Thursday, June 9, 2011

St. Louis convention panels represent balance of teaching, research, PF&R

Note: This article also appears in the Summer 2011 edition of the CCJIG newsletter

By Kirsten Johnson
CCJIG Vice Chair

This year’s conference in St. Louis features an exciting slate of programming in teaching, research, and professional freedom and responsibility. The following sessions are co-sponsored by CCJIG with other interest groups and divisions.

Wednesday 3:15 p.m.
Going Public

This panel will focus on how different journalism schools are teaching undergraduates to cover and serve local communities through citizen journalism and journalism-related service projects. (Magazine, CCJIG)

Wednesday 5:00 p.m.
Location, Location, Location:
Using Location-based Services to Add Some Mobile to Your Journalism Course

Use of location services in journalism has been on the rise recently, with the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times making inroads to attract readers with mobile applications such as Foursquare. At the same time other location services such as Yelp! have on their own generated significant content solely from users. This panel will explore how to fit location into the classroom curriculum. Best practices and specific assignments will be highlighted. (Mass Communication and Society, CCJIG)

Thursday 8:15 a.m.

Beyond the Box: Issues and
Innovations in Researching Digital Content

In exploring user participation and the works of citizen journalists, researchers commonly apply methods of content analysis, one of the most popular methods of inquiry in media research. Media scholars traditionally apply the method to analyze content in static forms such as newspapers, magazines, films, or video. The Internet has not only enabled new forms of publishing – leading to an explosion of user-generated content – but also has introduced new considerations for scholarly examinations of such content. This panel will examine methodological issues surrounding content analysis of online content. (CCJIG, Radio and Television Journalism)

Thursday 5:00 p.m.
News With a View

For decades the concept of objectivity in journalism has been disputed. With the rise of new technologies that allow more individuals to claim they produce news, and the increasing reliance of mainstream journalism on manufactured spectacle, this panel will discuss how the increasing presence of subjectivity in news is affecting the news we receive. (Community Journalism, CCJIG)

Thursday 6:45 p.m.
Membership meeting

Election of officers, a review and preview of the past year and coming one, along with networking and camaraderie.

Friday 8:15 a.m.
The Role of Citizen Journalists, Bloggers and Digital Media in the Political Campaign

This panel will discuss the use of different forms of digital media for political purposes and explore their effects on a range of important political variables. It also will address how citizen journalists and bloggers contribute to democracy and influence campaigns, and how they reconcile the notions of journalistic neutrality and ethical standards for all candidates with the passion and authenticity that readers often expect from citizen journalists and bloggers. (CCJIG, Communication Technology)

Friday 12:15 p.m.
Community News Sites: What Works (J-Lab Luncheon)

More than 7,000 placeblogs have launched around the country. Thousands more hyperlocal community news sites are now covering town and school board meetings that have never been covered before – not even in the heyday of American journalism. Building on the new J-Lab report: New Voices: What Works, this session will examine what is working in terms of content and sustainability. (Council of Affiliates, CCJIG, COMJIG)

Research to be presented in 3 sessions at St. Louis Convention

Note: This article also appears in the Summer 2011 edition of the CCJIG newsletter

Wednesday, August 10
10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Emerging Understandings of Civic and Citizen Journalism

Moderator and discussant: Deborah Chung, University of Kentucky.

Papers and presenters:

  • “No Experience Necessary: The Perceived Credibility of Citizen Journalism,” Sara Netzley & Mark Hemmer, Bradley University

  • “News Innovation and the Negotiation of Participation,” Seth Lewis, University of Minnesota*

  • “Exploring Contexts in Citizen Journalism: A Conceptual Framework,” Nakho Kim, University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • “Not Paid to Play: A Case Study of Online Community Participants and the Effects of Non-Monetary Motivation Upon Public Journalism,” Robert Gutsche, Jr.; Rauf Arif; The University of Iowa.

*Top faculty-authored paper

Thursday, August 11
1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
(Scholar to Scholar session)

Papers and presenters:

  • “The Refrigerator as a Megaphone: Addressing the Motivations of Citizen Photojournalists,” Tara Buehner, University of Oklahoma

  • “Interactions of News Frames and Incivility in the Political Blogosphere: Examining News Credibility and Political Trust,” Porismita Borah, Maryville University.

