Journalism 2.0?
March 16, 2009 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Newspapers might be dying, but does it matter? Here's what journalism 2.0 looks like: is crowd-funded news for the masses, ReportingOn is Twitter for journalists, Everyblock is ultra-hyperlocal and Connectifyed tells us it'll analyze our social networks.
posted by nospecialfx (41 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

These appear to mostly not yet exist or depend on networks of journalism 1.0 professionals and / or newsfeeds. How is this an improvement on anything?
posted by dersins at 4:50 PM on March 16, 2009

"When we shift our attention from ’save newspapers’ to ’save society’,
the imperative changes from ‘preserve the current institutions’ to ‘do
whatever works.’ And what works today isn’t the same as what used to
Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable - Clay Shirky
posted by shoesfullofdust at 4:53 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Everyblock definitively exists, and is super cool. Plus, it was created by one of the core developers of Django, using Django, natch.
posted by signal at 4:54 PM on March 16, 2009 covers Washington D.C. with it's own reporters, and sends reporters to American political hotspots. They freely mix news and editorial content.
posted by Pants! at 4:58 PM on March 16, 2009

Who needs newspapers? We can just read the Drudge Report and Techcrunch! Journalistic standards and ethics are overrated.

(snark out of the way.. I subscribe to Everyblock. I like the idea, but it ain't news.)
posted by Nelson at 5:00 PM on March 16, 2009

Sweet, sweet tenderloin...
posted by GuyZero at 5:02 PM on March 16, 2009

Two important examples I would add to this post (among thousands):
posted by UsernameFilter at 5:25 PM on March 16, 2009

Seattle PI newspaper vending machines can easily be "re-purposed" to store VHS tapes, floppy disks, 8-tracks, 8mm "stag" films, cassette tapes, Polaroids, slide rules, and parachute pants.
posted by Tube at 5:48 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

And where are the lawyer-backed Web 2.0 professional journalism organizations performing the watchdog function -- like fighting for the right to publish the Pentagon Papers?

Or is Web 2.0 journalism just "Out my window I see smoke from the leafpile down the street?"
posted by splat at 5:49 PM on March 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

So I guess if I want to see what's going on in the world, my neighborhood, read recipes, find out what my town is up to and keep an eye on politicians, all I have to do is go to 25 different web sites of unknown veracity and financial support--to do the kind of reporting that really matters? And that's an improvement on newspapers how?

NB: I have a vested interest here. But so should everyone else. Sorry to be cranky but as much as I love blogs, TPM-style reporting, etc., I have yet to find anyone doing what a good local newspaper can do. Anywhere.
posted by etaoin at 6:00 PM on March 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

My "local paper" has screwed up my "local town" for years, by obediently regurgitating government press releases, avoiding investigative journalism, unfailingly endorsing the wrong candidate, the wrong issue, the wrong project, turning a blind-eye to local robber-barons bilking the city, rigging public opinion by only printing token dissent on issues.

Can't see how we'll be much worse off when they go under.
posted by RavinDave at 6:16 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

And where are the lawyer-backed Web 2.0 professional journalism organizations performing the watchdog function

Because those professional journalism organizations did such a bang-up job on the two biggest stories of the last 6 years, the leadup to the Iraq war and the collapse of the financial system. If that's the kind of watchdogging you get, good riddance.
posted by Justinian at 6:31 PM on March 16, 2009

Wood_and_Bern got some interesting info from a guy today, we'll follow it up next week when we can save up enough time to take off a morning from working at starbucks

about 2 hours ago from txt
posted by Damn That Television at 6:34 PM on March 16, 2009 [14 favorites]

I'm amused that the internet convinced people to take journalism a step backward. Before newspapers were stories by word of mouth and scrawlings on pieces of parchment. Journalism added editors, grammar, sources, citations. It became a trade. It became a craft, a skill, a talent to be a journalist.

Now with the internet, weaker newspapers are changing format, stronger newspapers are restructuring. This is good. This is not the death of journalism; it's a retooling to fit the changing media.

Bloggers thinking that the death of newspapers altogether is taking us back to word of mouth and scrawlings. Bloggers don't have editors. Bloggers rarely cite. Bloggers are about as biased as you can get. Bloggers are NOT journalists.

