‘Let’s stop being patronising and talk about distributed journalism’ – notes from #newsrw
On Friday, practitioners, editors and future thinkers in journalism came together to talk about niche websites and the next steps for online at the News:Rewired conference.
I went along to the day and participated in a panel entitled ‘What’s next for niche’ and there have been some great write-ups from the day’s sessions already. Here are a few:
- Marc Reeves has posted his excellent Keynote speech on his blog here
- David Higgerson has posted ‘Newsroom meet the advertising team’ following Marc Reeve’s talk, ‘Forget the tools it’s all about original content’ from Peter Bale’s morning keynote, and ‘Does social media prove that big isn’t beautiful’
- Philip Trippenbach has posted on the session on paywalls- with particular interest in what Tom Whitwell, the assistant editor of the Times, had to say
- Adam Tinworth documented the session I was in here and Caroline Beavon got a quick video vox with me which pretty much sums up what I said
I arrived just in time to catch the session on ‘Building User-driven projects’ and listened to short talks from Chris Taggart from Openly Local and Paul Bradshaw from Help Me Investigate and Birmingham City University.
I found this session immensely satisfying – there’s an awful lot we can learn from Taggart and Bradshaw who both seem to talk absolute sense when it comes to community engagement online and what big media can learn from those pushing the boundaries in open source and open data projects online.
Chris Taggart said one thing newspapers are not doing is ‘having a conversation’. This isn’t just about putting a lot of content out via social media – he’s talking about allowing users to drive the content – offering it up to them and admitting that some users will know more on a certain topic than they do – constantly asking readers ‘what do you think’.
Paul Bradshaw said we need to get rid of this patronising term ‘citizen journalism’ and start thinking about distributed journalism. He spoke about the crowd-sourced platform for investigative journalism Help Me Investigate and said paying people for their contributions to investigations would just be insulting.
The way to encourage shared or networked journalism, Paul said, is leading by example – getting stuck in and contributing yourself will encourage others to do the same. He cited the Guardian’s datastore as an example (blog on it here). The main point from his talk (slideshare.net/onlinejournalist) was building a user-driven project is not about asking people to do things for free – it’s about sharing your content and providing a platform which allows people to do what they want to do with it. Here’s his slideshow:
Chris said we need to be treating comments with respect – people have taken time out to craft something to contribute – and comments should not just be treated as free content but taken seriously. He also said he is yet to see a workable local business model.
For me, this session hit the nail on the head for how journalists should be thinking about data, users and building online networks – the approach must be one which is not about superficially engaging with readers in the hope that some free labour will free up some time – it’s about realising working together on equal footing will create better content, increase civic engagement and essentially enrich democracy.
As we were winding down from News:rewired with some well-earned beverages, I was drawn into a time-old conversation about what separates the journalist from the blogger/”citizen journalist”. For me this is now a severely antiquated argument which simply needs to stop. Those still hung up about sorting the ‘professionals’ from the ‘amateurs’ need to seriously think about their future in journalism – because there needs to be an attitudinal shift from singular news-agenda-driven content to understanding the value of collaboration and community driven projects.