The dilemma of online journalists today comes down to the bottom line of how to fund content creation and how to integrate user involvement in online media.
Direct reader funded stories and user contribution are a couple of the ways that Matt Neznanski said modern journalism can reach these goals. Last Wednesday in an Oregon State University Reporting class of about 25, he discussed how the convergence of media has affected the craft of modern journalism. He shared some of what he has learned about integrated media, social media, and crowd sourcing in his work over the years as a reporter for the Corvallis Gazette Times, and now, as Director of Communications for Brass Media in Corvallis, Ore.
“The journalists who succeed online are the ones who understand that they are no longer simply reporters, but that they have become community organizers,” Neznanski said.
His opinion is that the job of modern journalists is to gather information from the collective cloud, and connect with their audience in a way that organizes this giant community of knowledge sharing. Journalists no longer just tell a linear story to an audience of passive listeners.
The Knight News Challenge is a contest that brings together new ideas of how to share collective information, and rewards the best ideas with funding. One of the past winners of this challenge that Neznanski highlighted was a project called Every Block that aggregates database information on a block by block bases, allowing users to completely localize their feed. This content includes jobs, restaurants, news, photos, directories, and more. Similar information collection technology is currently being used in the development of augmented reality projects such as Layar, that combine highly localized information with 3d virtual mapping for tablets like the IPad.
Another example Neznanski showed was a website called Spot.us, a community funded journalism project. Here, writers can pitch stories, and potential readers can directly fund the creation of this story. Spot.us facilitates the direct support of content, by completely bypassing the constraints of traditional media outlets. It gives users the power to choose what stories they want to read, and to pay specifically for that content.
Every Block, Layar, and Spot.us are all examples that take user interaction to a new level that was never available when readers simply bought the Thursday paper and flipped through the newsprint pages. They aggregate content from the collective cloud of information, and actively engage users to be part of the everyday flow of information and news that they receive. Hopefully, this engagement will attract enough interest from users, so that they once again see the need to support the journalists who facilitate the delivery of this information.
On a side note, Neznanskis presentation got me thinking about ways to get the average person more involved in humanitarian work. The website, Spot.us, is an awesome pattern of how to do this. Why couldn’t people with a great idea to serve their communities in a humanitarian way, pitch their project in a community style forum and then have a user base directly support the projects that they want to see happen? If this idea isn’t already in the works, maybe it’s my job to do some community facilitating and make it happen!