Discussant: Burton St. John III, Old Dominion University.

Friday, Aug. 12
3:30 - 5:00 p.m.

Citizen Journalism and New Technologies

Moderator and discussant: Nikhil Moro, University of North Texas.

Papers and presenters:

  • “Case of the UT Shooter: Citizens working around, with, and for traditional news media,” Avery Holton, University of Texas-Austin *

  • “Exposing the Digital News Photo Hound: A Study on the Normative Structure and Routines of Citizen Photojournalists,” Tara Buehner and Julie Jones, University of Oklahoma

  • “#Forward! Twitter as Citizen Journalism in the Wisconsin Labor Protests,” Aaron Veenstra, Narayanan Iyer, Namrata Bansal, Mohammad Hossain, Jiwoo Park, Jiachun Hong; Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

*Top student-authored paper

Growth of Patch, indie sites shows citizen journalism going mainstream

Note: This article also appears in the Summer 2011 edition of the CCJIG newsletter

and has been cross-posted to the author's personal blog

By Jack Rosenberry
CCJIG Newsletter Editor

One of the most striking recent developments in the world of online news, and citizen journalism, has been the rapid expansion of the network of local news sites owned by AOL.

Patch was started in 2008 by a group that included Tim Armstrong, a former Google executive. Armstrong joined AOL in early 2009, and the company acquired Patch that June. Patch sites were located in 11 communities in New Jersey and Connecticut in late 2009 but grew to about 100 sites in nine states by August 2010 and approximately 800 sites across 20 states by early 2011.

These local news sites primarily cover affluent bedroom communities that surround large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. Each site has an editor, who is provided with equipment – a computer, cell phone and digital camera – but no office; instead, editors work from home or from community locations such as coffee shops.

More recently, Patch has moved aggressively to augment the paid professional editors with a citizen journalism component of volunteer writers and local bloggers contributing to the sites. Each site lists all of its contributors, which can run to several dozen on some sites, and a section of the home page highlights local bloggers.

But independent online community journalists have been critical of Patch, notably the idea that an outside corporate entity can ever have the true community connection that they see as the heart of local journalism. In an interview with LA Weekly, Timothy Rutt, who runs the hyperlocal site, compared Patch to “Walmart moving in and driving out the mom-and-pop businesses.”

Now, Rutt and operators of some other independent sites are joining forces in a network seeking to counter the influence of Patch. The coalition, which calls itself Authentically Local, announced its formation in mid-May 2011 with 30 founding members. By the end of May it had grown to nearly 50. The list includes names that are familiar to many CCJIG members from having representatives of the sites on CCJIG convention panels – including BaristaNet, Oakland Local, West Seattle Blog, Twin Cities Daily Planet and iBrattleboro.

In a news release announcing the coalition’s formation, the members said they “have joined forces to launch an ‘Authentically Local’ branding campaign to emphasize the importance of supporting homegrown media, stores and places.”

“Local journalism doesn’t scale and it doesn’t need to scale. It needs to emerge from people deeply engaged in their local community, determined to make a difference and provide a vital service,” Lance Knobel, a co-founder of, said in the news release.

While the Authentically Local group’s concerns are understandable, it’s not entirely clear why an a priori conclusion that “local doesn’t scale” is warranted. Operators of the Authentically Local sites are in the same situation as – and essentially fighting the same fight as – local retailers and dining establishments against national big box stores and restaurant chains. They make that analogy themselves on the AL website.

But is it necessarily and automatically the case that out-of-town ownership degrades the quality of the journalism?

For decades before online hyperlocal news coverage emerged, out-of-town ownership of small local newspapers was not the exception but the rule. And while many of those chain papers were poor to mediocre, some were pretty good – while some of the small locally owned ones were true rags. In other words, ownership had no general correlation with quality. In a similar vein, there seems to be little fundamental difference between small local newspapers being owned by large corporations (e.g. Gannett, which owned dozens of such papers but was not the only corporation that did so) and a local news website being owned by a large corporation (i.e. Patch/AOL).

