Technical and cultural issues for ‘Networked Journalism’ Part I

I guess I inadvertently coined a phrase last week when I thought out loud about ‘audience-driven journalism‘. Paul and Steve shortened it to ADJ in a few comments. I can see it now, as someone says that ADJ doesn’t stand for audience-driven journalism but attention-deficit journalism, journalism for the internet age. I think I’ll stick with Jeff Jarvis’ networked journalism instead.

Jeff meant it as a replacement for the term ‘citizen journalism’:

“Networked journalism” takes into account the collaborative nature of journalism now: professionals and amateurs working together to get the real story, linking to each other across brands and old boundaries to share facts, questions, answers, ideas, perspectives. It recognizes the complex relationships that will make news. And it focuses on the process more than the product.

Many of the terms being used to describe this new collaboration in journalism end up placing too much authority in one party or the other, whether professional journalists or so-called citizen journalists. As Jeff says, the term citizen journalism has created an artificial divide that has hampered collaboration between traditional journalists and the public. And in my article for, I talk about how this collaboration is where the real opportunities lie.

Regardless of the terms, Paul and Steve raise some good issues, some cultural and some technical. Paul says in his comment:

You only engender trust with strict editorial control.

No. Our editorial standards give us some institutional cover when something goes wrong. But does that play into day-to-day decisions on whether our audiences trust us? No. Is it our objectivity? No. Bottom line is that our audiences trust us because on some level they agree with what we’re saying.

One of the reasons that I used to cite of why I’m proud to work for the BBC goes back to a New York Times article that I read after the Nato’s war against Serbia in 1999. Shortly after the war ended, I remember reading that Serbian citizens were in revolt against Milosevic, in particular members of the Serbian National Guard, if memory serves. Why did they revolt? I remember one of the Serbs being quoted as saying something like: “We see what is happening. We hear what they tell us on Serbian Radio, and we hear the BBC. We believe the BBC.”

Why? Was it our editorial standards? No, it was because what the BBC was reporting was more in line with what they saw. This is a pretty clear cut example. A lot of the ways that people determine whether to trust a media source is much more complex. That’s an entire post of itself, or probably a series of posts.

Also, I was always talking about a collaboration with the audience, not a pure ‘user-generated content’ proposition where people just send stuff in and journalists cherry pick what to publish. Jay Rosen has some great examples of networked journalism. But I think we’ve still got a lot of opportunities to explore when it comes to collaboration between journalists and the public.

You also said that I was using the world loyalty when I meant trust. Trust and loyalty are two different things. As Suw just said, trust means that you believe that I’m telling the truth, whereas loyalty in a media sense, means that you’ll keep listening, watching or reading my stuff. People are loyal to their media sources for different reasons.You may do that because you think I’m telling the truth, or you may just like the way I write or what I cover.

The biggest cultural leap that journalism must make is learning that our audience has a right of response, that publishing is the beginning, not the end point of our production process. This post is a case in point. I don’t necessarily agree with Paul’s comment, but I respect him enough to respond, and not just because I know Paul. It gives me a chance to refine my arguments and explore other threads. That is a huge cultural shift in how we journalists do our jobs, and it’s more of a challenge than the technical issues, which I’ll explore in the next post.

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7 thoughts on “Technical and cultural issues for ‘Networked Journalism’ Part I

  1. “the term citizen journalism has created an artificial divide that has hampered collaboration between traditional journalists and the public…” That reminds me of my Nevada Public Radio interview last Thursday. The host was trying to dig into me as a blogger about credibility and objectivity. I responded that with people like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Alan Colmes, Chris Matthews, Lou Dobbs, etc. in US cable news, it appears that at least the American MSM welcomes people who aren’t objective. They want people who rabidly take stances. Way to go American MSM!

