Month: November 2011

Networked Journalism and News Institutions

Back in June I wrote a post focused on the role of institutions in the future (and history) of journalism. It was in part a response to the FCC Information Needs of Communities report that came out this spring.

When I read Charlie Beckett’s recent keynote speech to the NewsRewired Conference, I felt as though it was a useful meditation on some of the issues I had been mulling over.

Here’s an excerpt:

“If I have changed my mind on anything over the last five years it is probably this. I probably over-estimated the way that a kind of natural process or market force would create new institutions to support good journalism in the networked era – the kind of civic, ethical, quality, independent journalism that I hold dear.  I don’t mean we have to preserve current organisations like newspaper groups.  I think they have a lot of value left but if they are to survive then they really have to be much more radically overhauled in terms of management, staff and enterprise.

I hope to see a blossoming of new structures – including a much more vibrant freelance or indie culture – but the danger is that the major media organisations will cream off the popular market and won’t invest in the rest – as they used to do – leaving niches such as the Economist, or public bodies such as the BBC to dominate in glorious isolation.

Yes, we are moving from fortress to networks, but journalism needs spaces, brands, perhaps institutions – that allow it to flourish – that protect and invest in good journalists.”

via Why we need networked journalism in an age of complexity & uncertainty | Charlie Beckett.

One of the things I appreciate about Beckett is that he understands that these changes and challenges are not just business or market problems. At the end of this post, he writes, “There is also a policy struggle ahead. We have to fight a battle with corporate interests and governments for the open net – for editorial diversity – for free expression – for digital literacy.”

And these are fights we need journalists to be a part of.

Pressure Builds in Response to Journalist Arrests

On Monday afternoon Joe Pompeo of Capital New York broke the news that 13 New York City news organizations and 10 press-freedom groups from across the country had sent a letter to city officials in response to recent journalist arrests. The same day, the New York Press Club announced a new coalition was forming to monitor the NYPD’s treatment of the press.

I have been tracking and documenting these journalist arrests since September and a week ago my organization Free Press launched a citizen petition calling for all charges to be dropped and demanding that Mayor Michael Bloomberg commit to protecting the First Amendment.

Pompeo quotes part of yesterday’s letter, which points out that these arrests represent ongoing challenges with police-press relations:

“The signatories below wish to express their profound displeasure, disappointment and concern over the recent actions taken against the media. … Over the past few months we have tried to work with [the Office of the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information] to improve police-press relations. However, if anything, the police actions of the last week have been more hostile to the press than any other event in recent memory.” (more…)

Trust and Verify: How I Curate My List of Journalist Arrests

Last week I gave a lot of interviews about journalist arrests at Occupy protests around the US, and almost without fail every interviewer asked some version of this question: How are you verifying the information you are putting on your list?

There is a healthy skepticism about the veracity of social media content in general, and this skepticism is amplified in times of breaking news and heated conflict. I knew that if I was going to try to bear witness to these arrests and create a resource for people concerned about freedom of the press, everything I included had to be verified.

[Update: See this post for a comprehensive list of tools and tips for verifying social media content.]

(more…)

Occupy Crackdown Targets Journalists

For the past two months I have been tracking journalist arrests at Occupy protests around the country. Today, Nov. 15, was the worst day yet in terms of police suppression of the press.

It all began in the middle of the night, when police moved in at 1 a.m. to forcibly evacuate Zuccotti Park, the original Occupy Wall Street encampment. Not long after the park raid began, journalists on Twitter began to report that they were being blocked from covering the police actions.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the police kept the media away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.” But according to the New York Times, one journalist told a police officer “I’m press!” and the officer just responded “Not tonight.”

If the mayor of our country’s largest city thinks protecting the press means silencing them, we’re in big trouble. (more…)

Why I’m Tracking Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests

For the past two months I have been tracking journalist arrests at Occupy protests around the country. It began mainly as attempt to bear witness, to understand if what I was seeing was an isolated few incidents, or a larger pattern. The Occupy protests come at time when the practices, norms and definitions of journalism are in great flux.

I’m tracking these journalist arrests because I’m concerned about the state of the First Amendment, and our willingness as a public and a democracy to defend it. These arrests are a symptom of a larger debate about how we understand the First Amendment in a digital age, as the institutions that traditionally embodied those freedoms shift and change. As more and more of our speech moves online and over mobile networks, and as our press is distributed across vast human and technological networks, we need to contend with new kinds of First Amendment issues. (more…)

Three Year Old Stories

This is a follow up on my last post regarding storytelling. If you haven’t read that one yet, it’s worth glancing at it as context for this post.

We probably read between five and ten books a day with my son. A few when he wakes up, a few before dinner or nap time, a few before bed. He is rarely happier than when he is curled up with a book, even if he’s just looking at the pictures.

Recently he’s started telling us his own stories. Sometimes he’ll pick up a book as if to read it and make up a story, other times he’ll be playing with his trains or dolls and enacting some drama, sometimes he just asks if we want to hear a story and makes something up off the top of his head.

Here is one of this recent stories: “Once upon a time there was a muscle man an a rhinoceros swimming in the water. They saw something fly over their heads. It was a soccer ball. They wanted to fly on it – so they climbed a ladder and got on. And the soccer ball went like this: zoom!” (more…)

We Are In Between Stories

Last week I was invited to spend a day at Skidmore College, speaking to a number of classes and giving a campus lecture on the intersection of civic engagement, media reform and sustainability. For me, the common thread that weaves these issues together is storytelling. If our culture is a function of the stories we tell each other, then real change demands that we begin telling a new story. I believe that is starting to happen, but debates about the future of journalism and media reform also have to account for whose stories are being told and who is being edited out.

What follows are snippets of my lecture, woven together with a few quotes, organized around some key themes. This may be best described as some of the raw materials I was mulling over when I planned my talk. (more…)

What We Can Learn From A Newspaper Prototype

When Dave Eggers set out to publish issue number 33 of McSweeney’s as a newspaper, he had something to prove. In interviews leading up to the release of the one-off newspaper Eggers sounded almost defiant as he heralded the virtues of print:

The written word—the love of it and the power of the written word—it hasn’t changed. It’s a matter of fostering it, fertilizing it, not giving up on it, and having faith… if you ever think publishing is dying or print is dying or books are dying or newspapers are dying (the next issue of McSweeney’s will be a newspaper—we’re going to prove that it can make it. It comes out in September). If you ever have any doubt, e-mail me, and I will buck you up and prove to you that you’re wrong.

In another interview he described the newspaper issue as a “prototype” of what newspapers could be. I liked that notion. I don’t think we do enough actual prototyping amongst the “future of journalism” makers or thinkers (and especially not within most traditional newsrooms). I think groups like Hacks/Hackers and the Knight/Mozilla project are helping do more of this – but it’s still just starting.

I was pretty curious about what we could learn from this experiment which sought to bring together designers, artists, authors, journalists and cartoonists to show off the power of print, not only as a defense of newspapers but as a challenge to how we think of the news as a product. (more…)