Plenary Discussion: The Global Possibilities — Public and Participatory Journalism

Hossain “Hoder” Derakhshan

  • Weblogs show the world the real Iran, the Iran that we don’t see in mainstream news
  • They promote freedom in speech in a closed society
  • Hoder points out that Iran is not as closed as Saudi Arabia
  • Blogs have helped foment political activism:
    • Challenged president of Iran re: censorship of the Internet —
      bloggers asked, using journalists at Davos as their proxies, what he
      was going to do about it
    • Helped bring news of the situation in Iran to the outside world
  • Blogs are building social bridges — bridges between:
    • Generations
    • The sexes
    • Politicians and their constituents — one of the six or seven VPs of Iran has a photoblog and even moblogs cabinet meetings!
    • Politicians and young people — a poltician took a letter from
      bloggers directly to the president, got a direct answer and blogged it
  • MacKinnon: Hoder, you downplayed your role in bringing blogs to Iraq.

Melinda Robins

  • Taught civic journalism in Ethiopia
  • What
    does it mean to teach journalism in a country at the bottom of the
    economic ladder, where editors can be  harrassed and harmed by the
  • Civic journalism, in a small way, can help — the news is not
    what the president said today. It’s “why are there thousands of
    families livign on the streets?” Why are the journalists not talking to
    these people?
  • Lack of Internet access in Ethiopia — maybe 50,000 people out of the 70 million population. Not a viable place for blogging
  • BlogAfrica — which Ethan Zuckerman is involved with — more
    focused on more economically developed countries (South Africa,
    Namibia, etc) and the “African diaspora”

Nikhil Moro

  • We know who coined the phrase “electronic commons” — Lawrence Lessig — and we also know who refuse to participiate in it
  • “How
    many people in the world today really have not enough on their plates
    already, in terms of problems, to make the internet a part of their
  • Basic issues: it’s tricky to talk philosophy with people who are still dealing with issues of survival
  • (India doesn’t fully count: in many ways, it’s a major high-tech player)
  • How many people have access?
    • 80% of America
    • 6% of India
  • Lack of access is caused by:
    • Censorship
    • Refusal to build infrastructure
    • Culture — not everyone holds the same values dear. Freedom of
      expression — Moro references Emerson — is not a core value for
      • He tells a story about the Human Affluence Index — measured
        by a quiz, one of whose questions is “Do you have a dining table and do
        you use it?” In India, the tradition, rich or poor, is not to have a
        dining table, but to eat on the floor.
      • The internet has the potential to flatten the differences in freedom of expression
      • Should it promote simple freedom of to say what one wants, or should it be specifically used to promote social good?
      • Postmodern belief is that there cannot possibly be freedom of
        speech, as it’s a product of what you were taught (he expresses doubt
        that the postmodern thinkers will ever produce a solution)

Terry Thielen

  • Works in places that are “undergoing democratic transition”
  • Many of these places lack the infrastructure — even roads are hard to come by
  • Lack of education
  • We may take civic participation for granted here — the concept
    is foreign to places coming out from under dictatorship. Town hall
    meetings are new to them.
  • The internet can be useful for mobilizing people there, but
    you’ll reach only the elite groups. You need other means, which in her
    experience is radio.
  • Was
    pleasantly surprised to find that Jamaica has a sophisticated media
    environment and a number of strong civic journalism programs, an
    exception in
    the developing world (they’re in a much better league than Haiti or
    • Example: Jamaica has a CrimeStoppers program just like ours
    • Two national dailies publish study guides and other educational
      materials every week — good business (creates the next generation of
      readers) and good citizenship
    • Roots FM: brings potential employers on the air to talk about opportunities, potential employees to promote themselves

Chris Waddel

  • Asked by an old boss from Columbia why he’s teaching globalism
    to a class in community journalism in Anniston, Alabama. Such a
    question was expected from a New Yorker: “New York, is after all, an
  • The heartland is the starting point for a lot of big-city journalists and where a lot of American news is made
  • The Iraq war affects the heartland: the soldiers overseas would
    normally be their firefighters, police and other members of the
    workforce. What happens across the globe has effects in the heartland.
    Globalism affects middle America.
  • Noted that papers have huge budgets to cover the Masters Tournament and the Superbowl
  • My favourite part of the New York Times (“We actually get it in
    the heartland”) after the magazine is the travel section. He can fly
    anywhere ion the world more cheaply from Atlanta than his old boss can
    from NYC.
  • In
    his paper, the best letters to the editor get highlighted; the best
    letter writers are invited to a steak dinner with a special guest
    speaker (this past year: Russian reporter who covered the story about
    the Forbes editor murdered in Russia)
  • Seven Fulbright scholars in the university down the street
  • University has an international house with 70 foreign students
  • Involvement with the Southern Center for International Studies’ television program, The Angry World

Rebecca MacKinnon

  • Interest in how weblogs can help people in a country find out and connect with people in an another country
  • Before
    weblogs, you’d either have to have friends in that country or hear news
    reports. Now, weblogs are a new source of info. Cites the example of
    the Saudi Arabian blog, The Religious Policeman.
  • Jeff Jarvis: The are journos who can’t get out of the “green
    zone”. There’s coverage in weblogs that could not exist in mainstream
    journalism and without hte effort of citizen journalists.
  • Talk of incorporating blogs and talk radio in 3rd world countries
  • David
    Akin: One of the stories we’ve been following for the past 3 – 4 years
    — how tech companies have been promoting tech in developing countries.
  • Terry Thielen: “There’s infrastructure and there’s
    infrastructure.” In Haiti, which is mountainous country, the cell phone
    towers help keep the diaspora in touch (they make lots of calls). The
    real infrastructure problem is roads. Even where you can get tech, who
    can repair it? With radio: 15% of the budget is for actual radio
    equipment — the rest is for inverters, generators and anything to
    produce the power. Eevn if you can get the telecom infrastructure in
    place, you need skilled people, and as soon as people get skills, the
    skip town.
  • Jay Rosen: Rebecca, last winter, we talked about a blog called North Korea Zone, a blog with information from insiders from North Korea. Another
    idea was that you could be a guide to similar sites. How hard has it
    been to get information? Have returning travellers from North Korea
    been able to provide info?
  • As background, she sought out Jay’s advice abotu setting up a
    weblog of info on North Korea. many frustrations with covering it as a
    traditional journalist.
  • Less success than she had hoped with getting info from
    businesspeople and aid workers in Korea — fear of not being allowed in
    or criticism
  • Snags:
    China started blocking TypePad, South Korea has been blocking TypePad
    to Blogger. Moved North Korea zone to an indie site running Moveable
  • Len Witt: In many places in the world, the internet
    infrastructure isn’t there for us to reach them. “We need to know more
    about the rest of the world than the rest of the world needs to know
    about us.” We (newspapers) need to bring the world to our readers.
  • Terry Thielen: There is a need to train journalists from the developing world here, to train them. It brings the world to us.
  • Chris Waddel: The Fullbright brings 500,000 international scholars to the US. Don’t know how many of them are j-students. We should also be concerned about the lack of bandwidth here at home.
    Blogging is one way to solve the problem, but we can’t rely on one form
    of communication: newspapers and other media can also play a role.
  • Commenter: The state department brings in foreign journalists to
    meet with media organizations and universities — great exchange of
  • Melinda Robin: We have immigrants in all our communities, and I
    feel that journalists have missed them as sources of global information.

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