    Sadly I would say that attention-deficit journalism seems accurate…

  2. Point taken from Jeff, yourself, Neil and others about “citizen journalism” – unnecessarily restrictive barrier. Those of us who have been thinking about this stuff for years *know* what we mean. Is the problem that it’s not being communicated with the right phrase? Is “networked journalism” an attempt to put that right? Why not just “journalism”? So many questions…

    Anyway, Kevin, let’s not forget that “networked journalism” can apply equally to the relationships between (former) audience members and not just between the (former) audience and the (former) producer. Sharing of information between people can create the kind of jigsaw effect that can *build* a story – plug professional journalists into that as well (often after much of the grassroots muckraking has been done nowdays, to be honest) and you have something powerful. One would hate to cite Rathergate or Trent Lott as an example again… so I’ll remind ourselves who broke the story – the *correct* story – about John Edwards’ VP candidature.

    Wisdom-of-crowds journalism. Connections are wonderful things.
    “Crowd-sourcing”‘s already gone – but journalists can certainly use the crowd’s efforts as their source.

  3. Absolutely Robert,

    You hit on a really critical point which is to look at all of these connections and networks outside of media sites. One of the things I bang away at all the time is how we in the media tend to think of user generated content only as something that comes through our web sites. Send us your pics, your comments, and such. But there is so much more going on outside of our sites. Again, that kind of collaboration is another opportunity that most media organisations are missing.

    I also agree. This is just journalism, just adapted to new realities and new tools. The power of it is so obvious to those of us who do it. As Steve pointed out on his blog last week, it’s really powerful. We managed to speak with someone in Mumbai over Skype last week when all of the phone networks were struggling. And people in India are sending us audio messages using Odeo.


  4. Hi Kevin,

    As much as “citizen journalism” is something of a misnomer, the idea that what is done by “the people” as a “wisdom of crowds” thing in citizen journalism is a misperception perpetuated, I think, by people who spend more time writing theories about citizen journalism than they do researching and reading citizen journalism cites.

    Many citizen journalism projects/sites are maintaned by smart folks who are passionate about something and who are no less qualified or brilliant than any j-school grad. Many simply aren’t willing to leave behind their current money-earning professions to write official professional journalism (the definition of which, I might add, varies) Consider the ph.d’d biologist who writes “citizen” articles on politics.

    Further, many of cit. j. projects involve former or current journalists. So Jeff’s idea of networked journalism is already occuring on a number of citizen journalism sites. (Interesting that Jeff came to his idea after 2 days at the U.Mass Media Giraffe Project conference. wonder if he’d managed to talk to some of the citizen journalists who were there…)

    Some fine examples of this are The New Haven Independent or the Chi-Town Daily News or ePluribus Media (which is a combined effort of journal/timelines/community, etc.)

    This is just a small citizen journalism, guys. If more folks would take the time to investigate the genre, they might have better, more productive conversations about it.


  5. Tish,

    Thanks for your thoughts. How do you suggest to widen the discussion about citizen journalism? Do we create a “astro turf” (think grassroots) viral marketing campaign on MySpace, YouTube, and digg?

  6. Steve,

    Tish was involved in the Media Giraffe summit ( and go here for the ongoing Media Giraffe project), which she refers to. I wanted to attend but just wasn’t in the position to travel to the US when it was on. But the ethos of it was a lot more collaborative than other conferences that I’ve been to or heard of. Some of the discussions that were spawned by the conference inform this series of posts that I’ve been writing. As a matter of fact, if memory serves, Jeff Jarvis wrote his networked journalism post after sharing a ride with Jay Rosen after the Media Giraffe summit. Lots of good thoughts came out of that.

    As for how to broaden the discussion, I’m very much of the ‘just do it’ attitude. And Steve, you’re probably doing more than most.


  7. Brian Alger, author and education consultant has a good overview about education and communications.
    See “commucations by rank” about workers having no voice in the process of globalization.
    Alger discusses Ray Tapajna’s thoughts about this at
    Ray is the artist and editor of Tapart News and Art that Talks at and also has a separate site at which challenges the Flat World of Thomas Friedman.

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