John Edwards is running a campaign like you’ve never seen- and he’s got the tools to do it. He’s getting his hands dirty in the homes of voters.

While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are senatizing themselves and raising money, Edwards is in Pennsylvania, making videos and posting them on youtube and his blog. One Corps, the nationwide people-helping-people program he founded, is a grassroots coalition of American citizen volunteers. Edwards was with one of the groups working to make a woman’s home more energy efficient.

Is this the future of campaigning? Instead of photo op’s and planned media events, the politician makes the media (in real situations, with his own editors), and then distributes it on the Internet. Off the TV and into the computer.

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does anyone else think the “game” of politics has gone a little too far? i mean- come on. the democratic primary is more than a year away and already the nominees are going full speed ahead. and they aren’t even jockeying for positions on important issues or trying to gain voter support. no, it’s not time for that yet. what comes first is what will really determine who’s on the ballot in ’08- $$$.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the supposed “front-runners,” are in a mad dash to see who can get the financing from major contributors. Clinton is feeling pressure from her base givers, some see more star power in Obama.

And what about star-power? Is charisma the only thing voters look for in candidates? Obama- certainly a man with a huge future and massive potential, seems to be little more than an inexperienced senator with big dreams.

Everyone agrees that politics in Washington needs reform. Maybe this is a good place to start. Is it really necessary to spend years campaigning? (Especially when you’re a member of the Senate and you actually have a job to do…but that’s another issue.)

The whole “conversation,” which Hillary initiated and Edwards followed in the footsteps of, is a ploy to make voters think they have a real say in what issues the candidates take on. Maybe the candidates will listen- i’m no cynic. But i can’t see a correlation between raising millions to finance campaigns and caring enough to hold online “chats” with the people.

The Future of News

December 8, 2006

Yesterday was a big day for my interactive journalism thoughts. It doesn’t need to be said (again) that the web is the future of everything and most certainly the media. But, how will journalists react and what can we do to ensure quality and above all, accountability? As Geneva Overholser said last night at the Future of News panel at a meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, journalists need to continue to work in the public interest, in the midst of change.

Debbie Galant of baristanet.com visited the school (CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, duh) yesterday to speak to budding interactive students, or rather, smart, forward-thinking media minds. She was an infectious guest-funny, engaging and almost inspiring. Her blog, or community news website (whatever you want to call it), is a model that has inspired many similar websites, including one of my favorites, newhavenindependent.org.

Galant’s site is hyper-local, and that’s what makes it successful. Local businesses advertise, and everything covered takes place within the same three towns in New Jersey. The reach of her site is therefore minimal, but no less important to her readers. It fills, as she says, a niche. Baristanet works in the community it serves, but it doesn’t serve the same purpose, (and it doesn’t want to), as national or international news organizations.

Covering those national and international issues, and reaching wider audiences while still raking in profits, is a whole other issue. The panel discussion last night at the Time-Life building attempted to address it. Those who sat on the panel are esteemed media professionals: Jeff Jarvis, my professor and the founder of Buzzmachine.com, Jill Ambramson, Managing Editor of The New York Times, Jonathan Klein, President of CNN/U.S., Geneva Overholser, Chair in Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and John Carroll, former editor of the Los Angeles Times and lecturer at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University. Norman Pearlstine, Senior Advisor at The Carlyle Group, moderated.

Jarvis is a proponent of what he used to call “citizen journalism,” but now refers to as “networked journalism.” He says we need to be “more collaborative, more open” in the age of convergence, and believes that a conversation between the readers and those producing content is absolutely necessary. “It’s incumbent on us to work together,” he said.

The monetary issues (how do we pay those that report the news?!) is the big issue- no one can deny it. What is the business model of the future? Abramson said The Times was not defined by a business model, but rather by their quality of journalism. “I’m not going to join the chorus of doom-sayers,” she said. “I see a great future, economically.”

But The New York Times stands alone, most other papers and news outlets are not in as comfy a position. As Abramson said herself, the average income of her readers is $90,000 and the average age is 45. Not exactly the norm.

But what about the public interest? Investigative journalism and uncovering buried information that the government doesn’t want you to know about is hard, and expensive. As Abramson said, a blogger may not have been unable to uncover and clearly report the NSA wire-tapping scandal. All on the panel said long-standing pillars such as The Times and The Washington Post need to exist in order for blogs and interactivity to also prosper.

A solution? No, of course not! A start? Yeah. The old media and the internet have met and one will either engulf the other, or a plateau will form where both can exist. Overholser said it well. “The avid consumer is offered more and better options. We traditionalists would do well to embrace it.”

(By the way, I usually type like e.e. cummings, all lowercase, but the lovely joy bergman asked me to change my crazy ways. this is my first attempt.)

today is election day, 2006. i’m sitting in the lamont campaign headquarters in meriden, ct and a teenage girl just leaned over and asked an older volunteer, “does ned lamont have a myspace?” he responded, “probably!”

the campaign of lamont was born in the blogosphere. it’s there that angry CT voters gathered first in opposition to incumbent joe lieberman. it’s there that his support is still strongest. it makes sense too. the future of news, technology, jobs, etc. is online. why shouldn’t the future of politics and campaigning be online too? whether lamont and his foreward thinking media campaigners take office and help pave the way for the government on the internet remains to be seen.

the folks here, volunteers and workers alike, are optimistic. they have to be.

if this isn’t an awesome statement, then i don’t know what is:

“…at a time of upheaval and shift, to be in the beginning of something is to have a privileged seat at the table of freedom.”

spoken like a true communicator. jay rosen, the renowned media theorist/critic/educator spoke to the CUNY grad. school of journalism’s inaugural class on thursday. his visit was inspiring, shocking and informative.

