Jon Stewart: What’s black and white and completely over?

Can you commit journalism via Twitter?

Today on Twitter Tips, Jason Preston asks:

“Journalism requires that stories been constructed, facts be tied together, narratives presented, and context created. In short, journalism is the big picture.

“No one would argue that you can get the pig picture in 140 characters. But what about aggregate tweets? One person over a long time, or many people over a large subject?

“Is Twitter a viable, standalone medium for journalism?”

I think this quesion misses the mark regarding the nature of journalism. It confuses the package with the process. That’s understandable, because in the history of mainstream news, journalists and news organizations have often taken a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” approach to revealing their own processes. When all the public sees is the product, it’s easy to assume that’s all there is to journalism.

Here’s the comment I left on his post:

Hmmmm…. I do journalism, and I know a lot of journalists, and I’ve seen what Twitter can do. It seems to me that any medium — from Twitter to broadcast news to smoke signals — has potential journalistic uses.

Journalism is a process, not just a product. For many professional journalists and other people who commit acts of journalism, Twitter is already an important part of their journalistic process (i.e., connecting with communities and sources, and gathering information). And it can also be part of the product (i.e., live coverage of events or breaking news, or updates to ongoing stories or issues)

So yes, Twitter CAN be a real news platform. As well as lots of other things. Just like a newspaper can be the Washington Post, the National Enquirer, or a free shopper’s guide. It all depends on what you choose to make of it.

And also: These days, almost no news medium is “standalone.” Every news org has a web presence, and many have a presence in social media, and also in embeddable media.

…That’s my take. What’s yours? Please comment below — or send a Twitter reply to @agahran

RonRosenbaum.com? NOT! (Or: Stupid domain tricks)

On Friday, Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits published a piece by Ken Sands (Congressional Quarterly’s executive editor for innovation) on a current spat in the journo-sphere: Jarvis on the Death of Print: Gloating, or Practical?

I edit the Tidbits blog. As I was producing that post, I was searching for a good, direct link for Ron Rosenbaum — a journalist and author who recently wrote in Slate that media maven Jeff Jarvis has been gloating over the death of print. I discovered that Rosenbaum blogs for Pajamas Media — and I prefer to link to people’s blogs, so they can speak for themselves.

I noticed something about Rosenbaum’s blog that, in the context of the current rancorous debate he sparked over the fate of traditional journalists, strikes me as somewhat sad.

This screen grab says it all:

RonRosenbaum.com: It's just a title. It doesn't really work right now.

RonRosenbaum.com: It's just a blog title, not a domain. Really.

The name of Rosenbaum’s blog appears to be a domain: RonRosenbaum.com. But it isn’t — that’s just the name of his blog. Even worse: The domain RonRosenbaum.com currently doesn’t resolve to any site.

This reflects a discouraging level of online-media cluenessness that is so common in the mainstream media mindset…

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Live-tweeting an event? Set your hashtag UP FRONT!

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter, and I also follow a lot of events (especially conferences) via Twitter. One thing I’ve learned: It helps your Twitter audience immensely if, before the event (or at the start) the people tweeting it develop a consensus on the hashtag for the event.

That’s what Horn Group VP Susan Etlinger did earlier, for the PR/Blogger panel her company is hosting tonight. She’s one of several Twitter users who helped launch this hashtag simply by adopting and promoting it:

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

Susan Etlinger helps launch a hashtag by using it.

And here’s the fruit that this kind of coordination can bear: Check out the #PRblog hashtag

…So: what’s a hashtag, and why is this so important?…

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Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 2: Beyond Government

NOTE: This is part 2 of a multipart series. See the series intro. More to come over the next few days.

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on Contentious.com readers and others to help me sharpen this discussion so I can present it more formally for the Knight Commission to consider.

So please comment below or e-mail me to share your thoughts and questions. Thanks!

To compensate for our government’s human-unfriendly info systems, some people have developed civic info-filtering backup systems: news organizations, activists, advocacy groups, think tanks, etc.

