Fortunately other people have more energy than I do today... like David Weinberger, who has live blogged session 1, session 2, session 3, and session 4. The Media Center people have also live blogged the whole thing here. Why duplicate their work? ;-)
Bill Weiss, CEO of the Promar Group, echoed something John Palfrey said at the BJC conference. "Since the age of the caveman," he said, "most change comes from the edge of the radar." In other words, the real innovation and revolutionary new ideas are coming from users and media practitioners (professional and non) who are out in the trenches doing stuff and figuring out new ways what they want to do.. not necessarily thinking about the huge grand scheme of things. (In other words, they are the kinds of people who will not be at these conferences...)
A number of people pointed out that news companies are horrible at technological innovation, because they are not structured to innovate. They're structured to keep doing the same thing. They have no good mechanisms for experimentation - R&D or "product development" as they would say in the tech industry. News companies are also really bad at collaboration - not only internally, but cross-industry.
Gem of the day from Jeff Jarvis: Online news sites should stop thinking of themselves as "things" and more as "places."
Self-effacing comment of the day from Craig Newmark of Craigslist: "I've only ever had one idea."
Jan Schaffer of the J-lab points out that there should be a market and a demand for good, original journalism. Problem is, most professional news media do way too much "me too" journalism: duplicating the same stories and not doing truly original, investigative work.
My main beef: The question of whether "mainstream media" will survive, or whether it should survive, or in what form, or how, is irrelevant. I don't care. I'm sick of arguments about that. What I care about is whether journalism - the process of hunting down factual information and verifying it - survives and thrives somewhere, somehow.
I'm starting to suffer from serious conference-fatigue. Note to self: Time to stop yakking about the future of news and media and time to start actually doing some stuff. Unfortunately, I've got 3 more conferences this month... not good.
We're churning through a number of the usual issues here at the Media Center conference: mainstream media is losing public trust, losing viewers, losing readers. Citizens' media is on the rise. What is the future business model? How do we create a new media ecosystem that helps strengthen (and improve) our democracy?
Will post more about what got said when I get inspired.
"Strengthening the public discourse, and strengthening
democracy, is indeed the common ground shared by professional journalists,
bloggers, wikipedians and others involved in the creation of grassroots media.
The conference established two important things: 1) that
this common ground does indeed exist, and 2) that all are eager to work
together. The goal is to create a better society and better means of giving
citizens both the information they need and the forums of discourse required to
hold their leaders truly accountable. Now we need to figure out how to achieve
that goal. This conference has helped point us in the right direction, but the
work – and the journey – has only just begun."
* Mainstream Media (MSM) in the connected society: Will the traditions of professional journalism survive? Should they? What are the implications for society?
* Technology, humanity and the global datastream: What’s going on? How will it benefit society? * We Media, the culture, and the common good: How we know, how we learn, how we trust in the emerging ecosystem of participatory, always-on media.
I'll be giving them a "report-out" on the BJC conference. The handout I've put together is here.
The usual suspects will be there.. I'll be blogging it to the extent I can.
UDATE: The conference is being live-blogged on the Morph blog.
Right-wing blogs, including Little Green Footballs, have moved their sights from CBS to CNN. At the center of the blogstorm are comments made by my former boss Eason Jordan at Davos, in which he alleged that the U.S. military had been targeting journalists in Iraq. See the original post about it by Rony Abovitz (founder of the digital surgery company Z-Kat, attending the forum as a "tech pioneer"), which he posted on the Forumblog - an "unnoficial" blog where World Econ Forum participants posted their impressions and views about sessions they attended. The official WEF summary does not mention Eason's remarks, and there is no transcript or webcast. But I was in the room and Rony's account is consistent with what I heard. I was also contributing to the Forumblog, but to be honest, Jordan happens to be my former boss who promoted me and defended me in some rather sticky situations after my reporting angered the Chinese government. As CNN's "senior statesman" over the years, Eason has done some things I agreed with and other things I wondered about. But at least when it came to China, he was no apologist and defended my reports on human rights abuses and political dissent. So I don't feel that I'm in a position to speak objectively on this issue, especially since I haven't been in Iraq and don't know the real situation on the ground. I would very much like to hear from other journalists working in Iraq. I'd like to hear, particularly, from other CNN reporters working in Iraq. Whether they'll be willing to speak out publicly on this issue is doubtful, but maybe others will. Maybe we'll hear from some of them anonymously. Maybe Kevin Sites and other journalists blogging from Iraq will let us know what they think.
UPDATE: I have emailed people at the World Economic Forum requesting a verbatim transcript of what precisely was said during the panel in question. I have also emailed Eason Jordan asking him whether he'd like to confirm and/or clarify his comments, since I did not record the session myself and my notes are not verbatim.
Jay Rosen is asking Webcred conference participants what concepts had the most impact on us. He will put it all together at Pressthink. This prompted me to refine the thinking I spewed into my last blog post. Here was my response:
One mind change and two epiphanies:
Mind change: Jimmy Wales blew me away. I use wikipedia, know some
wikipedians, and am familiar with wikinews and the controversies
surrounding its start. But like Ethan I thought that we were moving
towards a world of "blogs vs. wikis" and "transparency vs. NPOV". I
have argued in the past that NPOV is impossible and /particularly
/undesirable for citizens' journalism. If people have other dayjobs, and
especially if they work for advocacy organizations or government
offices, their conflicts of interest and biases would be even more
important to disclose than those of professional journalists. But after
listening to Jimbo, I realize that saying "it can't be done" would be
like scoffing at Ted Turner's idea of a 24-hour TV news network. Now I
think: "it just might be possible." I don't know how. But now I realize
that's ok, thanks to my first epiphany...
