Monday, April 02, 2007
My New Role at Assignment Zero
Last Monday, I started my first day as Deputy Director of Participation for Assignment Zero
In case you don't know/haven't heard what Assignment Zero is, it's Jay Rosen's project that hopes to find a good working model for how to combine citizens and journalists to create a new paradigm for investigative journalism.
It isn't without its bumps in the road, though.
There are conflicts between how things are done online and in journalism--the worlds are different (vast vs. limited), the mores are different (consensus vs. control), and the organizational structures are different(flow and self-imposed boundaries vs. direction and outside-imposed boundaries).
There are differences in understanding in three areas: how to work with volunteers, how to work with online folk, and how newsroom folk do things. There are ways of understanding transparency and ways in which the blogosphere bites back when one transgresses one of the Unwritten Laws of Transparency and Hierarchy (yes, we have hierarchy. remember: all bloggers are created equal, but some bloggers are more equal than others. and I'm not necessarily talking the A-list...)
I am, though, very excited to be part of Assignment Zero, and I've had the chance to define what I'm to do in my position contingent on the needs of the Team. Part of what I do is keep an eye on what's being said in the blogosphere. Another part is following the blogs of the Editors and Contributors (when I can find them) Another is giving input on new site design--coming into the project, I've found navigation confusing and it's not easy to follow what's going on. We've put our heads together, given David Cohn lots of good input and have a re-design that will launch later this week.
Along with this, I'm keeping an eye on how tech stuff is used by various projects in AZ--if I can get the Editors to give me input on what's going on and what they're employing vs. me chasing down what they're doing. I want to know how some of the new tools, like Twitter, might work for journalists in this space. Can they help or do they become a distraction? Is it too much to ask people to use new tools and can they adapt to not just the tools but to the world that has spawned those tools.
When I talk to journalists in general, I often find that many have a reluctance to understand online as a particular world with its own mores and, for lack of a better word, quirks. There is much emphasis on how to graft the process of journalism onto This World. But This World spins in a way that, in many cases, doesn't care about journalism--because it is not journalism. It is conversation. Perhaps there are ways in which those who want to make a section of the Internet, and blogging, into journalism can do that--but the entirety of it is not journalism. To know that parts of This Space are not journalism requires thinking of This Space in physical terms--as a place vs. a publication, and that written word in this space is really more like people yapping at the diner than it is people printing out pamphlets.
The people who want to be Pamphleteers will let you know that's what they're doing. People are conscious of what they are doing--and don't need others to define it for them.
Maybe that's part of the problem--that it takes time to understand what a person is doing out here, if it's conversation or journalism. If it's Yapping or Pamphleting. To know the difference requires Reading and Understanding--and corporations often want a bot to do the work of a person.
After all, bots are cheaper.
But I digress...
So, this starts my second week at Assignment Zero. I have my own blog there, and will be blogging daily over there on the blogosphere, the editor's blogs, and the progress of things within the site. It's an Outside/Inside blog, and my role, hopefully, will help folks involved in AZ understand how to merge two vastly different worlds.
Should be interesting, to say the least :-)
In other news: I will be on a panel at the New England News Forum this saturday (4/7) and on OJR an interview with Luke Beatty of Associated Content (who I utterly adore.)
Journalism, citizen journalism, media, Assignment Zero, Blog, Blogs web 2.0