Turning the Web 2.0 Corner

Today’s post is also brilliant.  And again, I didn’t write it.  I see a pattern here.

My friend Jeremy Littau, who is also finishing up his PhD in journalism at Mizzou, taught online journalism to Master’s students this summer.   Jeremy recorded weekly “video chats” and uploaded them to You Tube for students, and one week he discussed how a “Web 2.0 journalist” approaches their work differently than a “1.0 journalist.” He argued that there is no longer a  “two-step process for the journalist (think of story idea, do story) but rather a conversational approach (think of story idea and often the result of conversation, ask yourself what the best way to present this story is in a way that both gets the info out there and also creates conversation, do story, remain involved with discussion afterward).”

One of his students, Kris Passey, wrote an interesting essay responding to this idea that both Jeremy and I liked a lot.  Here it is:

My mind took another step around the corner today. I’m talking about the Web 2.0 corner. But it feels like I’ve walked right into heavy traffic.

I have been struggling for some time now, knowing that the next phase of journalistic evolution requires an entirely new mindset. I think I have grasped more intuitively than deductively that the old processes I grew up with are flawed somehow; that they don’t correspond to the reality in which we now live. But when Jeremy said that we can’t just leave our stories out there the balls started to drop.

If Jeremy is right, and I think he is, journalists will move from detached production units of manufacture – measured in information bits – into the stream itself that provides the information. Moreover, they will add a financial responsibility largely downplayed to this point. Jeremy characterized the current mindset in the approach of writing the stories we gather, getting them published, then moving on – “leaving them out there.” Whether people read or watch or listen with interest to those stories has never directly been an accurately measured factor, something that would enter a job review for instance. I know there are some exceptions to this but for the most part the assumption of financial responsibility for audience involvement has been with the managers of journalists.

In fact, one exception regarding journalists who practice their craft in book length media makes the point. These folks are directly linked to the financial success of their enterprise by the perceived quality of their output.

The new paradigm of stories that don’t start when the journalist becomes aware of them or stop when the journalist finishes publication is another aspect of this evolution. The idea that the new species of journalist must continue to engage the story as it evolves and mutates is dramatically different than the compartmentalized stories of the old journalistic universe. Web 2.0, or whatever we call it, goes far beyond updated editions. It seems to be calling for the tenacity of intellect and social skills that far exceed any current working journalistic MSM model and even tests the limits of New Media.

I respectfully disagree with [those who] compare this new paradigm with afternoon papers and the idea that this new world is just a more featurish approach with a zingier presentation added to what we currently do. I think Jeremy’s point about creating a story platform for interaction does most to argue against that approach. Blog motivations study author Barbara Kaye said it clearly, “…users may but are not required to respond to a blogger by sending comments and links to additional information.” (p.127). In the future world of Web 2.0, if there is any recognizable element of mass media journalists of today, they must be measured by precisely how many users do respond. Blind hits alone will not lead to the subsidies necessary for the sort of work load we have envisioned.

This is a scary new world of almost unimagined and undeveloped skill sets. It should provide lots of educational jobs if only there will be someone to hire the graduates.

4 Comments

Filed under Student Perspectives

4 responses to “Turning the Web 2.0 Corner

  1. JG

    I agree that news is becoming a conversation. But I believe there is an expectation among the public of having people dedicated to digging up information who are skillful and knowledgeable about working a beat.

    Just as you can use WebMD to expand your frame of reference for dealing with your doctor, the Internet provides a unique forum for understanding and interacting with your hometown journalist. But the public, for the most part, still expects us to do our jobs to the best of our abilities, gathering as much information as possible and offering it in a way that allows readers to understand what’s happening.

    After the rush to war with Iraq, the cry wasn’t, “Why didn’t we figure this out?” It was, “Why didn’t the media do their jobs?”

  2. changingnewsroom

    As you might imagine, I couldn’t agree more, Groves. I definitely believe wholeheartedly and fully in the role of the journalist in digging up information. I don’t think that stands in contrast to the conversational theme, though, since conversation can mean better beat reporting, better cultivation of sources, a richer and more diverse context, etc. But I know what you mean…journalists today are so incredibly strapped for time and under so many different pressures that it is sometimes difficult to contemplate adding on any role. However, some journalists that I’ve talked to are finding ways to actually save time using social media and other conversational mechanisms. Will have to write about that more later.

  3. Hey, cool tips. I’ll buy a bottle of beer to that man from that forum who told me to go to your blog🙂

  4. Pingback: Leaving stories “out there” « 20 cents: news paradigms

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