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Journalism Braindump, and Other Oddities


Tonight, there was a gathering of great journalistic minds at an event called New Media, New Standards? Ethics in Online Journalism. There were old white guys, young white guys, in-between white guys, young women holding microphones, super old crazy white guys, and my friend Erica from Metroblogging.

Okay, that's not really fair. White guys often dominate discussion at these sorts of events. Indeed, The UpTake is full of white guys and we're trying to change that. The real issue is perhaps this: If you let the chattering classes in the door, the bastards will chat about you!

That's the vibe I get from the moderator of this event, Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins. And he's right, in a way - bloggers of all stripes will get catty in the backchannel when they sure could speak up at the event. But honestly, a lot of the air was sucked out of the room in the first 30 minutes, and the format heavily favored the two gentlemen on stage. A representative from the Society of Professional Journalists admitted (on camera) that this was the first time they'd ever attempted an event like this. So, hats off to them for trying. There was some good discussion. Get these growing pains out of the way now, and get some thick skin for those stinging blogger barbs.

The consensus is that this event should've been more of a roundtable. We honestly don't need Dan Gillmor to have these conversations. I tell you who we do need: Jason DeRusha and Mary Lahammer. Did you know? I helped TPT's Mary Lahammer start her blog way back in 2003. Almanac and Lahammer are pillars of local journalism and exemplify what a fair, ethical news operation should be. Meanwhile DeRusha has quickly become our generation's Dave Moore. He effortlessly blends his traditional news background with a personable delivery. He's in touch with what's going on and what people are saying because he uses every new media tool imaginable. DeRusha is fresh, authentic and accessible like few on-air talents.

MPR's Bob Collins is absolutely the right guy to moderate some of these discussions. Bob rightly laments the lack of passion in professional journalism. He's passionate and puts his personality into his news coverage, both on his blog and chatting with Mary Lucia on 89.3 The Current. I think Bob was unfairly maligned in the "thanks, no. bob" incident. Perhaps we need to make a "Is Bob Collins a prick?" wiki. JUST KIDDING! The guy beat me in arm wrestling, I'm nursing a sore arm/ego over here.

ANYWAY, BACK TO ME. The Rake (RIP) has an informal, i.e. inaccurate, survey of where people get their news locally. For some reason, this here blog is on the list, and in fact ranks higher than WCCO. Clearly, these people are retarded. I just bought some journalism books, so maybe there will be awesome news-making here someday. We actually do kinda make news over at The UpTake, so please go there instead and for fuck's sake turn on your television on watch WCCO once in awhile. They're getting paid!

RANDOM NAME-DROPPING: I talked to Steve Perry about his new gig running the Minnesota Monitor. What was the word he used... oh yes, clusterfuck. But I get the feeling he relishes the challenge of sheparding MinMon's operation into it's next evolution. There were many other familiar favorite faces: Melody Gilbert, Nikki Tundel, Bob Moffit, Garrick Van Buren, the Metroblogging kids. Finally, due to a St. Paul parking ramp closing at 8pm and related calamities, Noah Kunin and I got a ride home from David Brauer. I can't say enough nice things about this guy. He's definitely one reason I'll stay hooked into MinnPost, along with some interesting arts coverage over there lately.

ONE LAST PLUG: Julio Ojeda-Zapata, a Puerto Rico-native and all-around Journalist 2.0, wrote a great article about The UpTake's use of new technology. Technology A to Z: With easy, affordable tools, anyone can be a video journalist. I'm especially grateful Julio appreciates not just the tools, but the tone. I'd say the issue I most struggle with in creating citizen journalism videos is the tone.

Olsen's brand of reporting doesn't hew to traditional journalistic standards (network correspondents would never speed up a national politician's speech, for instance). You'll see him pretend to disrobe in one video, swear in another segment, and flit aside a Red Bull can strewn alongside a seemingly unconscious fellow UpTake member. Don't hold your breath waiting for Diane Sawyer to do anything like that.

February 26, 2008 at 03:20 AM in Media, The Uptake | Permalink


Yeah, for a guy who kept saying how other people are smarter than him, Gillmor sure talked a lot -- haltingly, which must have made for great radio.

Like I said last night, we had all the talent, experience and fresh ideas we needed in that room before Gillmor started talking. Kinda a poor use of an A-List Panel (and guests!) IMHO.

