RSS and blogging father Dave Winer and We the Media author Dan Gillmor discussed the future of news and the collision of media and journalism on a panel at the Future in Review Conference. They brought up the usual journalism versus blogging, big media versus citizen media, which is not a black and white issue. It's about who you trust and how you establish trust, whether a highly paid journalist or a basement blogger.
Dan Gillmor, Michael Copeland (Business 2.0) and Dave Winer
Dan said that the professional journalists have to start listening hard, bringing the audience into the process of journalism itself. "I hope we don't lose big journalism, but want to see it as part of an ecosystem where all kinds of things from sole bloggers in deep narrow niches to what we have today...where it's symbiotic as opposed to entirely competitive," Dan said.
Dave said he wasn't sure what "big media" means, but that they have to earn a new place. He mentioned talking to former CBS news anchor Dan Rather about blogging recently. He pointed to the predicament that Dan Rather and CBS were in around the Bush military service documents as an example of not embracing bloggers. If they had been part of the blogosphere at time they under fire by bloggers, the outcome would have been different, he said.
Dave talked about how people have a personal responsibility to become informed. "The media of the 21st century at least makes it possible to be informed...big media is withdrawing on a unilaterial basis...try watching cable news and seeing if there is anything worth watching," Dave said. He also mentioned how big media makes mistakes in its reporting (such as Business Week attributing his quote to someone else), and that new media such as blogging, provides a mechanism to call them on their mistakes.
True enough, but professional,experience, trained journalists should be making fewer mistakes than the blogosphere at large. As Dan Gillmor said, it should be symbiotic, not a conflicted.
From the audience Esther Dyson asked what yrole of institutions should play, as opposed to the individual, to make a useful free and well informed society. Dave said he doesn't have faith in institutions. He pointed to Katrina as a "reality disruption" that required people to get more information. "If the military draft comes back, 18-year-old males will be more interested in the topic," he added.
Dan's response was that we have to provide a lot of different thinking than in the past. "People are joining the conversation online where they are solving problems collaboratively, even if it's not about big issues of day. If we made progress in the collaborative process using new tools, we recognize that we can solve other problems in the same way," Dan said.
A minor spat broke out when Dan said that most bloggers dont want to be journalists. Dave said that it is "silly." Dave went on, "I don't think people need trianing in how to do journalism." Honesty and integrity, not knowingly saying anything false and disclosing conflict of interest qualifies people as journalists, he said, adding that "journalists don't do anything special."
Journalists don't have to be special, but you can't discount that years of experience and training have some value, but only with honesty and integrity intact. That said, I know many bloggers without years of journalism training and experience who I trust.
Dan talked about how reputation, voting, ranking--combining community driven attributes along with who we know and people we trust--can help filter the signal from the noise. Agreed, and it's one of the areas where a lot of innovation is needed. Whether you are a professional journalist or blogger, you have to earn trust, and there are elements (links, subscribers, ratings, etc.) that can be used to determinine reputation, as in my diagram below.