Rebooting The News #19

In Podcast on August 3, 2009 by Dave Winer

Podcast recorded on August 3, 2009 at 9AM Pacific. Show notes, as always, by Jay.

RSS in the cloud and the Pushbutton Web

Dave on his rssCloud road show.

“The 140 character loosely-coupled messaging network.” It’s Twitter, minus that system’s major irritations, including the biggest one: the behavior of Twitter, the company, in creating things like the Suggested Users List. The “loosely coupled” part is where we have a disagreement with that company.

(For more: Anil Dash, The Pushbutton Web: Realtime Becomes Real and Bad Hair Day #6 with Dave Winer, Anil Dash and Marshall Kirkpatrick.)

Jay: Updates to subscribers–that is, the people who need to be kept updated because they live in a shifting world–is central to what modern news is. In that sense, Twitter, or the 140 character loosely-coupled messaging system that is “trapped” inside it, is modeling an idea very close to the heart of news. This is why it’s exerting a gravitational pull on journalism.

Property rights in news production

Sorting through the Washington Post story: The Death of Journalism (Gawker Edition).

Ian Shapira: “After all the reporting, it took me about a day to write the 1,500-word piece. How long did it take Gawker to rewrite and republish it, cherry-pick the funniest quotes, sell ads against it and ultimately reap 9,500 (and counting) page views?”

Is there such a huge difference between Gawker taking what the Washington Post said (without paying) and selling ads against it, and the Washington Post taking what its sources said (without paying) and selling ads against that?

Jay: I’d never ask to be paid–and I often serve as source to reporters writing about journalism–but I increasingly find, “we’ll talk to you for 35 minutes and decide which 19 words get quoted” a bad bargain and decline it.

An example. If one thought I had, “how can you edit your page if you don’t know what the users are clicking on…?” gets quoted but another, “to be totally traffic-driven is idiotic…” is missing from the account, that does not help me. As a source, I am worse off, but none of the rules of journalism have been violated.

Dave: A solution I have come to: if a journalists sends me the questions I can decide whether to write a blog post about them. Then at least my full response is on the record, and they can use the part they wish.

Let’s a put a marker here and return to it later. I don’t need to be paid, either– that’s not the point. But when they’re arguing about who owns the news, and asserting various property rights, journalists should learn to always put the sources into the picture. Without them, there is no news system, so how can you leave them out in deciding who “owns” what?

Transparency is the new objectivity, cont.

“Let’s see your notes. Let’s see how you got there.” That is the more transparent way of building trust. “You don’t believe me? Here are the documents. Here are the people I talked to.”

In that system, trust accumulates article by article, transaction by transaction. If people take you up on the offer they not only trust the story you were transparent about, but they’re more likely to trust the next one too.

Serve the updates with the back story

Jay: Because we are realizing–as David Weinberger put it–that lots of things we thought were property of news were really just properties of paper, or the tools we had at the time, it’s becoming clearer to me that in the rebooted system, the updates need not be served without the back narrative from which they arise.

When a reporter posts a news story on, say, the Enron trial, that is of limited value without prior knowledge explaining where the trial stands so far. In the era of print, when the article was the unit of production, there were limited options for displaying the back narrative that makes the update important in the first place. But in the rebooted system we can serve the updates with the narrative… and we should.

Bootstrapping: Doug Englebart was there first

Dave’s turn for inspiration of the week: it’s Doug Englebart, who plays a similar role in tech that Marshall McLuhan plays in media. The mouse, windows, the graphic interface, outlining– all came from him, or ideas he first had. But what’s most inspiring is his idea of bootstrapping. “You make the tool that you need to make the tool.” There is an element of magic to it.

Dave’s advice to a young programmer, Jake Jarvis, offspring of Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis. 1.) Be a user yourself; 2.) Listen to your users. That’s what keeps you grounded.

Similarly, in order to be an innovative producer of news you first need to be an urgent user of news. It’s the experience of being a frustrated user that illuminates the need for a tool we don’t yet have, and right there is the spark that may lead to bootstrapping.

Advice for a young journalist

Jay: when people ask me what advice I have for a young person starting in journalism (“Should I start a blog? Should I be on Twitter? should I try for a job in print?”) I say: find a group of atomized people who need to share information in order to become a community. Then try to be useful to that community as a journalist. It starts with people who are struggling to keep up with their world. Obviously they need the updates and the narrative. Let this experience teach you what you need to know, and which tools are right for the job.

Markers for future discussion: Richard Stallman and Eric S. Raymond along with the Halloween Documents.

reboot09Aug03.mp3 (audio/mpeg, 10.2MB)
Monday, August 3, 2009.

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