My final project!

March 22, 2010

To see the results of my research and my proposal for the future of the internet please check out this sister blog:


Questions for Christensen

March 2, 2010

Having read Christensen’s conclusion and recommendations for readers, I pose the following questions:

How much should companies rely on theories if data to verify them is difficult to judge? How much time do you give them?

Because the uses of different technologies vary so drastically from user to user, what suggestions do you give new technology developers?

How do you recommend that companies respond to failed theories? Read the rest of this entry »

Craigslist works because it’s human

March 2, 2010

After reading Gary Wolf’s article “Why Craigslist is Such a Mess,” I was interested in the company’s early foundation and certainly the peculiar personality of its founder, Craig Newmark.  However, what I found most interesting was the question of why Craigslist was so much more popular than other ad listing sites?

As Wolf points out, Craigslist is far from an advanced Web site. It is unattractive, jumbled, without recommendations and with little user protections. Web developers today can do much better than rows and rows of hyperlinks, and they are on other sites. Nonetheless, Craigslist continues to thrive for buying and selling items, job searching, apartment finding and even personal ads.

I believe this is because the raw, unpolished nature of Craiglist makes it more human. For the most part, ads posted on the site are clearly created by everyday people, not big businesses or advertising agents. As online users today have admitted they don’t trust traditional advertising. Buying a product from a real person is more appealing. Craigslist typical brings people together too. Often ads result in face-to-face exchanges rather than online purchases. Read the rest of this entry »

Will this golden era last?

February 24, 2010

In his article “The Media Monopoly,” Ben H. Bagdikian describes a problem with media in the United States, the false assumption that independent media must be fueled by commercial interests and therefore cannot aim to serve society. Throughout the article, Bagdikian makes it clear he doesn’t buy this argument and I believe time has proved he was right.

Bagdikian points out that in 1997, while major media companies were not all the same, they are all similar in their dependence on advertisers. This, he said, caused a decline in the quality of news production as corporate decision making was driving the socializing and politicizing of the public, who mostly received news from broadcast television.

Bagdikian noted that the United States was facing a number of crises in regards to housing, education, health care, mass transit, income gap, social values, cynicism and more. Still, he said these are not the issues that the mass media was covering, and in fact media coverage often conflicted with the needs of society. For example, Bagdikian says “For a rich country that has the lowest taxes among the industrialized nations but is forever telling its youth that education is the key to success, that is both hypocrisy and a self-imposed crisis.” Read the rest of this entry »

So this is new media…

February 17, 2010

As I read Lev Manovich article “Principles of New Media,” I could not help but relate his ideas to my previous and current job. During the past year I moved from a job working in old media—writing for a newspaper—to working in new media—producing a blog.

I agree with the characteristics that he identifies as key differentiators between the two kinds of media. With each, I questioned whether the quality was positive and whether it added value to the media today.

Manovich describes all new media content as numerically represented. I see this as a positive factor, because when content can be subjected to mathematics it is more easily manipulated and organized. Analog media is much more difficult to work. When I worked at a newspaper content had to be organized according to an imposed system. With digital media, content is organized including to a general system automatically. Read the rest of this entry »

What is new media?

February 17, 2010

Week 6 reading: Benkler: The trouble with mass media

February 10, 2010

I was raised to think of journalists as noble people serving a critical function of society: the watchdog. I still believe that, although my notion of a journalist is no longer a person employed by a news agency. Today I know that anyone producing quality news content is a journalist and should be a valued member of out society, whether they write a blog or report on camera for Good Morning America.

Benkler’s article gave me a new perception of mass media, different than the hero shot I was raised to believe in. His first criticism, that mass media has limited intake, I certainly agree with. This is abundantly clear to me when you compare mass media organizations to the blogosphere. A news organization has a limited number of employees who conduct limited research. They have historically struggled to capture all view points and ignored demographics. But by attaining news from a wide variety of sources the audience gains multiple perspectives and generally receives a collection of information that better represents society.

I also understand Benkler’s concern that the owners of mass media companies have too much power. The ability to distribute information to an audience is a a huge power and a huge responsibility. When media companies are owned by few people with personal financial interests it is easy for ethics and integrity to be lost. When content is created in more of a conversational, public forum producers are more likely to be held accountable by their audience. Still, the average joe creating a blog has a lot of power also, and does not necessarily have to distribute content in a responsible manner either.

Benkler’s final basic criticism of mass media was the most interesting to me. Since my journalism education first began I understood the importance of separating the business and editorial functions of media companies to maintain integrity. For the most part, I knew the damage that could be caused by writing favorably about an advertiser for financial gain. But Benkler brings up another interesting idea: that advertisement-supported media has to attract a large audience to survive. This leads the producer to create content primarily based on popularity rather than importance–compromising the quality of the reporting.

I do think some of the defenses of mass media that Benkler mentions have some merit. The first, that mass media models dependent on advertising are free from government control. Before the internet provided the public with free, widespread technologies I believe this was the only viable option for media production to remain free of government control and still reach a broad audience.