Posted by: Bob Moffitt at Feb 26, 2008 6:46:22 AM

Chuck. The vibe you got wasn't that the bastards will chat about you (and, for the record, I didn't just wake up and discover blogs), it's that people will have two different conversations... one in person and one online. I've lived in Minnesota long enough to know that what people say to your face isn't what they mean, but my frustration comes from lost opportunities. If we're only going to have honest conversations with a close circle of friends, what is it we think we're accomplishing? How is that any different from people looking at the various media, not to be enlightened, but to get idea they already hold to be confirmed?

Look, the issues are well known and they require a frank and honest dialogue between people who disagree and are willing to voice -- no matter how uncomfortable -- that disagreement in an environment where it can be processed and discussed. As much as I love blogs, as much as I love traditional media, the best avenue for that is still the spoken word, face to face.

Chuck, I think you have to admit we blew the opportunity and we can blame the format, the white guys in the front of the room, the dewpoint and everything else and we'd be right -- well, except for maybe the dewpoint -- but we're not going to really get anywhere until we as individuals look at ourselves and say what could I have done to advance the issue. Write more lines about how much someone else sucks. Sorry, no. (joke there, get it?)

As for "sorry, no" thing. Let's just say I have more respect for people who have met me and think I'm a prick, then those who haven't and write I'm a great guy. (g)

Agree with you on DeRusha... but wake me when he allows comments on his blog.

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 7:11:46 AM

The line about DeRusha and Dave Moore is so right on. He's a real asset and of all the white guys there last night (I was thinking the same thing, Chuck), he seemed the most natural in the "traditional" media world and the new internet world.

As for the ambient ennui, in part, I blame the building. Seriously. It's like a Museum of Modern Art and curated just as coolly. I can't help thinking of the contrast between the bootstrappers of the new media world, scrambling for a crumb of funding and Googlesense, and that palace.

I realize it's bad radio, but the next one of these should be in a bar.

Posted by: David Brauer at Feb 26, 2008 7:20:29 AM

Is this the part where I lament the fact I'm white?

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 8:15:21 AM

What if what we learned last night, actually, is, as an e-mail friend said, this:

"We're losing the ability to communicate in person when we don't have the ability to go back into our shells and bitch into our keyboards."

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 8:19:37 AM

All I can say is: When people have access to a backchannel (Twitter, liveblogging, chats, etc.) they will use it in events like this - even more successful ones. It's a fact of modern life that used to only happen at tech conferences, much to the chagrine of the people on stage, and now happens everywhere.

You can try to shift blame/responsibility to the audience but that's about as helpful as...oh...this blog post. Their chattering was the symptom of an uneven event, not the cause. DeRusha said he Twittered less when things got interesting. That's exactly how my mind works. Be lucky my laptop was being used for live video. :-)

I think several people have now pointed out that part of the problem was the honourable Mr. Gillmor, along with the format. I thought everyone on the "panel" was going to get some designated opportunity to speak, but eventually I realized I should just raise my hand and get in line like everyone else. I would have tried jumping in much sooner if I'd known that - key word "tried," because most people deferred to letting Mr. Gillmor speak as the out-of-town guest until they realized their Monday evening was wasting away without addressing any pressing issues.

Now I'm thinking, "I'm spending way to much time talking about an event and not enough time talking about the issues we want to address." I hope we don't care more about how we talk about these issues than the issues themselves!

Posted by: chuck at Feb 26, 2008 8:52:25 AM

I think you're misreading what I said. I'm not trying to SHIFT blame. I am trying to get across, however, that in any conversation, all participants have a responsibility for the result. Clearly I didn't do my job and Gilmore didn't do his job. The format didn't do its job. The building didn't do its job.

I DO hope we talk about how we talk about these issues because people seem to want change (although we don't agree on what should change) and just kvetching about wanting change is pointless without a mechanism for achieving it.

In many cases, what we're talking about in this MSM-blogger relationship is understanding what the "other side" thinks. I don't know how we get to that level of understanding without analyzing WHY we can't get to that point.

I have to be honest with you. One of the reasons, I'm told, that MPR disengaged from the forum is the focus. My boss, for example, didn't want to waste time having the same discussion that we were having three years ago.

I think he has a point. In three years the conversation doesn't seem to have changed. It still consists of "you suck. No YOU suck." Personally, I get kind of tired of that but I can't say with any certainty that there's any hope of changing that.

If MSM went to bloggers tomorrow and said, "hey, you're right, we suck," now what's left to talk about?

I mean, there's GOT to be more meaning to this. At the glacial pace of the conversation, I'll be dead before there's any substantial change, which means that bloggers intend to just hold on until MSM goes out of business and MSM will just assume bloggers will flame out and be margianlized.