In my opinion, ordinary Americans have come to rely too heavily on these third parties to function as our “democracy radar.” We’ve largely shifted to their shoulders most responsibility to clue us in when something is brewing in government, tell us how we can exercise influence (if at all), and gauge the results of civic and government action.

Taken together, these backup systems generally have worked well enough — but they also have significant (and occasional dangerous) flaws. They’ve got too many blind spots, too many hidden agendas, insufficient transparency, and too little support for timely, effective citizen participation…

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The myth of the creative class (Jeff Jarvis)

Just now, Jeff Jarvis posted something that resonates strongly with me. See: The myth of the creative class:

“We have believed – I have been taught — that there are two scarcities in society: talent and attention. There are only so many people with talent and we give their talent only so much attention — not enough of either.

“But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve. That means that crap will be ignored. It just depends on your definition of crap.”

This is so, so true…   One of the things that I find most encouraging about this era of media evolution is that every day I encounter a wider variety of unexpected jewels. Many of them are rough, or nascent. But they’re there, and I can find them if I look for them.

Even more importantly, I get to discover what resonates with me — and with other individuals. I don’t have to just settle for the kind of content I’m “supposed” to like (i.e., serious objective journalism, crisp professional audio, slickly produced video). I can focus on what I really like — and what has meaning to me. By getting to define my own criteria for “quality content,” I get to challenge my assumptions and expand my concept of who I am, and who I could be. My world is much richer for it.

This is exactly why I’ve always enjoyed going to see local music performances practically at random, while abhorring commercial radio for music discovery.


Listening to Tony Schwartz

Today I was out and about running several errands, catching up on my backlog of podcasts. Two shows that came up in the queue really got my attention, and I think everyone involved in media (especially online or mobile media, particularly any media with an audio component) should listen — REALLY listen — to them both in full.

They’re both retrospectives of Tony Schwartz — an agoraphobic genius who produced over 30,000 sound recordings, thousands of groundbreaking political ads, media theory books and Broadway sound design. He also invented the portable tape recorder and was a pioneering folklorist. He died in June.

I feel like an idiot. For all my work in media, I knew nothing of Schwartz’s work. Until today. Now I’m obsessed. He pulled together the threads of human nature, psychology, the nature and effects of sound, motivation, persuasion, provocation, media and communication in clearly human terms.

So I’ll be learning more about his work. Here’s a sample:

In the meantime, here are the podcasts that grabbed my attention:

Why I keep talking about Nokia’s US Service

Some people have asked why I keep talking — on this blog and elsewhere — about Nokia’s US service problems. This video explains my motives. In a nutshell, it’s because I want to keep options open for journalists. Tools like the Nokia N95 represent a way for journalists to make their own opportunities, regardless of the fate of news organizations. But if Nokia continues to mishandle its US market, it could easily lose out to the Apple iPhone — which, while slick, is not the best tool for mobile reporting/blogging.

Dale Willman on radio in Indonesia

Dale Willman
Borobudur, a Buddhist temple on the island of Java.

For a change of pace, here’s an audio podcast. My good friend and environmental journalism colleague Dale Willman just got back from a three-week trip to Indonesia where he was training radio journalists there how to do an environmental radio show — and just how to do radio production, period.

Yesterday Dale and I had a fun conversation about his trip, the state of media in Indonesia, and why text messaging is so popular there.

Listen now! (Or right-click to download)

Dale Willman
In the studio: One of the Indonesian radio journalists Dale helped to train.

David Cohn: Pushing journalism frontiers

At the NewsTools 2008 conference last week, I had a chance to sit down with one of the emerging luminaries of entrepreneurial, experimental journalism. David Cohn runs the BeatBlogging project for NewAssignment.net, and he also works with NewsTrust . Plus, he runs a great blog of his own and is a constant presence on Twitter. Busy guy. I’m glad I got a few miinutes of his time.

Here’s what Dave has to say about where he thinks journalism might be heading, and what he wants to do to help it get there:

…Oh, and in this interview, Dave called me a "force of nature." I’ll assume that’s a compliment:

Thanks, Dave 🙂