Patch encourages editors to share information about themselves on their sites, and a quick review of a few sites revealed that many editors had local roots, as either natives or at least longtime residents of the communities they cover. Many have worked for local weeklies or dailies in their coverage area before joining Patch. If these individual journalists are capable and sensitive to their communities they will find good, local stories to cover. And if the editors are conscientious about soliciting and curating the work of citizen journalists in their area, local flavor and connections will emerge.

Patch is still an experiment, and one trend that has developed with ventures into online local coverage by large legacy media organizations is that such experiments have a short leash and their owners are quick to cut them loose if the economics don’t work out as hoped. Loudon Extra, TBD, and sites launched by The New York Times that were later taken over by AL member stand as evidence of that.

But the interesting and important thing about the emergence of Patch and other legacy media forays into this arena is how they indicate that hyperlocal and citizen journalism are no longer some exotic oddity.

Instead, citizen journalism is becoming a routine part of the landscape of news coverage, a development documented by J-Lab in its New Media Makers (2009) and New Voices (2010) reports and encouraged by its Networked Journalism project.

The more routine and more expected such coverage becomes, the more it will contribute to the emerging news ecosystem, no matter who owns the site where it is published.

- - - - - - - - -

Background information in this story about Patch came from published reports in sources such as Columbia Journalism Review, Newsweek, LA Weekly and The New York Times. The author has completed a comparative content analysis of Patch sites and independent hyperlocal ones (though not specifically the Authentically Local ones); the results of that research will be presented at the Thursday Scholar-to-Scholar session at the St. Louis convention.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Community News Sites: Alive if Unprofitable

A new report from J-Lab's Jan Schaffer offers a straightforward look at the status of community sites funded through the John L. and James S. Knight Foundation. This is a well-designed report that can work as teaching or research material.

The report's colorful touches will help to keep undergrads interested.

Titled New Voices: What Works, the 36-page report does just what it suggests. It identifies some of the aspects that have worked and some that haven't since the organization began in 2005 to seed start-up sites to supplement news and information in their communities.
Simply put, we examined what worked and what didn’t, what made for robust sites or led to disappointment.
The J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, offers its own summary of the report that you can read here. You can download the report in pdf form as well.

Among the findings in a section called Ten Key Takeaways are points familiar to those in CCJIG who have been investigating citizen journalism functions. Among them:
  • Most volunteer journalists don't last long after training. Fewer than one in 10 will become regular contributors.
  • University projects that rely on students need to find ways to keep their momentum even when students are not in school.
  • While some sites are finding ways to sustain themselves, a business model has yet to emerge to cover salaries and reap profits.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

“It is most appropriate for the U.S. to train journalists in foreign countries”

In America, participatory journalism might happen when citizens take part in gathering news or reporters act as participant-observers.

In Liberia, the English-speaking republic on the West coast of Africa, civic journalism appeals to reporters. But journalism too often is a negotiation with either poverty or a plaintiff-friendly libel environment. A result: Serious hurdles to reporting politics accurately and completely.

Mitch Land, interim dean of UNTs Mayborn School of Journalism, is visiting Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on invitation by the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. Professor Lands task is to train Liberian journalists in preparation for the general election scheduled for October of 2011.

His 10-day visit, which began September 28, has sparked discussion of whether the U.S. Department of State should train, or influence the training of, journalists in foreign countries. Going by local press coveragehere, here and herethe visit has been of some import. Professor Land spoke to me via Skype from the Mamba Point Hotel in Monrovia, in an hour-long conversation punctuated by two electrical power cuts at his end.

Full disclosure: Professor Land is my colleague at the School; although I spared no question, this Q&A should not be considered an exercise in journalism. I report it on his request and because it engages important issues such as American journalistic intervention.

Mitch, what are you doing in Liberia?

I've come to train reporters and editors in Liberia to help them prepare for the 2011 elections. About 30 editors and 40 reporters attended [my workshop]. I spent three days a week with reporters, interrupted with the 46th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Press Union of Liberia in Buchanan, Liberia, which is a three-hour drive from Monrovia, the capital city.

Is it appropriate for the U.S. Department of State to train journalists in foreign countries?

