Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rafat Ali whines: "Where are the entrepreneurs?"

A recent blogsurf under "citizen journalism" on Technorati revealed this piece by Mark Hamilton which directed me to this piece on Paid Content...consisting of Rafat Ali's observations at the recent ONA confab.

Rafat's one of those young dudes with enough clout to be at a whole bunch of high-profile conferences...and, like a petulant child who's tired of watercress sandwiches and thousand-dollar toy cars, he whines:
where's the entrepreneurship? The Web 2.0 thing, while may have been over hyped, at least has something at the core of it: innovation, on the cheap, and available to all. These are people who believe, and believe me, that's half the battle won. Why is that mentality not coming to journalism, and specifically online journalism? Why isn't more startup culture being encouraged at media companies? Yes, they'll start blogs on their site, but beyond that, what? Why aren't journalists being encouraged to be entrepreneurs, and the other way around? When will we have our version of the young-out-of-school-entrepreneurs amongst us?

Rafat, here's a clue: the entrepreneurs aren't sitting in expensive conferences. We aren't hearing what you or any of the others Up There are saying. We have day jobs or are in grad school for something unrelated to proper journalism. We do "citizen journalism" or "grassroots journalism" or whatever y'all want to call it on our own, in our own time, NOT under the auspices of the local newspaper or something like Backfence.com. We are in the Technorati Long Tail and don't have time for attending conferences, or whining and kvetching and complaining. We aren't all young, wide eyed, and moneyed--we are all ages, races, and creeds. We sometimes even have trouble finding one another. Yet We are articulate and educated and are blogging daily.

We're there Rafat. We have the Passion you talk about. But you, and most of The Press are still up where the Air is Rare and can't see us. And when you find us, you want to find ways to diminish, disparage, and degrade what we are doing. There is no support from established journalists or organizations--only talk of ways of commodifying us and paying us wages that are well below what someone of less talent and more education earns. Come down from your conferences Rafat and check out what The People are up to. There is passion and raw talent far beyond what you will find in a conference.

Get out of the clouds and into the Long Tail. You'll be amazed.



Sanford said...

Tish - I take Rafat's commentary as a signal that the big media organizations are trying to understand and work change into their processes - that are hampered by checks and balances that entrepreneurs do not normally have.

See my comment on this at the following here. Think about the challenge of big media versus Rafat and others. Nimbleness is a characteristic we have - and innovation and experimentation is more doable without the fear of major embarrassment of internal political pressures.

Jon Garfunkel said...

Sanford-- Fancy seeing you here. And I'd love if you could invite Rafat here to sort this out.

Tish-- I'm going to have to dissent from your characterization of Rafat as having "clout" to show up at conferences. It merely takes time and money.

But I'm not sure what his specifc knowledge is here. Yes, his PaidContent covers a lot of the business side of the industry. But when he says, "where is the passion?", I'm going to side with Andrea (who I know). And when he refers "how companies like Yahoo are sucking up all the talent, both on the reporting and production side," who is he quoting? How accurate is that? Yahoo makes a press release, and every blogger goes ga-ga, and maybe that's the impression.

I was sorta hoping that some attendees would have done actual reporting of the unheard voices. Here Susan Mernit blogs about what other bloggers are saying. And the Rafat Ali post is seen as some sort of lodestone of the event. People wrote/blogged about what the panelists said, but not how other people reacted to the panelists. From what I've been researching, there's plenty of great stuff going on out there at various papers, periodicals, websites. If the mood was sour, maybe there was another reason (belt-tightening across the newspaper industry?)

And my comment on PaidContent was that the normal order of events is that big media ends up buying the talent, anyways.

Tish Grier said...


I get what you're saying....and I also understood some of this was what undergird Ali's comments,.I am, though, still quite put off by the hothouse cogitations of those who are well-heeled enough to attend these Big Shows.

My belief is that many should do as Jarvis suggested (and is noted in Susan Merit's blog, which Jon posted a link to) that the time is coming to engage the barbarians. But, as Jay Rosen and I talked about at We Media many of these august folks are top down communicators who have no clue as to how peer-to-peer communcations are handled.

Thus, even if they had the courage to venture out of their hothouses, how many can communicate effectively? Moreso, how many even want to?

Further, how many are interested in doing anything to give that "leg up" to the barbarians they think are worthy? And what makes a worthy barbarian anyway?

So what continues to go on at conferences is alot of handwringing and preaching to the converted.


The "clout" you talk about--money and time--is exactly what I mean by clout. Alot of us don't have that kind of clout in this world. At least not yet anyway...

As for the "talent" that big media, or even Yahoo, buys...well, as I said, is it "talent" per se, or is it the kind of talent that is nurtured with a fancy education--and is that *really* talent? Is "talent" only limited to people of a certain age who graduate from a certain college program, or is there more to it than that? Nowadays, the term "talent" is more or less relavent to what school a person graduated from and the connections he/she has made. Why else do you think that people scramble to get their kids into the best daycare money can buy even when they can't afford it?

oh, and thanks for posting the link to Susan's entry. Really great stuff!