Monthly Archives: March 2007

The Principles of Citizen Journalism

The good folks over at the Citizen News Network have just launched a very timely project that outlines five essential principles of citizen journalism to “help citizen reporters master the fundamentals of the craft in a networked age”. By focusing on concepts that address “the core values and tenets of quality journalism at the grassroots level”, the group has identified its key principles as follows:

The KCNN site provides an excellent and comprehensive list of web resources for established and aspiring citizen journalists that includes text-based summaries of key issues, as well as screencasts, podcasts, and video and audio interviews with notable social media/web 2.0 heavyweights including: Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, fêted blogger Jason Calcanis, and NYU professor Jay Rosen, among many others.

I’m pleased to see that efforts such as these are being undertaken to initiate an important discussion regarding the emergent roles and reponsibilities of citizen journalists in the evolving worlds of newsgathering, reporting, and news media. Thankfully, the aim of this project is not to regulate the practice(s) of citizen journalists but rather to begin an “ongoing conversation” that portends toward a set of shared principles that can be actualized through journalistic practice.

As I’ve discussed previously, opportunities to put such ideas into practice have been multiplying at a dizzying pace.

Back in May 2005, Cyberjournalist.net compiled a list of 81 prominent citizen journalism sites and noted, even then, that “so many citizen journalism initiatives are cropping up…it’s hard to keep track”. Since then, two years have elapsed and we have uploaded our way into an era dominated by the multiplicity of You and the singularity of Me.

A billion people are now online. You are now the tube, the space, and the creator. Content is now user-generated and crowdsourced. Journalism is now participatory and civic. And journalists are now citizens, as never before.

We are in the process of effecting an important shift in the way individuality is created and disseminated by digital means; and it is imperative that some shared ethics and standards of practice be developed (and ideally agreed upon) by the practitioners of these new forms of journalism to reflect this shift. But will citizen journalists heed these principles on ethical grounds, as they have been proposed, or discard them in favour of ‘individualized’ standards of practice, perhaps even contingent on compensatory revenue models?

As “content creators” have come to be valued as much for the content they have already created as for their creative potential, the nature of content has been changed. Our words, images, ideas, and selves now constitute a new currency of exchange; one whose value depends on both a shared system of valuation and a common set of practiced principles. But will the principles of accuracy, thoroughness, fairness, transparency and independence help to standardize and embolden responsible journalistic practices or will market forces crack the very “bedrock foundations of journalism”?

What will this new currency be worth?

nialler9: Your Ears Will Thank You For It

I’ve just discovered the truly excellent music blog (and wonderful podcast) of nialler9 – which hails from Dublin, Ireland. If you have yet to discover it, I urge you to check it out.

I know there are millions of mp3 blogs out there, but few offer such good music selections paired with concise, clever writing, and such a pleasing aesthetic.

Right now I’m listening to the inaugural episode of their recently launched podcast – which is hosted by Aoife Mc, a radio DJ from The Indie Hour on 103.2fm Dublin City Anna Livia FM. It is a decidedly fresh mix of amazing tunes: some electro, dubstep, hip-hop, pop, & rock stylings…just the sounds I needed to officially believe that Spring has arrived.

+++Plus+++

They recently served up a dose of Nosaj Thing – an LA electronic/glitch.hop producer who has been one my absolute favourite recent music discoveries. This guy’s only put out an EP so far, but it is very well produced, sequenced, and all of the tracks I’ve heard are hot hot hot. I’m really looking forward to his full-length due out later in ’07. For some mp3s, including a hard to find download of his dopest track – the mind-blowingly killer tune “Heart Entire” – head over to nialler9’s post: here.

Oh yeah, and how’s this for an artist list of their recent posts: Aesop Rock, El-P, Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid, Mr. T, and Mr. Vegas…have I hooked you yet? That’s what I thought.

The site is run by Irish web-designer Niall Byrne and, I have to say, I’m so pleased to find a music blog that’s actually worth coming back to.

Much respect & thanks for the music!

And You May Ask Yourself…Well, How Did I Get Here?

This is an excerpt taken from the anonymously-created “We” documentary, a feature length film produced and distributed for free through http://weroy.org. The film explores the growing disparity between the world’s richest and poorest peoples, by “visualizing” the words of Booker prize-winning author and Indian activist, Arundhati Roy, “specifically her famous Come September speech, where she spoke on such things as the war on terror, corporate globalization, justice and the growing civil unrest”. I have yet to download the film in its entirety, but I enjoyed this clip and I’m pleased with the way in which I came upon it.

In the non-linear manner by which I discover most of my news, media, and stories these days, I came across this video through several linked, virtual steps. Let me re-trace them.

I found the “We” video by way of the VoxUnion.com site, which is home to “Organized C.O.U.P. (Organized Community of United People): “a group of Washington DC based activists working to effect positive change in communities of color through media and education”.

One of the main contributors to this group is the academic and writer Dr. Jared A. Ball, who is an assistant professor of communication studies at Morgan State University. He recently published an excellent essay on “Hip-Hop, Mass Media and 21st Century Colonization” which I found on the myspace blog (of all things) of acclaimed hip-hop writer and journalist Davey D.

Davey D gets much love from other hip-hop writers and bloggers, not the least of whom is author Jeff Chang – one of my favourites. Jeff posted up a link to an article Davey D had written called “Confessions of a BET Producer”, which piqued my interest, but I never ended up finding it.

Instead, I stumbled upon (no pun intended) something far more fascinating and entirely new to me. It’s at times like these that I’m thankful for the intertextuality of the web and pleased to discover new ways of navigating this shared labyrinth of ideas and information.