Absolutely. The U.S. State Department’s public diplomacy section is tasked with building capacity—which includes providing training for journalists—in every country where the U.S. has an embassy. I provide the material as I see fit with no interference from the U.S. government.

I trained publishers in Cameroon in 1994 and that was the case then, too.

What is your perception of Liberia's democracy?

Well, the phrase used around the international community is this: Liberia is stable but fragile. Warlords who carried on the long civil war, which was made into a documentary titled the Uncivil War, are running for election.

What are some issues of press freedom in Liberia? For example, is a consolidation of ownership causing wealthy parties to have a disproportionate influence? Is there any strong-arm political interference?

The top three issues I’ve observed: 1. Resisting the economic temptation of receiving help from politicians who would wish to influence the reporting in their direction; 2. Lack of economic resources to do their jobto get out to the rural areas and serve the goals of civic journalism; 3. Working together, rather than always in competition.

What did the journalists take away from your keynote speech at the PUL event?

I tried to emphasize the importance of balancing their freedom to report on the elections in 2011 and their responsibility to do a professional job. Establishing credibility in the face of overwhelming odds; their work is an uphill battle.

Political leaders and political candidates are reluctant to confide in reporters if they believe they're not prepared to report ethically and remain professional. Of course, this can also be an excuse for politicians not to be transparent.

How would you define credibility? What are some of those “overwhelming odds” that Liberian journalists face?

It means the same thing here as it means in the United States, reporting ethically and following professional standards that include rigorous fact-checking, proper identification of sources and correct attribution. One of the first object lessons was a photo of me, which appeared on the back page of one of the leading newspapers: the cutline identified me as the chairman of the National Elections Commission.

Overwhelming odds: These journalists work with limited resources, such as lack of funding to travel upcountry to cover stories; poor roads and lack of transport options, poorly equipped and dimly lit newsrooms, and the biggest drawback—paltry salaries.

This is due, in large part, to the struggling economy here as well as to the consequences of a bloody civil war. The electrical grid was severely damaged when the major energy station was sabotaged. The president of the country [Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] has made this one of her major priorities since being elected in 2005.

What is Liberia’s media scene like? What newspapers or other news outlets were represented at your workshop?

The number of media outlets changes all the time because independent newspapers are springing up in this open and free environment. I might add here that the Liberian legislature has just passed an open-records bill: FOIA. The president has promised to sign the bill.

Four to six daily newspapers seem to dominate, but an average print run for any one of these newspapers is only 5,000 copies: the Daily Observer, FrontPage, the National Chronicle, New Liberia, the News, the Inquirer, and New Vision. I would say the most innovative of all these is FrontPage, which started out as an online newspaper. The literacy rate here is very low.

Among the participants were about four community radio stations, which was very encouraging because this means that rural areas are getting news where so many people cannot read or write. Also two television stations were present. Of the 40 reporters, at least 8 were from community radio stations.

Do Liberian newspapers endorse election candidates, as American newspapers do?

It's likely that two or three newspapers tend to be partisan. This is a problem. We covered this issue pretty thoroughly. It's not always out in the open, but yes, it is my understanding that this took place during the last election.

The journalists [in my workshop] agreed that this isn't a good practice; it's only acceptable if the newspaper makes it very clear that this candidate is being endorsed, but the endorsement appears on the editorial page and must not influence the quality of the reporting.

As you know, Jay Rosen has published and written quite a bit on his own blog about the importance of reporters and editors creating a Citizens Agenda for covering elections. His ideas inspired my lecture on this point, as well as the assignments I gave both cohorts. The assignment was to give them a trial run at creating a Citizens Agenda.

They really got into this and seemed to become excited about the role journalists here can play in at least mitigating against the usual “horse-race” coverage we see so much, especially in the United States. Lewis T. Togba, a reporter for the Liberia Broadcasting System said, “Formulating the citizens agenda means a lot to me and was very new ground for me.” That sentiment was shared widely during the workshop. Chloe Roberts, a producer for The Star Newspaper, gave the three-day workshop a 100% on her evaluation form.

What is a “citizens agenda”? Did your workshop make a direct difference to any Liberian journalist?

