Thursday, June 29, 2006

Media Giraffe: Journalists talking about the people, not with the people

Right now, I'm sitting in the second half of the morning session at the MGP conference (streamed here.) Also check out other podcasts and blogs to get another perspective.

Yet once again, the journalists are talking *about* the people, not *with* the people. It's not like at the first We Media, where there were few people. There are many People here. There are a lot of people here (I'm glad to see the turnout is good)--but Jeff Jarvis is "hogging" the mic (yes, I joked with him about it) and the journalists are saying there's no divide between journalists and non-journalists, but the divide, more than ever, is extremely palpable right now.

Because they are talking among themselves, and calling on one another and ignoring those they do not know. Following tenets of human nature, it is obviously more fun to talk with one's friends than it is to talk with the free-range rabble.

Helen Thomas is making a point again about how the people are not journalists--but we can have conversations. She say how the people are "zombies"--we're not zombies. We are having conversations--like here and now--but they are not listening.

John Donley just talked about Katrina--and how people did the reporting. Yes, that happens and was esp in that instance it was both...people having conversation, telling others what was happeneing without opinion because there was no time for opinion. It became journalism because there weren't any professional journalists writing the stories.

Panelists are arguing about what's going on now--and if it's all good or all bad. But it's not all journalism per se as much as it's conversation. There can be good conversations and there can be bad conversations.

I used to think that limited access to the internet was limiting the variety of conversation. However, from the latest figures by Pew, it's not access. There's alot of access. People just don't think they have the power to communicate--or don't believe there's a strong, compelling reason to get into the conversation.

That, in part, has happened because of all the journalism that has been done about the conversation. Most of it--from horror stories about MySpace, to highlights about the rancourousness on political blogs--leaves people with a sense of trepidation and doubt about the modes of conversation.

Yet I wonder: If journalists don't jump out from behind the curtains and start talking with the people who show up at their conferences, they're going to keep going over the same ground and never learn a single thing about The People they believe they want to reach.

Update I thanked Jon Donley for pointing out that people doing citizen media are pretty smart--not gomers. However, Tom Rosenstiel, who's stuff I read often, and usually agree with, disagrees with me that the press is still down on conversation. So, I go up and talked with him afterward. He's seen progress in journo conferences over the past 3 years. There, I agree with him--yet I don't think he's seeing/hearing how much further things have to go. He says something about, in the future, a popular blogger will make $200 thousand a year, and I am doubtful of this for many reasons. What will one have to do to be popular? Be Christine Dolce? or Michale Arrington? (few of us could be the former even when we were young, and how many of us can really be the latter. Needless to say I do love what Arrington does!) Steve Fox from comes over and brings up Ana Marie Cox and Andrew Sullivan as 'bloggers' who have got book deals. I remind him that they were journalists first. He doesn't comment. There still seems to be some disconnect in the understanding of who many bloggers are--and they're not Cox nor Sullivan who were an editor and a journalist before blogging.

Makes me think "hmmm....are we talking about Bloggers or bloggers? are we talking about the Technorati Magic Middle or the A-list?"

Perhaps they don't see there is a difference. I see that there is. Will someone have to always be a journalist first, or will a blogger be able to also be journalist?

Because of the lack of professional licensing of journalism, journalism will, in some respect, remain a subjective term. Another audience member also sees journalism as as something that is performed (a process) rather than just a profession. Yet I see where the forces on one side want to consider *everything* journalism, and the other wants to say that journalism is a profession more than what one performs. Perhaps that, more than anything, is the crux of the matter.


Shava said...

Ultimately, the answer is choice. We MUST sift through more stuff not everyone only listens to rush. I'm liberal, but I also read frontpage and townhall

we are overcoming the existential problem Eliot specified in The Rock in 1936:
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

We can't turn back.

The bit that precedes that quote that is rarely quoted by geeks puts it all in context:
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD. the problem today is, how do humans overcome their fear of overload, and become further and further engaged with diversity, information, change.

This is the challenge to society and, incidentally, to media.

Taylor Walsh said...

Tish, I have been watching the stream, and you are observing I think a natural dynamic in settings like these: an intended close, informal, collegial gathering that falls prey to a self-referencing conversation among those who arealdy know each other. (In moments of despair I think of them as the cluefull.) I've been in many such forums.

I'd propose you suggest a rule to the session hosts: if you are dashing through the audience with a microphone, you are not allowed to call on anyone you know.

Good writing, BTW.

Tish Grier said...

Shava...that quote reminds me of Al Gore's speech at We Media. We need to turn off for a bit. I think we have our sources that we read--more than one--but we know when to turn down the lights, so to say, and think a bit. There's a worry about young people not thinking, but the more I hear about that argument, the more I think back when I was young, and that I wasn't all that concerned about politics. But that changes in life--as we all get older.

Nobody knows what today's young people will be like when they're over 40...but it's kind of funny how so many people over 40 sometimes think like people over 40 have always thought...

oh, I know what's going on is very natural, and making people do something different in this sort of setting (like calling on people they don't know) is hard and doesn't always work...what strikes me though is the finger-pointing at others creating echo chambers when echo chambers happen rather naturally when people of like minds want to support one another.

I never worry about blogs as echo chambers because I see them as conversations. I worry about conferences being echo chambers because they're supposed to be places where new thinking takes place.

One person's echo chamber is another's important conversation, I guess. :-)

wanderindiana said...

I'm a member of ePluribus Media, a 501(c)(4) non-profit doing Citizen Journalism, operating a Community blog, and hosting various Timelines projects.

We have a few people (or should I say People) in attendance; I know at least one, Ilona Meagher, who has compiled an incredible PTSD timeline and writes relentlessly on the subject, was a panelist.

I just want to say thank you for reports from the MGP summit. I've been searching Technorati and reading the posts from across the blogosphere, and your insights stand out.

I've still more reading to do, but just wanted to give you a tip of the hat.

Tish Grier said...

thanks wander!

Ilona was on the panel I hosted, and her work is incredible...

for that matter, most of the work that's being done at EPluribus is pretty darned good. This is the kind of suff people with a certain constitution have no choice *but* to do.