Neither seems like a logical course of events.

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 9:11:54 AM

The topic was a bit of a problem. (I kept thinking of Atrios's "Time for another blogger ethics conference" jab.)

Really, what's needed is some big "pudding-tosses" as Chuck puts it on Bob's blog. Bob, you may have been having these discussions three years ago, but I wasn't, and I'll bet more than a few people in the room weren't either. It was nice to have so many people in one place. I honestly don't mind some of the "you suck" stuff, because who are journalists (new and old) but critics of each other some of the time? At the same time, there's a lot of knowledge to share, so as long as it's made clear that learning/sharing is the prime value, we should be OK.

Posted by: David Brauer at Feb 26, 2008 9:18:54 AM

There were old white guys, young white guys, in-between white guys, young women holding microphones, super old crazy white guys, and my friend Erica from Metroblogging.

LOL! Yeah, me and that producer guy from KSTP.

We spent a looooong time rehashing what the differences are between MSM and citizen journalists/bloggers, and not nearly enough time talking about HOW to employ, display, make evident our ethics and standards. The very title of the forum implied that MSM has ethics and bloggers are lacking in it. That's not necessarily true, but we needed examples of what bloggers are doing around ethics/standards and suggestions for would-be CJs. That question got asked a few times (Chuck asked specifically) and it was not answered.

I agree, the format was a big barrier. I don't know off the top of my head how you remedy that, especially if you intend to broadcast it on MPR. I had one comment to make and it took literally 5 minutes for me to get a chance to make it.

Posted by: Erica M at Feb 26, 2008 9:29:50 AM

I agree, Erica, that the topic implied a MSM "we're the teachers, you're the students attitude."

And that's why I originally wanted to start with the NY Times piece which was a classic lack of good editing and failure to meet standards. You know, just to get that "we know all the answers" BS out of the way. I had that set up. Dave Beal at the SPJ, about a half hour ahead of time said, "I don't think we should do it that way."

So that was a classic case of failure to follow one's instinct.

I have no idea if there's a radio component to this. My guess is Sara Meyer at Midday will ask me whether it's worth her staff cutting it down and airing it on Midday. I will say "no." The more I think about it, the more embarrassed I am about my part in it.

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 9:36:44 AM

Bob - I think your radio instinct is right. To a great extent, this was a media-to-media session, which is fine but not good radio.

Posted by: David Brauer at Feb 26, 2008 9:41:15 AM

Yeah, well I'm delaying going to work. I know at least 6 MPR people who attended who are going to say, "hey, you really sucked last night."

That's why I have such respect for marginal closers in baseball who get lit up one night and are able to go back at it the next day.

Maybe I can get away with doing this blogger thing from home.

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 9:45:39 AM

Don't get too down - you hung it out there, took a damn chance, and that's more than some at MPR (and elsewhere) can say. I'm glad I came.

Posted by: David Brauer at Feb 26, 2008 9:55:04 AM

Hey Bob, you're A-list in my book.
Of course, I don't write your paychecks. :-)

Posted by: chuck at Feb 26, 2008 10:01:18 AM

Maybe I can get away with doing this blogger thing from home.

Maybe if you get a nice fat severance from MPR first. I'm sure MinnPost is always looking for good people. Eric Black is up next on your arm wrestling docket.

Posted by: Erica M at Feb 26, 2008 10:10:58 AM

I keep my vacation accrual maxed. That's my fat severance. When that gig ends, I'm figuring on going to Home Depot.

Black, eh? It'll be build as the "no country for old men" classic. I was kinda eyeing DeRusha, though... but maybe I gotta work my way up through AA ball first. (g)

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 10:21:41 AM

MSM is just another data point on the web for me and I usually end up there due to a blogger or tweet referral.

MSM as an authority becomes more irrelevant each day. Bob, you know how many people turn MPR off when the pledge drives kick in.

Bob, I really think the archive of this show should be on the web. It sounds like you don't but that's the thing about transparency. Sometimes we have to be transparent when it's not easy. I don't care if you put it on the radio. Please send along the link when it's there.

David Isenberg's Freedom to Connect conference took a novel approach to the backchannel last year. (Dan Gillmor was in attendance at that one too.) Photo here:


Bob, I'm an old white man too!

Posted by: Peter at Feb 26, 2008 10:34:37 AM

Bob: If you can take Chuck in arm wrestling, you can take me no problem.

