As you know, Randy Richardson and I presented last weekend at the International Symposium of Online Journalism, an event that served up some provocative questions and some delicious artifacts from the fast-evolving online news landscape. For my students in Introduction to Digital Communication and, to a lesser extent, for those in Editing and Media Law, here is a roundup of some of the symposium’s greatests hits.
Before I roll on, I do want to post to an abstract of our presentation on how credibility is changing for news and information online, as compared to credibility as it has traditionally been understood for legacy news media. Randy’s and my punchline: identification is an important new/old dimension to credibility online. It’s new because traditional paradigms of journalistic credibility do not incorporate or refer to it. Old because the notions of identification in persuasion, including its subsets of transparency, authenticity, shared perspective and common enemy, have been staples of rhetorical theory for decades. ‘Nuf said for now. Want more? Look for the article in an upcoming communication journal.
MediaStorm’s Zakouma multimedia
Perhaps the most transcendant moment of the symposium for me was Brian Storm’s presentation on multimedia storytelling. His company, MediaStorm, produces long-form multimedia packages, including one for National Geographic on the Zakouma elephant refuge in Chad. Folks should visit the MediaStorm homepage if for no other reason than to interact with its opening screens. Completely intuitive, and multi-channel, the site makes quite a first impression, one consistent with the identity and misssion of the company.
The Zakouma package in my mind represents digital storytelling at its best. Look for the use of still images, which you can gaze at and linger on, along with videography. Note the incorporation of the photographer’s and videographer’s own reactions and reflections. This is transparency and identification. This is agreeing with viewers that objectivity is a false ideal. These guys saw it up close, and they are professional storytellers and journalists. Their narrative is a critical dimension to the story, and our interaction with it. Of course, the photography is world-class.
We should also see how National Geographic took the varied, abundant content gathered by the Zakouma team and used it to build news stories, photo packages and video packages, all in addition to the stunning magazine piece that ties it all together. The reader can decide how much or how little to access.
Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine.com
Jarvis’s presentation on why he’s a cockeyed optimist (a quote of him on Frontline’s Newswar program) included this takeaway, borrowing from Boolean search terms: “We should be thinking ‘AND’ and not ‘OR’ in providing news. More, not less. New, not old.”
News organizations should do what they do best and link to the rest, he admonished, citing the Washington Post’s coverage of the Walter Reed Medical Center fiasco. The New York Times should not have to make any apologies for getting beat on the story, and it should not follow behind and do essentially the same story. Stick to what it does best, but link to the Post’s Walter Reed coverage.
I also really liked his idea, supported by what the News-Press is doing in Ft. Meyers, Fla., of crowdsourcing government, including podcasts of every open meeting. Podcast Sunshine! (The News-Press crowdsourced an investigation into city malfeasance in awarding bids, seeking readers’ help on the story on the front end. Among the documents readers turned up? A 387-page city audit.)
Jarvis also rightly pointed to NewAssignment.net, a venture spearheaded by one of my heroes in higher ed, Jay Rosen at NYU. The premise is to slice up a story into pieces that the crowd can divide and conquer. Jarvis’s descriptions made me think of ants, which are helpful in understanding crowdsourcing. Ants can find sugar on the kitchen counter in minutes because there are so many of them and because they operate locally, in a decentralized fashion.
Web 2.0 social networking is getting a great deal of attention, and with that attention always comes the profit motive. How can we make money off of what people are doing online? Jarvis shared this gold nugget from the Davos conference, in which a big media publisher asked FaceBook founder Mark Zuckerberg: “How can I create what you have? How can I create community?” Zuckerberg’s response: “You can’t.” His point, important for my Online Community class, is that FaceBook did not create community, it merely enables the community people already have. The community was already there on college campuses throughout the country. Zuckerberg came up with a way to enable and empower them, an “elegant organization” and communication tool.
Finally, I liked Jarvis’s play on the WWJD bracelet phenomenon. When asking how to monetize news online, how to make money, the question should be: WWGD? What would Google do? Micromarketing. Targeted marketing. Re-think our relationship to the market by looking not to the Pradas of the world, the million-dollar accounts, but to the thousands of $100 accounts. As a speaker said on Day 2 of the conference (I forget which one), “destination sites can’t match long tail activity.” Think small. Think many. WWGD?