A really, really… nice idea

by Mathew on July 25, 2006 · 5 comments

Just so we’re clear: I really like Jay Rosen’s idea for a new kind of “open source” or “networked” journalism, as Jeff Jarvis likes to call it (hey, don’t knock it — it’s a lot better than “user-generated content”). Or maybe I should say that I really want to like it. As an old-media hack who thinks there is a whole lot that could be improved about the way that journalism works — including opening it up to just about any blogger or vlogger who feels like taking a crack at it — Jay’s idea has everything going for it. Except that I’m not sure it’s going to work. Other than that it’s a great idea.

Here’s how Jay — who is a smart guy, and a veteran journalist — describes it:

“Enterprise reporting goes pro-am. Assignments are open sourced. They begin online. Reporters working with smart users and blogging editors get the story the pack wouldn’t, couldn’t or didn’t. They raise the money too.”

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Craig Newmark, of the ridiculously successful craigslist, thinks it’s such a good idea he has put up some money to help it get started. The geniuses behind the McArthur fellowship program gave Jay some money too, and even Jeff Jarvis has been helping out, and sees it fitting in with the hush-hush Daylife project he hasn’t really said much about. Jay mentions the terrific donation-funded reporting by Chris Allbritton as an example of what he’s after.

Not surprisingly, Dan Gillmor — who started a citizen journalism venture called Bayosphere awhile back, and now helps run the Center for Citizen Media — also thinks it’s a great idea. But will it work? Dan’s own effort failed to attract any support from the blogosphere, or from interested citizen journalists in the Bay area, for a variety of reasons that Dan himself laid out after it folded. What makes Jay think NewAssignment will get any more traction?

To be fair to Jay, he points out that this is still just an idea, and that it will take time to work out how ideas for stories come up, how the “reporters” who cover them are chosen, how their material is handled and/or edited (or not) and where and how it eventually gets distributed. I really want to like this idea — I’m just not sure it’s going to work. Among others commenting on the subject, my pal Scott Karp notes quite rightly that true journalism has always been a not-for-profit venture.

Update:

Jay Rosen has part two of a Q&A with himself about the idea here, and Mark Glaser of MediaShift does some musing about it as well (he’s been asked to help out by Jay apparently). And U.S. News and World Report has a story about it.

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  • http://evans.blogware.com mark evans

    i’m with you – maybe all print hacks are aligned – that it’s an interesting idea in theory. i do wonder about execution and the mechanics of getting the public involved in the news gathering process. still, it seems like an interesting intellectual experiment and a way for mr. newmark to spend some of his craigslist dollars.

  • Mathew Ingram

    Yeah, maybe I’ll come up with a bright idea and see if Craig will spot me a few hundred grand or so :-)

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