Session 1: How Technology is Changing Public Journalism

Leonard Witt

  • Journalism, as we know it, is broken
  • 1988 elections were controlled by the “spinmeisters”: it was flag factories, Willie Horton and that photo of Dukakis in the tank
  • General idea: Move away from the “horse race mentality” (“Who’se
    ahead? Who’s behind?”) and bring back discussion into the public sphere
  • Because of public journalism, we have a body to critique mainstream journalism
  • Gillmor: “If you’re not sincere about something, over a period of time, you’ll stop”
  • Treating the audience as citizens, not consumers
  • PJ reporting is not only on the extremes, but the middle gound
  • PJ still not reaching out to all communities, especially disenfranchised ones (“judging by the ethnic makeup of the room”)

Dan Gillmor

  • Being blogged immediately teaches journalists a lot about how they’re doing
  • His publisher is handing out a free copy of his new book, We the Media, to everyone in the room later.
  • Showed
    video he took in Tokyo showing a handheld that scans RFIDs of bottles
    of drugs — scanning one, the handheld says “this will conflict with
    your prescription”; another bottle scanned makes the unit say “this has
  • Not only will every person have a story — every thing will have a story too.
  • Image of Lynndie England and leashed prisoner at Abu Ghraib: it’s hard to keep secrets now
  • Image of Treo running RSS software
  • Image of man in surgical mask behind phone display: The news about SARS was spread long before the media did it via SMS
  • If journalists are going to be learning blogging, they should be using tools that make it easier
  • We the Media is “not just about weblogs, but something bigger than that.”
  • Image of GPS phone: Maps of Tokyo, a notoriously difficult city to navigate
  • Image of Swe-Dish: satellite dish in a briefcase. $100K now, $1M back during Iraq War I
  • Image of It’s possible for anyone with just basic off-the-shelf software and hardware to make their own agitprop
  • Self-assembling journalism: aggregator blogs, wikis (image of Wikipedia — “journalism is just beginning to understand wikis”)
  • Wikipedia: “First absolutely open-source journalism” project that he’s heard of — brief explanation of wikis.
  • Intriguing
    part of wikis: trolls can wreck the comments section of a blog or
    discussion board, but when anybody can fix the vandalism, it tends to
    get fixed.

David Akin

  • When he first made the leap from print to broadcast journalism, the best advice he got was to “just be a tourguide”
  • Praised Dan Gillmor as being one of the best tour guides to the tech world

Leonard Witt

  • Journalism is now in the middle of a transformative period, thanks to new tech
  • Everyone has their own printing press
  • “How can I use these tools to get my audience involved?”
  • Citizens are getting involved in public journalism at lightning speed
  • OhMyNews: Korean participatory newspaper — 30,000 contributors, all citizen-produced — there’s an English version now
  • Another example:
  • “Through blogs, public journalism has new DNA”
  • The old way of public journalism: face-to-face meetings, took too much time, episodic, the journalists did all the talking
  • The new way: Now we all own presses. It’s the citizens who are now influencing things.
  • A first: the DNC letting bloggers in — they got more press than the press themselves
  • Quote from Orville Schell (see this NYTimes article),
    dean of the
    graduate journalism program at the University of California, Berkeley:
    “Obviously, the official media don’t quite know how to deport
    themselves in relation to the blogs. If they adopt them, it’s like
    having a spastic arm — they can’t
    control it. But if they don’t adopt it, they’re missing out on the
    newest, edgiest trend in the media.”
  • Newspapers still haven’t figured out how to incorporate blogging into how they work
  • We Media
  • Story
    about pictures from the war (Abu Ghraib / caskets /
    behadings): At a conference, journalists kept asked amongst themselves
    whether they should run these gruesome photos — they
    were, in their minds, still the gatekeepers. A journalist called up a
    site running the beheading video of Nick Berg on his laptop. It no
    longer mattered whether the mainstream media would show the pictures:
    other people would. “There are no more gatekeepers.”


  • David Akin: This room is an elite talking to itself, talking about issues they find important
  • Leonard Witt: We all have to our own affirmative action
  • Dan Gillmor: Moore’s Law will make technology accessible in terms
    of affordability. The real hurdle will be intellectual and conceptual
    accessibility, and this will rely heavily on our educational system.
  • Peggy Kohr: How do you find time?
  • CTV news writer: Video of the beheading of Nicholas Berg — “It
    would be disastrous for journalists to engage in a race to the bottom”
  • Marie France: Videos like Nick Berg’s pose a challenge to teaching journalistic ethics

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