Bloggers can absolutely help keep journalism more accountable. Bloggers can absolutely break stories before journalists (because they aren't threatened with slander and libel laws, yet). But bloggers cannot, and will not, ever replace journalism.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 6:34 PM on March 16, 2009 [4 favorites]

Justinian, how about some of the ones they did catch -- Pulitzer Prizes for Investigative Reporting.
posted by splat at 6:41 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Seattle PI newspaper vending machines can easily be 're-purposed' to store VHS tapes, floppy disks, 8-tracks, 8mm 'stag' films, cassette tapes, Polaroids, slide rules, and parachute pants."

When civilization collapses and all our computers are destroyed in The Great Purging, the people with slide rules will control your destiny.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:02 PM on March 16, 2009

I think SeizeTheDay has it, but, I do think that if bloggers end up actually replacing the papers that to succeed and gain wide prominence they will end up adopting the essential journalistic ethos of the papers, but merely publish in a different fashion. Trust is a valuable commodity. Right now the bloggers trade on the trust of more established journalistic sources and for the most part repackage and provide additional analysis. When there is nothing to repackage except other bloggers then the rise of trusted blogger sourcing will come, I hope.
posted by caddis at 7:02 PM on March 16, 2009

It is just plain silly to blame the papers about the Iraq war...what was known to the public was zilch. What was known to the papers was the same thing. Now it might be nice to have some intrepid Clark Kent get behind the secrecy and reveal things, but that sort of Sy Hersh stuff is not going to come out of reporters working day by day. As for the financial meltdown, if our govt folks did not know, if our financial experts and most economists did not anticipate, why assume reporters would be aware of it? You can count on a few fingers on one hand those who warned about it months ago and they were not associated with papers or magazines or tv shows.
posted by Postroad at 7:18 PM on March 16, 2009

Am I the only one who thinks these Web 2.0-ish names are douche-ish?
posted by kldickson at 7:20 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Whoa, I overused the -ish suffix. That's douchey in itself.
posted by kldickson at 7:20 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

From - Help fund this story. Pitch - "Oakland streets face dire future without change". $370 raised, $230 to go.

Um, no thanks. I'd prefer an editor with a discretionary budget works out what stories to fund (by hiring journalists and giving them assignments). I simply don't have time to monitor my favourite news org on a daily basis, giving them the "yea" or "nay" on what stories to go after and then give them some cash every time I say "yea".

I mean, it's kind of a neat idea, but I can't help but notice that is obsessively local. I really can't see how this is going to scale.

Help fund this story. Pitch - "Hurricane devastates populated centre - on the spot reports from the scenes of devastation. $12000 raised, $32000 to go.
posted by awfurby at 7:21 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

splat: Browsing through those winners, it looks like a case of "but aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?". Yes, exposing the crappy toys that China sends us, or that story about the governor's affair with a 14 year old girl are good journalism. But when you completely blow the stories that lead directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the destruction of the cradle of civilization, or the story about the downfall of the entire modern financial and economic systes, well, I guess I'm just not all that impressed with stories about a former governor having an affair with a 14 year old by comparison.

It's not enough to do some good stories; you have to do the important ones as well if you're to be of any use to society as journalists.
posted by Justinian at 7:40 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because those professional journalism organizations did such a bang-up job on the two biggest stories of the last 6 years, the leadup to the Iraq war and the collapse of the financial system. If that's the kind of watchdogging you get, good riddance.

Yeah, but on the financial markets front, I'm not quite sure that's true.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 7:42 PM on March 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

One slight admonition: the Pulitzer prize list is a hard comparison for big story journalism, Pulitzer stories usually are those that influence government legislation, so often they can be grand and tightly focussed one offs and not of the scale of say, the financial meltdown or the bungling of Hurricane Katrina.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 7:55 PM on March 16, 2009

Hey, thanks for mentioning EveryBlock here. I run the site and wanted to point something out to address some of the slightly skeptical sentiment in a couple of the comments. While it's true that we (and none of the other examples mentioned) aren't full replacements for local newspapers, I would argue that we're not only doing important local journalism, we're doing local journalism that newspapers haven't *ever* been doing, and inventing an entirely new thing in the process.

This isn't necessarily obvious as you browse our site, but we do a significant amount of work in analyzing availability of local public records, pestering governments to make their data open (through FOIAs, etc.), and doing original research in putting obscure government lingo into terms people can understand. I'd bet your local newspaper isn't trying to do *any* of this stuff at our scale. (How do I know? Because the government people we talk to are consistently blown away by the craziness of our requests! Reporters file one-time FOIAs; we ask for government APIs.) 98% of traditional news organizations just don't think that way.

