I am happy to report that after nine months at Oxford studying citizen journalism I have decided absolutely nothing.
No, that's not entirely true. I've learned a lot and arguably even formed a few opinions. (I sketched some of them out recently in a guest post at Kyle MacRae's Frontline Club blog.) But the main impression I have is of an industry--journalism--in a state of flux that is, depending on your particular outlook and constitution, either nauseating or exhilarating. Or a bit of both.
We're making the rules up as we go along. And how else would we do it? I'm reminded of James Naismith and the game he refined over years: basketball. Here's a great video re-creation of what that process may have been like. Naismith started out with peach baskets nailed to the wall rather than string nets around stiff metal hoops. The baskets still had the bottoms on them, until someone had the idea to cut them off. (Thus depriving some poor unskilled worker of a job: the ladder-climbing basketball basket-emptier.)
I know I'm stretching the analogy past the breaking point--traveling, you might say--but journalism today
probably hasn't cut the bottoms off its digital peach baskets. ("Digital Peach Basket": the new album by Moby.) That we're still finding our way is evident in two stories in today's Guardian. Reader' editor Siobhain Butterworth writes about altering, updating and correcting the paper's stories on the web. I don't completely understand the genesis of the column--something about a freelancer wanting to add material to an already-published piece--but I buy her central argument: You can't go around "invisibly" correcting/changing web stories, even if technology allows you to do just that.
Another issue is raised in a story about newspaper-sponsored blog sites. The Daily Telegraph allows anyone to start blogging under its umbrella (even me; I did it to test the process). Some 20,000 people have signed up and the Guardian points out that a few Telegraph readers have used the forum to promote the racist British National Party. What responsibility does the newspaper have? The Telegraph's Shane Richmond stirs up plenty of debate in his blog posting on that issue.
The irony is that the Guardian's Comment Is Free section is chockablock with vituperative backbiting of a most disagreeable nature. The Guardian points out that those sorts of comments are posted by readers in reaction to sanctioned bloggers and that the remarks are moderated (as are MyTelegraph's; and both sites allow readers to report posts they find beyond the pale). I suspect the Telegraph thinks this is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
But, see, this is us experimenting to see what works. Years from now we may look back and think it was crazy to host reader blogs, or we may wonder what all the fuss was about.
Video Killed the Internet Star
I was curious what sort of video quality my Canon compact digital camera was capable of, so I shot a couple of events this weekend. And, being the compleat digital journalist, I stuck them on YouTube. Here's some of the Summertown Street Festival (the fast-mo, slow-mo is an "arty" effect I added in iMovie):
And here's a bit of the Oxford Town & Gown 10K:
While I wouldn't want to use the camera to shoot an Indiana Jones movie, the quality's not too bad. And note that as of 9:30 this morning about a dozen people had watched each. True, that's not very many, but it's amazing that anyone watched them at all, given that I just slipped them into the great vat of YouTube content. There's probably a Long Tail point to be made here.
Stop Your Sobbing
Don't forget: "Flat Earth News's" Nick Davies, speaking in Cambridge tonight. I'll be there too.