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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