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

Public & Participatory Journalism Conference, Post 1

Sitting here with David Janes to my right (positionally and politically) at the Sheraton Centre at the Exploring the Fusion Power of Public and Participatory Journalism conference. Anne Kothawala, President and CEO of the Canadian Newspaper Association (CNA)
has just finished the introduction and is showing a CNA video (mostly a
PR-driven montage of Canadian images overlaid with “Aren’t Canadian
newspapers great?” text with Jesus Jones’ Right Here, Right Now playing in the background.

David Akin has just finished introducing himself as the “traffic manager” of the conference and has promised to keep us on schedule.

Leonard Witt is now speaking on the topic of public journalism.

More updates as things happen.

In the News It Happened to Me Music

Weekend Update

For those of you not familiar with Canada, today is that most generic of Canadian holidays, the Civic Holiday,
the defining purpose fo which is to “not work”. Although it is not a
statutory holiday, it’s highly unusual for any non-retial,
non-restaurant employer to ask you to work.

The Civic Holiday is so generic that it goes by different names in
different provinces. In Ontario, the province in which Accordion City
is located, it’s Simcoe Day, named for John Graves Simcoe, the first
Lieutenant (pronounced “leff-tenant”) Governor of Upper Canada (the
original name of Ontario).

I decided to spend the long weekend visiting The Redhead
in Boston, where I am currently filing this blog entry. Unfortunately,
it isn’t a holiday here in the Excited States, so I’m making this entry
from the lounge of The Redhead’s workplace, the Berkman Center for
Internet and Society in a cute little postsecondary education facility
the locals like to call “Hahh-vahhd”.

For some reason, I’m always out of town on a long weekend during which
my name or weblog gets mentioned in  Accordion City’s local media.
It’s happened again for the third time this year: on Saturday, the Globe and Mail
featured the Secret Swing on the front page of section M
of the
Saturday paper and a number of my friends and family have already left
messages on my cell phone promising to save me a copy of the paper.
Thanks, guys!

(In case you hadn’t seen it before, the post that got the ball rolling is here.)

The Globe and Mail fail to mention Rannie “Photojunkie” Turingan, whose photos of the
are much better than mine (even though mine have the lovely and
talented Christine from the blog Purplecar) and predate mine by weeks.
This omission is even more glaring considering that they phoned him,
asking for the location of the swing. Rannie is the heart and soul of our local blogging group, the GTAbloggers, and I feel that he should be mentioned.

Cory at BoingBoing linked to my last entry, The Breakup Style of PowerPoint, which has proven to be a topic to which many people can relate, if the comments and trackbacks are any indication.

In honour of the post, I shall provide some notes in point form:

  • The
    article points out that the swing was installed by local artist Corwyn
    Lund, who documented it in the short film (very short, at one minute,
    twenty seconds) Swingsite, which debuted last fall. There’s a little more about the film here (you’ll have to scroll down once you hit the page).

  • An anonymous reader points to this relationship evaluation form, which is reminiscent of both standardized tests and annual employee reviews.
  • Laurent Bossavit says that the PowerPoint-styled breakup is a
    form of “incongruent communication”, which is the opposite of the
    “congruent communication” style that is emphaszied at the AYE (Amplifying Your Effectiveness) Conference. He also points to an entry in the AYE Conference wiki titled WhyWeDoNotUsePowerPoint.

  • 4thAce points out quite correctly that the slide I created breaks
    PowerPoint convention by using full sentences. He suggested that it
    should look more like this:

  • Clay Shirky, who pointed to my article on the Many 2 Many blog, points to an article on breakups by cellphone text messages (“WELCOM 2 DMPSVIL, POPULATN: U!”) . I’ll see your prior reference, Clay, and raise it with this article on Philippine catholic churches banning confessions by texting and raise you this PowerPoint slide for a hypothetical confession:

Wendy and I saw Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
yesterday. I haven’t laughed this hard at the movies in ages! John Cho
(“Harold”) was merely okay; it’s Kal Penn (“Kumar”) who really carries
the film. One of my favourite scenes is the daydream sequence in which
Kumar imagines himself falling in love with an marrying a one-pound bag
of very fine weed.

The outdoor shots give away that it was shot in Toronto, especially the
parking lot scenes in which you can see signs for Country Style donuts
and Chapters. In the credits, one of the institutions they thank is
Toronto’s most notorious speakeasy, The Matador.
I don’t recall any scenes that could’ve been shot inside the Matador:
were there any, or are they thanking them for a wonderful night the
cast and crew had there after a shoot?

I had a lovely evening on Saturday night hanging out with Wendy’s friends at Clery’s, which we followed with a walk through Columbus Ave and then Newbury Street. On Sunday, I had an equally lovely brunch at Johnny D’s Uptown with the some Boston bloggers including Michael “Dowbrigade” Feldman, Cynthia Rockwell, her friend Guy, Jessica Baumgart, Sun, Andrew Grumet and Matt Stoller.

In response to my request to record a number just like William Shatner did, Wil Wheaton left a message in the comments saying “You know how to get in touch, if you’re serious.”

I’m quite serious. Perhaps we can record it at Gnomedex?

I return to Accordion City tonight and I hope to spend most of tomorrow at the Exploring
the Fusion Power
Public and Participatory Journalism conference
and blogging it. Notable friends and acquaintances of mine who will be attending are: Dan Gillmor, Jeff Jarvis, Rebecca MacKinnon and David Akin. The conference will take place downtown at the Sheraton Centre, which is crawling distance from my house.