From Jarvis to community journalism
I like to keep an eye on what Jeff Jarvis is saying over at Buzzmachine. He basically spends all his time thinking and writing about how the news business model needs to be radically rethought and that there is a no point in charging for online news content. Sometimes he rants a bit too much, other times he hits the nail on the head, for example:
(Note: I’m going to link to the Financial Times three times in this post. You’re allowed two views a month at FT.com before being forced to register. If you’re conserving, I suggest you read the second two FT links.)
He now criticises a new report titled The reconstruction of American journalism which apparently (I haven’t read it) concludes that journalism is at risk because the advertisement-funded model of newspapers is no longer working. Jarvis, and I would totally agree with this, maintains that newspapers failing does not mean the end of journalism. As he says:
Just because newspapers put themselves at risk, it does not follow that journalism is at risk. Newspapers no longer own journalism. As too often happens in this discussion, they focus only on the revenue side of the business ledger of news – advertising falling from monopolistic heights – and not on the cost side and the efficiency new technology – and thus collaboration – that technology allows.
Indeed. There are some arguments about the costs of foreign reporting resulting in poor journalism, but I think that we the areas of the world where ‘journalism is in crisis’ are actually in a transition state, not a crisis state, and that something new will appear that will totally transform thinking about ‘news’ and journalism in general. It will probably mean a whole bunch of journalists being made redundant, however (like the 100 at the New York Times announced this week) and we’ll lose a lot of newspapers in the meantime. But eventually other things will appear.
Perhaps that something will be ‘community journalism’. The authors of the report mentioned above say this in the Washington Post:
Journalists leaving newspapers have started online local news sites in many cities and towns. Others have started nonprofit local investigative reporting projects and community news services at nearby universities, as well as national and statewide nonprofit investigative reporting organizations. Still others are working with local residents to produce neighborhood news blogs. Newspapers themselves are collaborating with other news media, including some of the startups and bloggers, to supplement their smaller reporting staffs.
The ranks of news gatherers now include not only newsroom staffers but also freelancers, university faculty and students, bloggers and citizens armed with smart phones. Financial support for news reporting now comes not only from advertisers and subscribers but also from foundations, philanthropists, universities and citizen donors.
Reading that, I thought of some examples from the UK that I’ve come across recently. Here goes:
They work for you – Set up by volunteers who thought it should be really easy for people to keep tabs on their elected MPs, and their unelected Peers, and comment on what goes on in Parliament. You can search for your local MP, find out exactly when they have bothered to turn up in parli, how they voted on various issues etc. Now maintained by MySociety
Help me investigate - Set up by a bunch of Birmingham bloggers (Nick Booth, Jon Bounds, Paul Bradshaw and others) as a way for people to organise investigations into things of public interest. Investigations can be anything from ‘How much does Birmingham City Council spend on PR?’ to ‘Where is Diana really buried?’. Focuses mainly on the West Midlands but has huge potential. Simply submit an investigation and people will help you investigate it.
Investigate your MP’s expenses – Maybe shouldn’t qualify as it was set up by a mainstream newspaper, but this crowdsourcing site set up by the Guardian enabled over 24,000 people to look through 210,000 MPs expenses claims and post the juicy bits online. Genious.
So, those are my three. There must be loads out there – which ones are yours?