Tag Archives: Dan Gillmor

Asking “Who’s a journalist?” is so 2007

Dan Gillmor asks in a Salon piece, “Who’s a journalist?” Commenters are weighing in.

But Dan, please pardon me for this reaction.

This question is so 2007.

Howard Weaver raised it in his old blog, Etaoin Shrdlu, that year. I wrote a paper that year for a UNC class that addressed the question.

Why are we still dealing with it?

Perhaps the question still draws reaction because many journalists are finding that others are co-opting the name, or they’re unsure whether they can still use the label for themselves if they’re not getting paid by organizations anymore to do journalism.

Either way, the question resembles discussion of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, and I’d love to see us move on to other questions.

How should society pay for journalism? What can we learn from history and current experiments like Spot.Us?

How can individuals finance their journalism? Which old ethical rules should we keep?

How can experienced journalists spread the ethics, values and ideals that are worth keeping to the new creators who call themselves journalists?

Is a sports marketing company that solicits and broadcasts high school football scores through text and Twitter a journalism company? Not unless they build a system that adds verification of the information, making it bulletproof from spammers and bots who will no doubt find it.

Is a site that scrapes content from local newspapers and repurposes it without attribution on “hyperlocal” WordPress blogs journalism? No, but how do you teach small local advertisers and readers to tell the difference?

Those are the questions that matter now. People describing themselves as journalists will be best judged by what they produce. Librarians and others working with academic papers are polishing systems that assign rankings to people based on their published works. Others like Spot.Us and Publish2 are experimenting with new funding models.

How can we make new forms work? Let’s get to it.

Move beyond 2007.


Flooding in Atlanta: One search to bind them all

About 6 a.m. Monday, Steve Burns, a freelance journalist near Atlanta, sent out a note on Twitter:

“WSB: Boil water advisory in Douglas County. #atlfloods”

An hour later, Atlanta blogger Grayson Hurst Daughters tweeted from her @spaceyg account:

“Atlanta commuters: use the hashtag #atlflood for Atlanta flood condition notices.”

She followed up quickly with a note to a local TV outlet:

“@11AliveNews, please consider using the hashtag #atlflood in your Tweets! That way all the notices can be indexed/RSS’d. Tx!”

The tag set the tone for an organized, findable stream of aggregated content that helped Atlantans and their friends stay informed as the rain kept falling, killing at least 6 people, swamping interstates and causing major delays at the airport. The Georgia governor declared a state of emergency in 17 counties.

We’ve all read posts about how Twitter provides immediate coverage of earthquakes or bloody election fallout. But this moment showed how a social media tool enabled aggregation of all local news coverage through one search, quickly, in a large city, for breaking news.

Individuals shared links to stories from the established local news outlets quickly throughout the day. And a picture on Twitpic of flooding on Atlanta’s downtown connector received more than 60,000 views in about 10 hours.

Considering it a victory for untrained “citizen journalism” might be a bit misleading. Burns has newspaper experience from California, Georgia and Florida, and Daughters is a writer and corporate communication professional who worked for ABC News for six years. Also heavily involved was Tessa Horehled, a strategic marketer who advises companies about social media plans. Tweeting at @driveafastercar, she braved the rain with a video camera numerous times throughout the day from her neighborhood, and posted pictures late into the evening as a creek approached her front door.

She also created the tag #atlgas, used extensively during a gas shortage in the fall of 2008 in the Atlanta area. That tag was featured in a TED presentation by Twitter founder Evan Williams.

Certainly many other people were posting on Twitter, and local media outlets covered the story well. Ajc.com linked to a Twitter search of the tag. But because individuals used the tag while pointing to established media stories as well as posting their own observations, the tag itself served as a way of aggregating all media into one search.

But yes, there’s a drawback, in counting on the crowd to control the content of a tag for aggregation: As soon as the hashtag hit the Top 10 trending terms on Twitter, opportunistic usurpers crowded the stream and made it much less valuable. That gaming of the system shows that a tag is most useful when it’s NOT in the top 10 trending list.

About 8 p.m., one person on Twitter from Cambridge expressed frustration to Dan Gillmor, author of “We the Media,” that no national media outlets were covering the story, and he repeated the tweet. About 9 p.m., the L.A. Times sent out a tweet pointing to its story, with a dateline “Reporting from Atlanta.”

But throughout the day, the best place for aggregated coverage from both established local media and from individuals came from searching Twitter for the #atlflood tag.

Until it hit the “trending” list.

The five best and worst sites, Part V

Cluetrain Manifesto

Focus: Connections, design, serendipity, and a long, long tail

The best: Dan Gillmor’s blog. This site appears to be Gillmor’s personal space, not associated with the Center for Citizen Media. It answered a big question for me this morning, and sent me on some serendipitous rabbit trails.

The tale starts with a “404 Not Found” message at the Center for Citizen Media. I searched Google for Gillmor to see whether he had suddenly disappeared from the Internet, found his blog, and got my answer that the Center’s site was down. That in itself is a good lesson for bloggers who are hosted somewhere else: Have a findable backup place where you can tell your readers what’s going on. They’ll love you for it.
Gillmor’s personal site’s serendipity then sent me to some interesting places, past and present:
Doc Searls weblog: This early web visionary is alive and well and sharing through a Harvard blog. He’s a fellow with the Berkman Center and has focused on business and the web for years.
His site led me to the Cluetrain Manifesto, a place I had not been in years. This manifesto, circa 1999, speaks louder than ever at a time when many people are ringing their hands about the state of business and the Internet, especially the media business.
Then on to Harvard blogs, a place where many smart people are writing.
Then on to Reflections from Beijing, a place that has not forgotten about Burma. The region’s woes might have fallen off the radar of big media quickly, but the issue of communication access there and in China remains a high priority for some big brains, young and old.

The best worst (warning: turn down your sound before you click): The World’s Worst Website.
It speaks for itself.

Free speech and free software

Gillmor in Russia

Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media is visiting Russia. That’s part of one of his pictures above.

His web site is one of the sites I’m evaluating for my research topic: building sustainable, objective, findable journalism on the web. Over time, Gillmor has built up credibility about the idea of Citizen Media, because of his dead-tree book, his blogging and his affiliation with Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University Law School.
His postings from Russia add to my belief that “citizen journalism” is only fueled by oppression. He’s mildly surprised that the concept of citizen media is going globally so quickly, but I think that the state of free speech and a free press in other countries adds to people’s yearning for tools to help them speak freely.

Please note: I understand oppression doesn’t just come from governments. Imagine a dystopia in which we all work for one company, Bogoohooazonfa. That’s as frightening to me as worrying about oppressive governments.

But “citizen” involvement is going on in the business world too. Open-source software — free, shared software that is open for modification and development by others — is continuing to evolve. That movement has the potential to not only change how people publish online, but also how they publish in print. Perhaps in the future, even newspapers and magazines could be published with open-source software instead of expensive proprietary systems.

The Raleigh area of North Carolina is right in the middle of those open-source developments, because the company Red Hat is there. You can learn more at Red Hat Magazine.