Epiphany #1: Also thanks to Jimmy Wales. In cyberspace, brilliant
ideas no longer need clear plans to create something revolutionary. Your
community organically takes your idea and runs with it, shaping it into
whatever they need that they don't already have. Craigslist is another
excellent (and profitable) example of this, though Craig isn't doing
news - yet. (I'm betting he will.) This kind of approach to media
innovation doesn't strike me as very appealing, however, to corporate
boards and shareholders of companies that own news organizations. Which
is why the future belongs outside of corporate concentrated media (call
it CCM for short.. ;-)).
Epiphany #2: I agree with many of you. Free access to archived news
content is key. I won't rehash the excellent arguments already made by
other people in this email thread. But I will add: This is an issue on
which our group is well positioned to do some valuable, concrete work.
Bill Mitchell's initial digging is just one example. Correct me if I'm
wrong, but I don't think many news executives know much if anything
about Creative Commons. (The ones I worked for didn't.) From my own
experience in the news biz, copyright law is viewed by most journalists
and news editors as gospel, unchangeable, handed down by God. But the
truth is, the best work of journalists has much less impact than it
potentially could thanks to existing intellectual property regimes. Thus
news organizations are losing a major opportunity to bank important
long-term capital: credibility with the public. If we hold another
conference I would suggest focusing on this issue. I would also suggest
some serious collaborative projects looking at how or whether news
companies can make money while freeing their archived content.
An incomplete roundup of my favorite concluding ideas:
Jay Rosen says "the forces of denial are in retreat." Mainstream Media (aka MSM) - at least the smart, forward-thinking leaders in the industry - are no longer in denial that the news business is in a credibility crisis, that the business model is disintegrating, and they must change radically. "Bloggers vs. Journalists" is a dead issue. We're all in this together, we're all part of a new, highly inter-dependent ecosystem. None of us can function without the other any more.
On the blogger side of the equation, I hope this conference can help dispel feelings out in the blogosphere that the MSM is dismissive of - or out to destroy - the free blogosphere. News executives in the room made it clear that they take it very seriously and see their future very much dependent on the way in which they work with independent citizen-communicators. (Note I deliberately avoid calling them citizen-journalists.)
John Palfrey believes the real drivers of media transformation will certainly not be media executives and editors or even the A-list bloggers, but the ordinary people (paid or not) who are out there communicating on the web every day - putting out information, ideas, opinions, images, sounds - and experimenting with new ways of communicating to whoever might be interested.
Jimmy Wales says the future of Wikinews is unplanned, because it will be shaped organically by its user/contributor community. It will become what the community needs and wants. It will be determined over time by trial and error and experimentation.
David Weinberger said lots of brilliant things, as usual. At the end of Saturday he said one thing in particular about blogging journalism and credibility. First of all, most bloggers are not trying to do journalism and aren't interested in having what they do defined or pigeonholed. In fact, it's impossible to define or pigeonhole anyway. He also made the point that what drives and shapes this new world of online participatory media is not credibility; it's "interest" - what ordinary people are interested in talking about.
Maybe that's why we were unable to make any headway when it came to actually defining new standards for credibility in this new emerging media ecosystem. Credible practices will evolve organically, you'll know them when you see them and they'll work. We can set guidelines that make you more likely to achieve credibility if you follow them, but human trust is an amorphous thing. And as the MSM has certainly learned, the formula for building and keeping trust is constantly shifting. If you turn your standards and practices into a template and stick to them doggedly without adapting, you'll wake up one day to find your credibility gone, and you won't know why.
At the same time, I believe you can take either a fatalistic approach or an activist approach to this evolution. We can actively work to make the evolution of the new media ecosystem as fair and inclusive as possible. As Weinberger says, the interests of the people communicating on the web will drive the evolution. But if this "interest" largely represents the interest of middle-class, white, affluent, early adopters, we are in danger of creating a feedback loop that would become less and less inclusive of people who were not in on the conversation at the beginning. Some of us are looking at ways to broaden the global conversation with such projects as Global Voices and the Digital Divide Network.
Another issue relates to the economics of new media, which are clearly far from being worked out. Dave Sifry of Technorati was telling me after the conference that he wished we had talked more about the future business model. While Jeff Jarvis talked about it some on Friday, we didn't get down to specifics of how you build a profitable and credible business model in the new media ecosystem. On the other hand, our Saturday discussions kept coming back to a major business and legal factor that has a huge impact on the shape of our information ecosystem: intellectual property regimes.
What is free on the web and what do you have to pay for? What is copyrighted under a traditional license and what is put out under a creative commons license? The decisions being made by the people who are putting original content on the web - whether paid professionals or volunteer citizen-creators - will have a massive impact on the quality of the free, open public discourse. Does a media company gain greater credibility (and thus profit) over the long run by freeing up their content and seeking other ways of gaining revenue, instead of walling off their content behind paid gateways? Some of us hope so and argue that to be the case, but do we really know?
I agree with John P. and others that while the future belongs to the grassroots, this is an important moment for socially-responsible leadership. Leadership by software and hardware toolmakers, a-list bloggers, media entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, and news executives. We talked mainly about editorial-type decisions and their relation to ethics and credibility. But what kinds of legal and business decisions will help shape the new media ecosystem in a way that strengthens our public discourse and reinvigorates our democracy? We clearly have no answers.