The need for context and explanation

For Tuesday’s discussion of explanatory journalism and how the Web can do so much more in helping us make sense of the news, please the “context manifestos” that led off the recent SXSW panel “The Future of Context” (and this good summary of the panel), Jay Rosen’s classic take on explanatory journalism … and … just for fun (thought not entirely related), see Clay Shirky’s latest post, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models.”

Drop in some of your ever-insightful comments below!

Evaluating citizen media sites

Building off where we left off in class today, I’d like you to read this chapter on community journalism from the latest (indeed, very recent) State of the News Media report. Try to grasp the key takeaways about citizen media: what’s working, what’s not, etc. Then visit this map of citizen media sites and identify a few of interest to you. Take a spin through their sites and examine them in light of what you just read from the State of the News Media findings.

In the comment section below, give us a brief analysis of these sites around the following kinds of questions:

  • What does this citizen media site cover, and in what ways? What’s the gist of this site?
  • To what extent is this site “open” to user contributions and control? How easy would it be not only to upload your own material but edit and manipulate existing content? Can you tell how the site manages these issues?
  • Do you have a sense for the sustainability of this site? (e.g., how it is being supported financially, now and in the future?)

Jot down your impressions (along with a link to the site you discuss) in the comments section below, for Thursday.

Citizen journalism

Howdy, everyone! I hope you had a great spring break.

This week we’re going to cover two related but different issues: citizen journalism and crowdsourcing. Both are “problematic” terms, in that people have various reasons for finding problems with those phrases (for example). But both also get at a similar concept, which is this: As the tools of media production have became near-ubiquitous (in western society) and the costs of using those tools to create, remix, and share have fallen to the floor, there are vast new opportunities for the formerly atomized audience to participate on their terms, connect and coordinate horizontally with each other, and do so in a way that creates value through collective intelligence and contributions.

On Tuesday we take up citizen journalism. Before class, please read my chapter from the Future of News book. It’s not the most comprehensive overview of the state of affairs, but it should give you a better background for understanding how citizen journalism has emerged (under what conditions, with what motivations, using what methods, etc.), and where it might be headed in the years to come. There’s little doubt that we’re going to see more of this phenomenon in the future—indeed, probably much, much more than we expect; the “rebooted system of news” clearly is going to be one of greater pro-am collaboration. But we’re left to ponder what the character of this increased contribution will be. What is citizen journalism now, and what will it become—and why should that matter for how you think about your own role in news?

Keep that question in mind as you read for Tuesday, and please post your comments below ahead of class. Thanks.

Blogging and the law

Kurt’s presentation in class Thursday has some helpful links to share …

Class blogs this semester

Our 18 students are spread among four blogs:

Love, Austin

Actively Austin

Austin Appetite

Burnt Orange Living

We’re off and blogging!

Now that we’ve divided the class into group blog teams, to cover various aspects of Austin life for the next 8 weeks, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Make sure that you’re familiar with WordPress and its functions.

• Keep in mind the requirements of this blog project.

• If you’re struggling for posting ideas, try here.

• If you’re interested, you can find some good tips such as these. I especially like this quote from Mindy McAdams’ post:

Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. Word. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web, if you really apply yourself to blogging. I speak from personal experience on this.

• Finally, for Tuesday I’d like you to read the following articles (see the syllabus for more details):

  • “Say Everything,” by Scott Rosenberg (introduction and chapter 9 on journalists vs. bloggers)
  • Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over,” by Jay Rosen
  • If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue,” by Jay Rosen
  • As you read, think about these questions: What is the relationship between blogging and journalism? What are the ethics of blogging, and how do they relate to the traditional ethics of journalism? In short: what does the blog form and the blog culture mean for how we think about journalism?
  • Leave your response in the comments section for Tuesday morning. Thanks!
  • Future models for news: What comes next?

    We’re now finishing our brief tour through the “new models for news” terrain. Remember that when I say “models” I’m doing it in the broadest sense: we can be talking about business/revenue models (i.e., models of subsidy) … or “news assembly” models, how journalism gets put together (e.g., via pro-am collaborations) … or even models of thinking that question traditional assumptions of what is journalism, anyway, and how it’s most effectively accomplished in the digital realm.

    We’ve covered just a little territory here—enough to prep you for the midterm, at least!—but I hope this final reading will round out our perspective: it’s “The Big Thaw,” a report that came out just a few months ago by the Media Consortium, which supports independent media groups. I’d like you to read the executive summary, then Vol. 1 (which gets back to the “how did we get here?” question, but with excellent insight) and finally Vol. 3.

    As students today, what do you need to know and do in order to build a better journalism for the 21st century? Reflect on that question as you read. Then, in the comments section, try to sum up your own appraisal of the future.

    Weekend assignment: Learning WordPress

    Because we’re jumping into the group blog project next week, now is the time to make sure you are familiar with WordPress, the basic content management system (CMS) that we’ll be using. (As I mentioned early this semester, I have toyed with using other kinds of blogging software—including Tumblr—but feel that WordPress gives us the most flexibility and bang for our buck.)

    So, this weekend I’d like you to take a practice spin through WordPress doing the following:

    1) Set up a blog—whether you keep it up after this exercise, it’s up to you. But it can be a dummy blog.

    2) Add at least 2+ widgets, including an RSS button.

    3) Make 3+ posts on a consistent topic, and all with appropriate use of links

    4) In one or more posts, use a photo with caption … as well as an embedded video in at least one post

    5) build an “about” page

    6) practice tagging and categorizing everything

    7) finally, leave a comment here on your experience, making sure to include a link to your blog so we can see your work

    And, not to worry, but I don’t think this will take you as long as it sounds, particularly if you’re already somewhat versed in WordPress. (By the way, if you already have a WordPress blog, then just continue to use it during the weekend in the way I’ve described above.)

    The “living syllabus”

    I’ve been meaning to do this for a while: to move my syllabus and class-prep material to a publicly available Google Docs page. This way, it becomes a truly “living” document that changes with us as we go through the semester — as I add new readings, line up a guest speaker, etc. Plus, at the bottom of the page you’ll see the schedule for your “Teaching Moment” presentations this term.

    Here’s the link.

    Weekend assignment: learning Twitter

    As I mentioned in class yesterday, during the next week I’d like you to explore Twitter—and if you already have an account that you use regularly, great! Just make this an “advanced Twitter” session for yourself.

    Here’s the rundown:

    —get familiar with using Twitter by checking out Sree’s Guide to Twitter for Newbies & Skeptics (obviously, you don’t need to follow all of those links, but look closely at parts that seem of most interest/value to you) and Mashable’s guide to Twitter (again, just skim this stuff);

    —then, and more importantly, read this short piece with tips for using Twitter as a journalistic tool;

    —now, go forward posting 3 times/day during the next week—focusing more on “mindcasting” ideas and sharing interesting links than simply “lifecasting” your day;

    —start following at least 25 people and 5 lists;

    —and in your tweeting use the class hastag #j349, so we can track each other’s tweets;

    —lastly: search using the hashtag to be able to find and follow each other during this week.

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