I had the participants separate into groups of six persons each. Each group had to come up with what they thought are the most important issues Liberian citizens would tell them mattered in the upcoming election cycle.

Second, we talked about preparing to cover elections ahead of time. For example, covering speecheswhat to look for, how to create a checklist so that before a speech is given, they have an idea of attendance; have their interviews set up ahead of time; the three-source rule of reporting a story, even speeches, etc. Third, anticipating problems that occur on election day: number of polling stations; adequate number of ballots; phone numbers of election supervisors. Fourth, best practices in journalism: my 25 tips for effective writing; reporting ideas from my colleagues at the Mayborn School: Kathie Hinnen, Tracy Everbach, George Getschow and yourself. Finally, I talked to them about the differences between traditional journalism and public/civic journalism.

Please travel safely back to Denton!

Thanks, Nikhil. As I de-briefed with Dehab Ghebreab, the American public affairs officer, I told her, “The older I get the more I realize how important it is to do things that matter the most in one’s career.” Working with journalists here matters a great deal to me: helping to build journalism capacity in a part of the world I have come to love.


Photo: Mitch Land (left) with Ernest Kiazolu, who is information assistant in the public diplomacy section of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia and formerly a reporter and producer with Star Radio, Monrovia. (Picture by Peter Quaqua, president of the Press Union of Liberia)

Other interviews:

Dan Gillmor: "Emerging entry barriers may deal a 'hammer blow' to media innovations"

Robert G. Picard: "News organizations will rely upon a greater variety of revenue streams..."

Jim O'Shea: "Newspapers have served the interests of investors at the expense of readers"

Leonard Witt: "I want conversation, I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Emerging entry barriers may deal a “hammer blow” to new media innovations

Dan Gillmor has worked for many newspapers, but he is not quite an ink-stained wretch. His passion is for digital media. Ever since he operated a blog for the San Jose Mercury News in the mid-1990s, Mr. Gillmor has found a studious obsession in the intersections of technology and journalism.

Nowadays, Mr. Gillmor directs the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. He says he loves it when “risk is at the bottom of the pile” of an entrepreneur’s concerns. Risk-taking is important, but ownership, appreciating ambiguity, and moving quickly are essential.

“Smart companies don’t punish failed ideas even if they don’t give any incentives for failure,” Mr. Gillmor told a panel on business models at the AEJMC conference in Denver August 7. Media operations ought to encourage entrepreneurial processes internally and not punish failures when individuals took appropriate, smart risks. In this instant-messenger conversation with Nikhil Moro of UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism, Mr. Gillmor offered an expansion of that panel presentation, and then some.

Moro: You have said, “Digital media have a nearly zero barrier to entry.” Is that changing, though? Would we do well to expect entry barriers over the next five years?

Gillmor: The barriers to creating things are dropping steadily and are nearly zero now. That trend will continue. But we could well see new barriers arise, and they'll be designed to a) protect the incumbents; b) assist law enforcement; and c) keep dissent in line. They'll revolve around net neutrality, intellectual property and public safety issues, which will be used to clamp down on what we can do online.

For example, if the telecom companies get what they want on net neutrality -- the right to determine which bits their customers can bring down to their devices, in what order and at what speed, if they are delivered at all -- that will be a hammer blow to innovative new media services. It’s not an exaggeration to say that free speech in the digital age depends on the choices residing in the hands of the customers, not the carriers.

On intellectual property, Hollywood and its allies are continuing to push for ever-stricter copyright laws and enforcement that moves us toward a pay-per-view world of media where we need permission to use anything anyone else has created in the creation of a new work. That’s contrary to our traditions, and it would hamper innovation and creativity. All culture and science stands on the shoulders of what came before; the copyright system threatens both. Licensing is a related issue. Most recently, the software industry won a truly terrible ruling in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, saying that software licenses allow companies to restrict use of their products solely to the person who bought them, preventing the person from selling or even giving it to someone else. How would you like it if the book publisher said only you could read the book you just bought? Libraries see what this means and they are quite correctly terrified -- and we all should be.