 

Some days I find myself stuck at dead-ends and run-arounds but, in others (like today), paths open up, they make sense, and they remain coherent. I even find myself in a state of eager anticipation as to where they might lead. It is as if, as Borges suggested, “This web of time — the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore eachother through the centuries — embrace every possibility.”

Or maybe it’s just that I’m well-rested and feeling optimistic.

 

All the World’s a Story: Wired ‘Borrows’ a Few Ideas from NowPublic.com

The New York Times is reporting today on a recently announced partnership between Wired Magazine and NewAssignment.net to create the citizen-driven, or ‘pro-am’, journalism news site AssignmentZero.

Journalism has always been a product of networks. A reporter receives an assignment, begins calling “sources” — people he or she knows or can find. More calls follow and, with luck and a deadline looming, the reporter will gain enough mastery of the topic to sit down at a keyboard and tell the world a story.

A new experiment wants to broaden the network to include readers and their sources. Assignment Zero (zero.newassignment.net/), a collaboration between Wired magazine and NewAssignment.Net, the experimental journalism site established by Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University, intends to use not only the wisdom of the crowd, but their combined reporting efforts — an approach that has come to be called “crowdsourcing.”

The idea is to apply to journalism the same open-source model of Web-enabled collaboration that produced the operating system Linux, the Web browser Mozilla and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

“Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?” Professor Rosen asked last week on Wired.com.

Source: The New York Times

Well, my first question is: hasn’t anyone at the New York Times, Wired or NewAssignment.net heard about NowPublic.com?

NowPublic has already created a global network of contributors committed to “high standards in truth, accuracy, and free expression” — and its members are actively shaping the site’s development.

One of the most compelling aspects of participatory media is that individual contributors are now invested in the dual processes of creating content and helping to establish shared editorial visions. In the case of NowPublic, this work has even extended into defining what constitutes ‘news’ for the NP site. Members of ‘crowd powered’ communities not only engage in discussions about their work and the work of others, they also participate in a larger dialogue about what kind of stories they want to share and what kind of a community they want to create.

As buzzwords like “social media” and “citizen journalism” have become further embedded in the new media lexicon and thinking of major broadcasters and mainstream media — many of whom are planning to, or have already launched, their own 2.0 initiatives — it has become evident that there will be many more collaborative social media/news projects like AssignmentZero competing for (y)our attention and soliciting (y)our involvement in the future.

But community-based knowledge is only as good as the community that creates it.

Who, then, will participate in these emergent “crowdsourcing” projects? What kind of unique editorial perspectives will they offer and what kind of stories will they share?

And if all the world’s a story, then perhaps the most important question becomes — where will you tell yours?

The Indie Rock Cult of Bruce Springsteen

springsteen

When I first heard The Killers‘ irrepressibly catchy and bombastic tune “When You Were Young” the first thing that came to mind was The Boss. Then I read a million Pitchfork-aping mp3 blogs who chimed in with a blasting chorus of Springsteen-fuelled adoration for The Hold Steady. And, recently, our dear old Mile-End orchestra The Arcade Fire have reappeared, this time sans Davids (ie. Bowie and Byrne), but clearly pushing their booming brand of indie rock south of the 49th parallel and deep into classic Springsteen territory – into the deep, rumbling heart of American rock.

Well, it seems I’m not the only kid on the music block who has noticed this surge in “Springsteenism”. Although I have my reservations about offering up the World’s Greatest Band crown (whatever that means) to the Arcade crew, they’ve definitely amped up the heart-on-their-sleeves, ‘Born in the USA’-earnestness of their delivery this time round and they are, I’m sure, making many a flag-waving convert along the way.

Now it’s only a matter of time until we’ll see our Montreal wunderkinds rocking out a live version of ‘No Cars Go’ with red ballcaps stuffed into the back pockets of their jeans, and The Boss himself on backing vocal duty, helping to fill out that big chorus: “Let’s go!”

“Springsteen was once an indie bête noire, but today everyone from the Killers to the great beer-soaked poets the Hold Steady are aping Springsteen’s musical cadences and open-road romanticism. (Even Joanna Newsom is getting into the act: Her forthcoming EP is called Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band.) Of course, the most flaming practitioner of Springsteenism—and U2ism, for that matter—is Arcade Fire. No one can fail to hear the Boss’s hemi-powered drones in the rumble of songs like “Keep the Car Running.” And Arcade Fire cribs not just the big sound but the big heart and big ego—Springsteen- and U2-style uplift, complete with messianic overtones and nary a hint of the distancing irony found in the Hold Steady or the Killers. Neon Bible’s stirring centerpiece, “No Cars Go,” is a cosmic-utopian vision of a realm where, as someone once sang, the streets have no name: “We know a place where no planes go/ We know a place where no ships go…/ Women and children!/ Let’s go!/ Old folks!/ Let’s go!”

There is a strategic logic behind the new rock bombast. Rock long ago ceded the zeitgeist to hip-hop and R & B and pop, which command the radio airwaves, the record sales, and, in the case of rap, the outlaw glamour that once belonged to rock. One of the last things a rocker can do that a rapper or pop diva can’t is make an almighty racket. Hip-hop producers have lately fashioned their own kind of symphonic grandeur, but their brittle digital edifices are no match for the walls of sound a rock band can erect. Even a human storm system like Beyoncé, harnessing the power of a sampled drum army, simply can’t roar like a bunch of weedy white kids armed with distortion pedals and a Marshall stack. In the hip-hop era, a humongous sound may be the best way left for a rock band to get the world to sit up and take notice.”