My posts have dwindled in this the “crunch time” of Spring semester, when grading piles up, birds chirp and baseball begins. Net-net: not a lot of time left for blogging. My apologies to all. The guilt is killing me.
On to Doc Searls, whose alma mater is the middle of my hometown. (I’m from Guilford College, the part of Greensboro with Western Guilford, Charlie Teagues, Jam’s Deli and Lakewood Pool. Ahhhhh…. Good times.) He has me thinking, as he usually does. Doc recently wrote about the vanishing of space online and of the changing information ecosystem that is forcing mainstream media to adapt. Giant Zero, which has all the wrong connotations, refers to online’s ability to make physical distance irrelevant and to reduce publishing costs to zero or near it. These liberating and uniting forces are forcing old media to re-think their business models, methods and practices.
“It is essential for the mainstream media to understand that the larger information ecosystem is one that grows wild on the Net and supports everybody who wants to inform anybody else,” Searls writes. “It no longer grows inside the mainstream media’s walled gardens. Those gardens will continue to thrive only to the degree that they do two things: 1) open up; and 2) live symbiotically with individuals outside who want to work together for common purposes.”
Good stuff here. Opening up means a lot of things, most importantly transparency. How do you make decisions? How do you filter information? How do you determine what makes it through the gate and what does not? What are your biases? What is your point of view?
Searls urges media to come clean on framing, as well. What is the “frame” for the story, and how was it determined? Transparency also means fessing up to your mistakes, welcoming correction in the first place, and honoring and valuing readers’ contributions. (Searls shares my distaste for the term, “user-generated content,” a term that suggests homemade butter or the crayon pictures we put on the fridge.) This conversation, collaboration and even community are the manifestations of the symbiosis Searls mentions.
Dr. Randy Richardson and I are researching credibility as it is measured and evaluated and valued online. We looked at A-list blogs and why their readers trust them. We’ll present the findings at this month’s International Online Journalism Symposium at the University of Texas, but I can go ahead and share that the new paradigm of and for credibility online includes dimensions not traditionally a part of credibility operationalizations. These new dimensions include transparency, dynamism, goodwill and identification.
The new paradigm doesn’t mean that expertise, accuracy, fairness — the stuff of old school credibility — no longer matter. They do. It means, though, that the new information ecosystem, as Searls calls it, requires new ways of creating and communicating credibility and trust, the currency of anyone in the business of information. Much more to come on the new credibility online. Wish us well — we have a LOT of writing yet to do.