Before EveryBlock, I worked at three newspapers (most recently the Washington Post), and I know many people in the news industry. I can tell you that many mainstream news people very much want to do something like EveryBlock (and Spot.Us, and some of the other examples given here) -- they just don't have the technical resources, or *any* extra resources, for that matter. Would a hotshot Web developer really want to work for a newspaper, making maybe half as much what he/she could make at a tech company? That's a key problem. Some of the bigger/better papers are realizing that -- LA Times, NY Times -- but it's not happening as fast as it should.

Anyway, one thing that's clear is that the future of news is a merry mix of diverse sources, each focusing on a niche, whether it's EveryBlock's "news feed for your block" angle, ProPublica's fantastic public-interest investigations or many, many other angles and models. It's gonna be great.
posted by adrian_h at 8:07 PM on March 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

Whoop, I'm lame -- "none of the other examples" should be "some of the other examples." Didn't catch that on preview.
posted by adrian_h at 8:10 PM on March 16, 2009

But bloggers cannot, and will not, ever replace journalism.

What's a blogger? What's a journalist? What about in 5 years? In 20?
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:25 PM on March 16, 2009

What's a journalist? It's what reporters became after they figured out that analysis is easier and more fun than reporting.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:05 PM on March 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

Justinian, do you actually believe anyone could prove there were no weapons of mass destruction if the govt. was determined to press forward? Do you really think there would have been an Iraqi blogger somewhere in Saddam Hussein's entourage willing to blow the whistle that he was just blowing smoke?

Will you also expect bloggers to meet your standards of catching all malfeasance or they're no good? How will you know what malfeasance they're not reporting?

You're gonna love the perps that are gonna thrive where there's nobody credible, powerful and lawyered to take your story to. And if you're gonna take on the job of blowing the whistle on the governor... just watch your back.
posted by splat at 9:27 PM on March 16, 2009

Who needs old media? Meanwhile, in other news, the vast majority of Technorati's most linked to list is old media.

The glaring exception is YouTube, a substantial chunk of which is clips made and paid for by... old media.

Old media has had to contend with the realities of cost cutting that have forced down quality and levels of original reporting and gifted new media the chance to say that they're not so different. But new media will have to establish what separates them from everyone else exploiting the low barriers to entry to becoming an online "news" or "comment" site.

And guess what? It'll be original, paid for, trustworthy, premium content.

The difference in the model is not that a disparate bunch of amateurs will twitter their way to a Pulitzer Prize. Just as film stars and the paparrazzi have moved from a contract to a freelance/royalty model, so will journalists. Or stories.

Expect to see - or not see - the riskiest and most difficult investigative stories disappear because there is less consumer appetite, a limited market and frankly almost no-one who will be willing to spend that much time working on a story with no set purchaser and whose value can be leveraged by hundreds of others at the click of a mouse.

No, the world doesn't end when a newspaper goes online, or cuts its staff again, or makes a backroom cost-cutting decision to stop doing something that made the paper better. Sand timers don't run out of sand immediately either.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:18 AM on March 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Organic truly local hyperlocal does what is too small for the regular media but what is of daily interest to local citizens. I publish such a site and see how every community could benefit from the connectivity.
posted by john m at 6:41 AM on March 17, 2009

I still prefer doing the crossword in the paper edition.
posted by thivaia at 8:03 AM on March 17, 2009

Expect to see - or not see - the riskiest and most difficult investigative stories disappear

Also the most boring, routine municipal and state stories that are nevertheless the only independent window for a regular citizen into the actions of government. Coming from a journalism family and background, I can think of a bunch of important, consequential, yet somewhat procedural and boring stories right off the top of my head that would never make it in an underfunded, scattershot new media tapestry.

At least half of the news problem is widespread civic illiteracy among the public, as recent MeFi threads are teaching me.

We are so fucked.
posted by Miko at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Shirky's "newspapers and the unthinkable" really captures the importance of all these experimental forms of web based journalism:

"Imagine, in 1996, asking some net-savvy soul to expound on the potential of craigslist, then a year old and not yet incorporated. The answer you’d almost certainly have gotten would be extrapolation: “Mailing lists can be powerful tools”, “Social effects are intertwining with digital networks”, blah blah blah. What no one would have told you, could have told you, was what actually happened: craiglist became a critical piece of infrastructure. Not the idea of craigslist, or the business model, or even the software driving it. Craigslist itself spread to cover hundreds of cities and has become a part of public consciousness about what is now possible. Experiments are only revealed in retrospect to be turning points.