Then you have the many people, especially in law enforcement, who’d clamp down on free speech in the name of public safety. The latest example is the shameful actions of a group of state attorneys general who basically forced craigslist to shut down its adult-services section. They had absolutely no legal basis for this; in fact, the law specifically shields Internet service providers from liability for what others post on their sites, provided they take down illegal material upon notification. In addition, craigslist had gone way further than others in this market to assist law enforcement in its investigations of prostitution, especially child prostitution. The rest of the Internet industry sat quiet while these posturing politicians whacked craigslist, and they’re going to regret it; there will be a push soon to repeal the law that shields providers from liability for what others post -- and that law is a principal reason we have a free and robust debate online today. (Note: Craig Newmark is a friend, and he has been a funder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, where I was a Fellow.)

Moro: You seem to take a libertarian approach to content regulation, frowning upon a search product with Google’s market dominance having a “nannyish approach.” Google Instant should not be “making decisions for us that it should let us be making,” you have said. Why does self-regulation work? If users chose to ignore libelous or fighting words, would such words disappear?

Gillmor: I'm a big believer that the answer to bad speech is better speech, but I'm not a defender of libel or language specifically designed to elicit a violent response. Even there, however, we don't want to get into prior restraint.

Moro: Are you referring to oligopolistic trends in America’s news industry when you say, "We are seeing a market failure"? When one search product or a few ISPs dominate, should we be concerned that the barriers to accessing news would actually increase?

Gillmor: The main market failure in journalism was the monopoly and oligopoly era, certainly from the point of view of the media's most important customers, the advertisers. They were squeezed unmercifully by publishers and broadcasters. The monopoly/oligopoly, compounded by corporate consolidation, led to a dearth of variety for readers, too. I'm always troubled when one company dominates anything. Competition is healthy for the market ecosystem, even if it's hard on the competitors.

Moro: You have said, “The slate is blank as far as the future of the news industry is concerned.” Please elaborate.

Gillmor: We're in the early days of the creative destruction phase, as Schumpeter would have put it, in media evolution. What's coming is going to be a much more diverse ecosystem, I hope and believe, that will include many different business models. Some will dominate, as tends to happen in all economic sectors, but it's not clear what they'll be yet. Meanwhile, new kinds of techniques for media and journalism and collaboration are coming along. The opportunities seem fairly limitless in that context. It'll be a hugely messy transition, with a lot of problems along the way, but I'm convinced it'll be a positive evolution overall.

Among the problems: We don’t know what we can trust and what we can’t trust when we see or hear something online. It was a lot easier when we had limited media sources. Now we have to do more work ourselves, as I’m writing in my new book. But the effort is well worth it.

Another issue is the reality that we’re losing, at least temporarily, some of the kinds of journalism we really need -- especially the journalism that holds powerful people accountable and lets them know that someone might be paying attention when they misbehave. It’s not clear how the market will serve that need, and we need a lot of creativity.

Moro: You have said entrepreneurship is social ownership, that is ownership of the process and outcome rather than of stock or money.

Gillmor: Entrepreneurship isn’t solely about owning stock or making money -- though it may well include that and usually does. Paraphrasing my colleague CJ Cornell on this, it's also very much about owning the process and the outcome of your work. It means, in part, that you have to be committed and focused.

Moro: Do you have a favorite example of an emerging entrepreneur in the news industry?

Gillmor: Hope you’ll understand why I want to duck this one -- there are so many cool thing going on that I’d hate to only name one. But I'm watching a number of projects with great interest. Some are for-profit, others are more in the social-enterpreneurship category or outright nonprofits. If my South by Southwest talk

is accepted, though, I'm going to list somewhere between 20 and 100 (hope to go with the higher number) projects that make me glad to be in the field right now.

Moro: You have said, “I am not clear which business model is going to emerge.” So what are the options?

Gillmor: Everything is on the table for revenue, but I think that someone from NPR said that there are lots of revenue sources and we have to go after many of them in every kind of enterprise. It'll be a blend, then, from advertising, subscription, patronage, donations, services, ancillary products and more -- and people will find new ways to bring willing buyers to sellers. The business side of journalism needs more innovation right now than the doing-journalism side.

Moro: If the Web is about iteration – anything we do, we must fix on a continuous basis – can the Web ever provide a medium of record?