As for the comments on my blog, it's a fight I've been fighting for 3 years, and I'm told I'm about to win in a week or so. We, like many TV stations, are stuck within a corporate hierarchy of how we utilize our website. We do our best within that framework, but comments have not been supported from a technical standpoint.

And being called our generation's Dave Moore may be the nicest thing anyone's ever said about me professionally.

Posted by: Jason DeRusha at Feb 26, 2008 10:39:22 AM

The SXSW Web Awards broadcast an IRC chat up on a big screen. I'm sure last year wasn't the first time they've done it. That would actually have been pretty interesting had we set up something like that.

Posted by: Erica M at Feb 26, 2008 10:43:11 AM

//I really think the archive of this show should be on the web.

YOu probably noticed that this event wasn't listed on the MPR Web site yesterday as an MPR event. Up until then, I assumed it was but asking around it was kind of clear that the editorial interests of MPR didn't see the prospects of editorial content being very significant.

We didn't have a guest blogger on News Cut live blogging. Instead, someone invited Metroblogging to do that. My initial requests for a video stream via MPR were similarly turned down some weeks ago,and then I heard that SPJ was going to videotape and put it on their site.

So if there's to be an archive anywhere, I suspect that it will be at the SPJ site. I don't have anything to do with radio anymore, nor am I managing editor of online anymore so I have no ability or power to provide an archive of the event.

I'm just a blogger, now. (g)

Oh, and champion arm wrestler.

Posted by: Bob Collins at Feb 26, 2008 12:24:32 PM

We have a video archive (please forgive the less-than-stellar audio) on The UpTake - click the player in the right sidebar.

Posted by: chuck at Feb 26, 2008 12:29:20 PM

I'm quite late to the conversation. And I agree with much of what has been said.

I will say I didn't think Bob sucked. I think he did what he could. Live and learn. Still better than not having the event at all.

I will also say I'm a youngish white chick who may as well be a very old white dude (in stereotype-land, that is). Technology stresses me out sometimes. I don't even have a cell phone. But I am interested in the future of journalism (all forms of it). I worry that we seem to be heading down a path where we're set on destroying the current structures of MSM to move ahead. And I'm not sure if that's a good idea. Yes. There are bad things about media monopolies. Lots of "journalism" sucks. But there are some good things we shouldn't lose in the process of advancement. For example, I believe there's something to be said for having a newsroom of reporters who can bounce ideas off each other, challenge each other and leverage their resources to get things done. I fear some of those things may be lost when "everyone is the media."

I truly believe that everyone has a right to have his/her story told, that no one should have his/her point of view suppressed or misstated or ignored. But, personally, I wonder if everyone should be the media. This likely isn't a popular view. Please don't hurt me. But, really, I don't go out and build my own house. I don't do surgery on my friends and pets. I don't even cut my own hair. Yes, I could do these things, or at least attempt to. But I realize some people are better at neutering cats than I am. They're studied such things. They've honed their talents. We all have talents to contribute to society. Along those lines, some people are great reporters. Some are great storytellers. Some "mainstream journalists" are great at these things; some "bloggers" are great at these things. But I'm not yet convinced "everyone is the media." Just as I'm not convinced "everyone is a veterinarian."

Yes. More people's stories should be represented in journalism. More people, from a wide variety of backgrounds, should be journalists. I strongly believe this.

At the same time, I really don't want to read, listen to or watch hundreds of people giving their ramblings on a story. It's too overwhelming. In my media consumer role, I really don't want to have to "do my own research" to find out what's true. Yes, I want to be skeptical. Yes, I want to take in a variety of sources with different points of view. But I don't want to take in an endless array of them. It's just not practical.

So, what to do?

Posted by: Nikki at Feb 26, 2008 5:25:03 PM


You're in luck. Not everyone wants to be the media.

We try to recruit people to produce original citizen journalism for The UpTake, and it's difficult. There just aren't that many people driven to go that deep. But there are enough that we've created a grassroots citizen media organization.

Hopefully we don't kill any pets in the process, though there will likely be more than a few bad haircuts.

No sane person is saying we don't need the MSM; that strawman has been burned long ago.

What I tried to address in my question last night is this middle ground between professional paid journalism and the wild west of blogs. This is one place where really interesting stuff is happening, and it's sometimes referred awkwardly as "pro-am journalism" because it's a hybrid of professional and amateur.