i have been a fan on rosen’s since my undergrad days at hampshire college. i studied his work closely (as it was related to my focus on media studies and “infotainment”) and was particularly interested in “public journalism.” his new project, newassignment.net, has a premise that is similar to that of public journalism. get the people/readers/consumers involved in the production of news, make them want it and care about it. newassignment.net is for the future, that’s the twist. it lives on the internet, and will help journalists get paid online.

i hope that rosen’s project exceeds all expectations. the idea puts the power in the hands of the public, which in this day and age is seemingly what the masses want. choice! i’m glad that rosen has such a vision though, the role of the editor and of course the “director of participation, ” as he refers to it, will help with quality control. the idea of Pro-Am (professionals and amateurs) is brilliant, but there must be some oversight.

open-source reporting….gather the experts, the everyday folk, the volunteers…give them tasks, create what others haven’t created before…then “you’re cooking.”

blog=journalism?

October 8, 2006

today’s assignment was to find four blog posts that we considered “good” journalism. while i believe in online/new media and appreciate the new forms of storytelling, i’m having trouble identifying stories as “journalism.” perhaps my definition is too broad, or maybe blogs are not “journalism” at all.

so, what is journalism? could it be just the simple dissemination of information? are analysis and crafty writing essential? it’s complicated.

i think blogs can be just as effective as traditional media forms. but, because they follow different models of storytelling, they need to have a name that’s all their own.

journalists should be more than just information providers. they should cover stories that span the spectrum, not just those they know the most about. they should write stories without using sensational tactics and language. and above all else, they should be interested in achieving a higher goal. it’s not enough to just inform, you have to give readers, viewers, whatever a higher understanding. i don’t believe that true journalists should just “say it as it is” and not provide context and thoughtful analysis. i also don’t think, to use the example from class on thursday, that a person who writes about one issue, product or trend for a specific population, is a journalist. that person is an expert and is certainly providing a positive public service (he wrote about treo’s and their good and bad attributes, developments, etc.), but they cannot wear the badge of journalist in my book.

i have not named any specific blogs as journalism, but i do enjoy the stories from certain sites. they are generally commentary sites, which says a lot about the blogosphere. it’s a place where many go to seek out a certain type of information or viewpoint.

they are, to name a few: thehuffingtonpost.com, thenation.com, buzzmachine.com, tompaine.commonsense .

wow. while reading my fellow soon-to-be “journalists” blog posts about the guests in class on thursday i felt: enthusiastic, depressed, manic, confused and exhausted. many people were taking the position of “if this guy dan can’t get a job after all his accomplishments than how can i?” i feel it’s utterly pointless to think like that. yes, the media market is shifting and jobs are disappearing but what i’m more worried about is how this change affects us as readers/viewers/whatever. don’t get me wrong, i want a stable job and money to live comfortably and bring up children, etc., but the real underlying issue for me is, well, what does all this change do for the public? papers shrinking, imporant issues left uncovered, opinion centric blogging…this is the stuff that makes my brain explode. so, what do we do? we have to practice good, true, journalism. i’m sure everyone will jump on me and say “well, what’s that?” but i think it’s pretty clear. information that does not distort the facts is journalism. what else? information that gives the reader a chance to make up their mind is journalim. stories persuading you to think one way or another is NOT journalism. i think there is a place in the future “market” for this kind of stuff. interactive blogs that give ultimate power and choice to the reader is an interesting technology, and it many ways it’s great. but i think the hunger for straight stories not tampered with by others will never die out. whether you read the stuff online or on paper…

one thing that dan spoke about that was interesting to me was the whole idea of not being as strict with online journalism. he said you could always go back and fix errors, and you knew that readers would maybe tell you to fix it. while my first impression was to think “what a slacker! this attitude is exactly what is bringing down the quality of news, and beyond that, online news: the future!” but then i thought more and the fact that readers play a role in “fact checking” is actually pretty awesome. however, the journalists are supposed to be the experts, they should know the stuff they write and no one should have to fix it for them. or worse yet: what if no one who reads the blog or web article knows the info is incorrect? people will be misinformed.

what do i think overall? i believe that we, as people who want to tell stories and help others to see beyond their own personal world, need to get the basics, learn the technolgies, and above all else, strive to serve the public good. i think i speak for everyone when i say that we are sorely needed.

the fog of news

September 2, 2006

jeff jarvis said the above on day one of our interactive journalism class…the fog of news. the phrase is loaded with ideas and theories. what is news? how can news be fogged? does the fog burn off? how?

blogs. web logs. my feelings are mixed. i believe in the power of open access and i believe in choice, above all else. more and more blogs mean a greater volume of voices and opinions. so, there is more to choose from, and therefore the right of individual choice grows stronger. one needs to remember, however, that not all blogs/stories/websites etc. are equal.

equal in quality, consistency, accuracy, objectivity…the list goes on and on. for some, this is not an issue. some readers or consumers of news can sift through multiple websites and blogs and magazines and cable news stations and take what they like from each. others may not be able to do this, for a variety of reasons. first, they simply don’t have time. or, they don’t have the academic background that gives them an understanding of how the news functions.

the news is meant to be trusted, i think we can all say we believe in that and aspire to be practitioners of journalism in that way. for blogs to be trusted, they must cleary expose their agenda. some blogs may very well be objective, but with the ability for anyone to comment on blogs, thus adding endless opinions, objectivity is washed away.

i do not mean to say that people’s opinions and commentary aren’t important. i actually think it’s great that the news becomes a conversation with all parties involved learning from the process. but the reader who doesn’t participate in the discussion and is instead only on the outside of the conversation may be the loser.

is the story fogged by blogs? is it possible for the people to see through the opinions and uneducated banter and see clearly?

later, i will address the need for quality control.