In craigslist’s gradual shift from ‘interesting if minor’ to ‘essential and transformative’, there is one possible answer to the question “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did, as octavo volumes did."
posted by thisisdrew at 8:53 AM on March 17, 2009

We are so fucked.

We are so NOT.

Our local blogs here in Seattle are attending civic meetings, and when they're not they watching them streaming online. Right now Seattle's best city beat reporter works for one of the weeklies.

Our transit blogs are going to these meetings and analyzing docs. Ditto our local political blogs. It's just a small leap for the community groups to do the same thing.

The idea that when the papers go away the politicians will play is laughable. People will step up, because it's important. It just means we need to strengthen the FOIA and Sunshine Laws.

The next ten years will be hell on journalism, but I'm very optimistic on what's to come. Now we will stop relying on papers to be our quasi-watchdogs. Now being an informed democracy will mean personal responsibility.

Honestly, Miko, YOU are the future of journalism, if you're willing to accept it. That alone makes me optimistic.
posted by dw at 8:57 AM on March 17, 2009

Adrian, thanks for your comments explaining your goals with EveryBlock. Thanks for EveryBlock itself, and Django for that matter. Since I was one of the skeptics about EveryBlock let me flesh out what I meant by "it ain't news". Sorry for the drive-by dismissal, it was disrespectful to the good work you and the rest of the EveryBlock crew have been doing.

I totally agree with you that we have a powerful new capability, the combination of public data with serious information processing capability. We've seen many interesting examples: EveryBlock, Proposition 8 donor lists, Google Earth, etc. I'm hoping Lessig's new push around political corruption will be the nucleus for good stuff, too.

But all of these efforts are too focussed on data, and not enough on analysis. Data is valuable and necessary for journalism, but so is editorial interpretation. Some person needs to read the data and turn it into a story. And someone needs to look at the data patterns and figure out what other data needs to be ferreted out, and produced.

Specifically to Everyblock, I subscribe to the feeds for my neighbourhood. It's awesome, but it's overwhelming data without enough story. Particularly the police blotter: every day I get a new list of 20-30 petty events that happened within a couple of blocks to me. Noise disturbances, parking citations, requests for cops to drive by. But what I can't find in a simple scan is whether something that actually matters happened in my neighbourhood. EveryBlock can help fix this with a pure data approach by allowing users to filter serious events from trivial ones, but then that's only going to catch the fact that an assault happened and not whether it was a public menace that should concern me, or part of a pattern, or someone I know.

I think data approaches like EveryBlock will be very valuable, but only when paired with actual journalists who read the data and extract meaning from it. The problem still remains, who will actually fund that journalism. And I don't think the Internet or computer technology is going to help.

PS: I find it fascinating that EveryBlock is funded by a Knight Foundation grant. Congratulations, and here's hoping Knight's leadership will help journalists find their way in the post-print era.
posted by Nelson at 8:58 AM on March 17, 2009

Honestly, Miko, YOU are the future of journalism, if you're willing to accept it.

No, I'm the past of journalism. It put me through college. My experience in the field is one of the reasons I have such strong opinions about this. Blogs can do a wonderful job at some things, but we're just losing a tremendous amount in comprehensivene coverage and blogs will never generate enough revenue to finance enough aggregation and analysis. I am hopeful that there will be a solution for comprehensive news coverage, but blogs are not it, especially not outside of areas of major population density.
posted by Miko at 2:18 PM on March 17, 2009

Miko, I suspect you're right if we're talking blogs ca. 2009. But blogs today do not look like blogs from 5 years ago, and I imagine blogs in 5 years will not be what we're used to now.

Blogs are currently the best we've got for replacing traditional journalism and newspapers, and I imagine they'll provide the grounding for whatever comes next. Current blog activity is surely insufficient; I see the question as how can we make them sufficient?
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:51 PM on March 17, 2009

I have an ever bigger question - how can we develop a system for comprehensive local to national independent news coverage in a wide range of content areas that serves the public interest?

I'm not married to blogs as the solution and I think it's shortsighted to envision them as the solution, when there are other, perhaps better, non-blog models out there also getting started. Blogs have been around longer than almost anything else on the internet and their limitations show. They are still generally relying on an ad-sales-revenue model that is already dropping precipitously and is not going to be sustainable, as more and more marketeers gradually figure out they aren't making any money by advertising on other people's websites.

It's the revenue problem that needs to be solved first - how do you fund the activities that underlie the news? - not the format problem. You can print the news on a gum wrapper if you have the resources to gather it.
posted by Miko at 3:58 PM on March 17, 2009

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