Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pro-Am Journalism?

Went to the latest Reuters Fellows seminar at Green College today - it was Lucy Hooberman from the BBC talking about participation journalism.
These are some of the points she made
1. Participation is nothing new - think back to the 17th century pamphleteers; Tom Paine etc; the birth of Channel 4 in 1982 was specifically designed so that diverse and minority voices could be heard.
2. After 1990 the range of experimental programming really stopped in C4 (she says). Then there came the rise of the "observational" film which was the precursor to reality TV. She now feels we are at the end of that cycle.
3. 1996 saw the first use of weblog, now in 2007 there are over 60m blogs - however that means that 97 per cent of humans are still blogless before we get carried away.
4. Journalism is adapting to new media - as Arthur Sulzberger put it "I really don't know whether we'll be printing the [New York] Times in five years and you know what, I don't care either."
5. for the 15 principles of blogging
6. She believes that many of the arguments over freedom of speech on things like Comment is Free is because we have lost the understanding of defining the vocabulary of debate. People need to be taught media literacy so that it does not descend in vitriol and slanging matches. Is the role of the mainstream media to mediate the debate?
7 She also asks why are people not engaging with news? And is news consumption the right measure of engagement.
8. She suggests the following blogs to look at: Global Voices, Comment is Free and Berkshire Stringers (I'll work out the links later)
9. Her theory is that participatory is no less journalism - and its unproductive to think that way - there is a different kind of journalism, a different entry point and these are new tools. It could turn into a kind of Pro-Am journalism. In the next five years it will be very interesting to see what happens...

My thoughts on this: I agree, I think it is unproductive the fights between mainstream and the blogosphere. I think there is an issue that mainstream media always tries to neutralise the radical (or put less pejoratively, utilise the radical and therefore take away some of its power). I think there is an issue here over using blogs and UGC in authenticating it - if something does go wrong where does responsibility lie?

One questioner asked does the rise of the blogosphere mean opinion will replace facts? I think the argument can be made that that has happened for years before the blogosphere....and sometimes the blogosphere has acted as a useful check on facts in the mainstream media

Other things to consider: I mean to search out the BBC participation project headed by Adrian Woolard and also the AHRC knowledge transfer project headed by Rowena Goldman to find out more about that.. Also Geostories a trial led by Priya Prakash; Labs, a team project led by Matt Locke and Backstage BBC feeds and API made available to all.

One question she asked was: when did you first recognise spin (the point being that it wasn't New Labour who invented it). I'm struggling to remember when....Was it as a health journo and the DoH putting things out late on Fridays/Christmas Eve? Or before that. I need to think.

UPDATE: Just found this paper on participation media on Richard Sambrook's blog -

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