shifting fast and often," Jon Funabiki, founder of Renaissance Journalism Center, told the producers.

During my talk I showed off this heart-tugging video from aglimmerofhope.org as a compelling example of storytelling for a cause and showed off a suite of free open source and social media tools and platforms. I also pointed to a few ahead-of-the-curve ideas for partnerships:

ahead-of-curve

Among those in attendance: Funabiki; fellow IdeaLab contributor David Cohn, founder of Spot.us; Jed Alpert, co-founder of MobileCommons; Arthur Charity, author of "Doing Public Journalism"; management consultant Richard Landry; social entrepreneur Ron Williams, and many other smart folks. Jon Schwartz, who runs a string of progressive nonprofits, is funding the project, and Halcyon Liew organized the proceedings.

With a little bit of luck, we'll figure this out. I'll report back on our progress in the months to come.

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