Gillmor: Sure it can. You archive everything you do and make sure it's available, as Wikipedia does. You can go back to see every change made in articles there. The thing we need to add (and I'm working on a blog posting about this) is a way to create a new page with a new permalink for changed versions, with attached metadata, so that when someone refers to something we know which version it was. This will be pretty complex to pull off, I suspect. I'm thinking a lot about this because of my new book, which I'm envisioning as a 1.0 version of a book that I'll rerelease as a 2.0 in a year, and possibly with a lot of in-between updates. Doing this raises the issue of citations; if we're not working from a common text how do we know what we're citing is the same stuff.

Moro: Speaking of your forthcoming book, don't you plan to self-publish it? In your 2004 book We the Media, you had invoked a history of self publishing: Paine’s Common Sense and Hamilton-Madison-Jay’s Federalist Papers were all self-published and, as it turned out, either inspired the anti-colonial revolution or shaped America’s constitution. In what circumstances do you see an acceptance of self-publishing in academic tenure? How do you measure quality, rigor or originality in a self-published work?

Gillmor: Yes. See this for background. I'll have a test of self-publishing acceptance with this book, because I'm very much hoping that educators will use it. There's a growing understanding that traditional publishers aren't serving the marketplace very well anymore, especially for authors. The quality, rigor and originally of self-published books ranges just as widely as in blogs; a lot of it is not so hot, but there's some extraordinary work being done.

Moro: Can you share a couple of examples of "extraordinary work" from self-published scholars (other than yourself) in journalism or mass communication?

Gillmor: Not offhand -- I haven't really looked around at this. But the blogging being done by academics is extraordinarily good in many cases, and I believe that counts.

Again, I hesitate to cite specifics because there are so many; I don’t want to suggest that these are the only bloggers worthy of attention. But take a look at Brad DeLong’s blog at Berkeley and Balkinization, a brilliant law group-blog, for starters.

Moro: Some 15 years ago, you had published one of the earliest blogs operated by any journalist for a news organization. How have blogs unfolded since then? And would you list, say, five ways in which they would evolve over the next five years?

Gillmor: Blogs have become an entirely mainstream activity, but they still range all over the map. For the first several years of my blog I was the only one doing it, as far as I knew, in the traditional media. Now everyone does it, and that's great; blogs are an absolutely natural extension of the print and broadcast brands. I'd be hard pressed to list five ways they'll evolve, because like almost everyone else I didn't anticipate micro-blogging (Twitter) or what people do inside Facebook and other social networks, which is a social blogging system of sorts (among other things). I'd expect people to keep stretching the boundaries, and I'd especially expect the blog platform providers to add valuable capabilities that make the most of the mobile computing we're all increasingly doing. The important thing to remember is that blogging is a tool, and blogs are websites. Beyond that you can do almost anything.

Moro: Have blogs, and other social media, become more social and less personal?

Gillmor: It depends on who's doing them. I don't have data, but I'd guess that this is the case.

Moro: You have said, “People often ask who, in the anyone-can-publish world, is a journalist? I tell them it’s the wrong question. The right one: What is journalism?” So what is journalism? Please list your top five principles of journalism.

Gillmor: The principles you've asked for are one of the key chapters in my new book. Four of them are the same ones that have applied to traditional journalism -- accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, independence -- plus one more that I consider essential for the future: transparency.

Moro: Transparency in what?

Gillmor: Transparency in telling the audience your biases and world view; explaining when it makes sense how and why you did what you did; and much more. Journalism has been a black box, and it’s way overdue that journalists open up a bit. I’m not asking people to post their tax returns online, but I do think they should tell us, for example, when they have a stake (ideological or financial) in the outcome. And the more audiences understand about the process of creating trustworthy information, the more likely they may be to give it some trust.

Moro: Thank you, Dan, for talking to me!

Gillmor: My pleasure, Nikhil.

Photograph courtesy of Joi Ito via Creative Commons

Also see:

Robert G. Picard: "News organizations will rely upon a greater variety of revenue streams..."

Jim O'Shea: "Newspapers have served the interests of investors at the expense of readers"

Leonard Witt: "I want conversation, I want collective intelligence, but I also want sound journalism"