It's wide open. How can we take what works from traditional journalism, and throw out what doesn't work in this space? How can we harness the immediacy, freedom, and crowdsourcing potential of new media while retaining some editorial standards? How often can I take my shirt off before nobody takes me seriously (i.e. what does the audience want)?

Posted by: chuck at Feb 26, 2008 7:51:12 PM

I'd like to weigh in on this--there are several items I'd like to challenge, mainly against the stereotypes--
--MSM employment does not equal journalism. That might be obvious to serious bloggers, but it is not obvious to everyone watching MSM. MSM media types are as often blow-dries who look good reading a teleprompter...and for every Moyer there are two O'Reillys.
--Blogging does not equal amateur journalism. Again, that might be obvious to serious bloggers and is not to everyone else. Bloggers are as often serious in their concern for the facts and thoughtful in their presentation...and for every two wheresmypants.blogspot there is a thedeets.com tossing in some thoughtful local interest.

The difference in the blogsphere is easy entry--put up a blog shingle and get to work. However, the market is self-regulating...wheresmypants.blogspot (geez, I should have looked that up before I started using it, sorry for any toes I'm stepping on) will rise to its level of interest...so will thedeets, so will all the other online websites.

The difference in the MSM is no average person or even average corporation can enter that game. However, in the oligarchy of MSM, the ratings and sponsors will rule as to who is allowed to report the news and who has to pack up their blowdryer and sell used cars.

Respect is available based on the ethics and journalistic value in all news arenas.

Which brings up my closing thought--one elephant in the room thought, which is the journalistic world needs to go to diversity training and open up their minds to bloggers walking in their aisles of journalism. The BEST thing about the blogsphere is the hat tips and link opportunities that an active community creates.

Confused...google 'tweedy effect'. Later dude, thanks for the 'forum' for comments. ;)

Posted by: The Other Mike at Feb 26, 2008 8:58:32 PM

As with most of my writing, my post likely came of bitchier than I meant it to be.

I’m actually with Chuck on the middle ground part. And I wish we could have talked more about that last night. We all know the extremes –- crappy, arrogant, condescending, lazy, press conference "journalism" from the MSM and I’m-writing-down-every-thought-that-crosses-my-mind "journalism" from the blogosphere. The real stuff is in the middle. Chuck much more eloquently stated my concern. Let’s keep what works from the old and add what’s great about the new. Simple.

It’s really interesting to me – surprising actually – that you’re finding few people really wanting to dig in or join up with UpTake. From the way the MSM tells it, everybody under the sun wants to be a citizen journalist. Guess the MSM needs to do more citizen outreach to tell the whole story (and I say that non-sarcastically).

God knows I’m not an apologist for the MSM. Often my MSM consumption ends with me either angry or wanting to cry. Sometimes it’s the incompetence that gets me. Other times it’s the shallowness. Of course, there is some MSM that I love. But, in no way, do I think having a job in the MSM media makes someone a great journalist.

I love the idea of the hybrid. And I also agree that respect is available based on the ethics and journalistic value in all news arenas. What I want to see in any kind of journalism is truth. It may be the truth about the run up to the war. Or it may be the truth about one person’s life in their corner of the world. Small truths are as important to me as big truths. I just want something real. The way I see it, somehow journalism went from seeking truth to seeking balance (which, usually entails getting one person on each side, playing along with the illusion there are only two sides, and then letting both contradict each other as the "journalist" facilitates). What I think "new media" can bring to the equation is more truth.

However, it seems there’s an us vs them or them vs us feeling that the world (including me) still gets hung up at times, no matter how much we say we’re past it. Yes, the journalistic world can open up its mind to bloggers walking in their aisles of journalism. And should. But not every blogger is a journalist. At the same time, the journalistic world should open its eyes and realize that not every MSM employee is a journalist. Good journalists from the MSM and good journalists from the blogosphere should be walking the aisles of journalism.

I think what I was saying, which (I think) is similar to what Chuck is saying, is that some bloggers aren’t trustworthy journalists. AND some MSM employees aren’t trustworthy journalists. So it’s not about the medium. It’s about craft. And honesty. And truth.

Ah, God bless America.

Also, Gillmor drove me nuts.

Posted by: Nikki at Feb 26, 2008 10:35:20 PM

I'm voting for Nikki!
Let's pray before the Flag, the Bible, and The Radio.

Dude, I didn't even think you stuck around for the event. You must've been hiding in a booth. And now you're commenting at length on my blog? I just don't know you anymore.

Posted by: chuck at Feb 26, 2008 11:05:53 PM