However, given modern technologies that have allowed many more people to serve as journalists, I do not buy the defense that the professional position of mass media gives them a greater power to serve as a society “watchdog.” Plenty of unemployed writers have exposed injustice without a press pass. Furthermore, the defense that mass media can better identify and promote issues that are most important to society is difficult to agree with when you consider that the model of mass media removes journalists from their audience and makes it more difficult to identify with them.

A new angle for my project

February 7, 2010

Well, I am changing the focus of my project, because I am apparently determined to do things in a non-linear fashion. The question I hope to answer with my final project is: How is the role of the professional journalist changing in an environment where the tools of news production and creation are ubiquitous and free?

I will investigate this idea by researching the history of the journalism profession, just before blogging and since then. I will also research the history of the public’s involvement in news production, briefly summarizing from the days of pamphleteers to present, but mostly focusing public content creation since the development of the internet.

I plan to analyze modern examples of journalists utilizing content created by the public and describe methods I think will work well and not so well. I will look for trends that might suggest how the role of journalists might change in the future.

In the end I want to find out, with the history of public and professional content creation and the current methods of media production, what will the role of journalists look like in the future?

First bibliography

February 5, 2010

Anderson, R. M. (2007). VillageSoup: A Community Host Model At Work. Nieman Reports, 61(4), 68-70.

This article analyzes Village Soup, a 10-year-old web-based news and information site that combines professional content, business content and amateur content. It uses professional and amateur news creators and represents an interesting new business model in which the audience has more say in the production. I think this will be a very interesting case to analyze when considering how professional journalists and the public can work together.  

Gillmor, D. We the Media. Available from

Gillmor’s book will serve well to provide some background information on the development of online publishing tools and is an excellent introduction to the history of blogs. He also does well to illustrate the power that such publishing tools have given to the public, and how they have transformed media as we know it. He gives several recommendations to journalists, which I may tie in to the paper. Finally, he points out the problems that arise from reader contributed or “amateur” content.

Hane, P. J. (2009). Hyperlocal News, Ebook Readers, and Search Engines Top the News. Information Today, 26(10), 7-13.

Hane’s article questions the economic potential of Hyperlocal media sites. This will be valuable when considering their future, their potential to survive as grass roots products or otherwise. She discussed trends that are already occurring, such as consolidation, partnerships between grassroots publications and mainstream media organizations and hyperlocal news aggregators. 

Knight Citizen News Network. Directory of Citizen Media Sites. Retrieved from

This directory will be very useful if I decide to analyze hyperlocal news sites in a specific geographic area,which will likely be the most fair and manageable way of assessing those active today.

McLellan, M. (2010, January 28). Promising online news organizations – The hunt is on Message posted to 

At the Reynold’s Journalism Institute, Michele McLellan is identifying and analyzing a number of online news sources, including what she calls “microlocal.” This blog will be a great source to help me analyze the current online hyperlocal news coverage and compare it to other, more traditional, media companies online. I also hope to set up an interview with McLellan to hear her personal perspective on “amateur” hyperlocal news coverage versus the work by mainstream media online.

Schaffer, S. (2007). When Community Residents Commit ‘Random Acts Of Journalism’. Nieman Reports, 61(4), 59-61.

This article analyzes hyperlocal news Web sites created through grants from the Knight Foundation and the University of Maryland journalism school. It addresses ways that they have successful in meeting the needs of the community as well as the economic challenges they face. This will be an interesting source for analyzing existing content from the public.

Winston, B. (1998). Media Technology and Society: A History: From the Telegraph to the Internet. London and New York: Routledge.

I am still not positive if I will use Winston or not, but I am keeping it as a potential source because of his chapter on the development of the internet (18). This could be a great source for my history paper, however I am still not sure if I want to cover the history of the internet in this project or more specifically the history of news blogging.

Review of ‘We the Media’ by Dan Gillmore

February 3, 2010

It has been six years since Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media” was published. Reading the book today, it is clear that many media companies have adopted his ideas and followed his advice. As a result many of the ideas expressed in the book have become mainstream. Reading it today, the text reinforced my opinion that technologies which enable the public to create online content could allow journalists to create a higher quality of news than ever before.

At the time that the Internet was invented, Gillmor writes that “big business journalism” was ruling the conversation. News organizations had gone from providing a public service to serving as profit centers. The top-down model, in which one source delivered information to many viewers, ruled in newspapers and on television. While citizens had contributed to the media conversation long before the internet–such as pamphleteers, soapbox protestors and the writers of the Federalist Papers–Gillmor argues that online technologies, namely blogs, have empowered the public to create content and contribute to the media more than ever before.

Gillmor says the original intent of the internet was to serve as a read/write technology, which is exactly what it would become. Desktop publishing gave the public a tool to publish on their own, but blogs really changed media as we know it. Like desktop publishing, blogs allowed just about anyone with the basic tools (a computer and internet connection) to publish their own content. But blogs allow for distribution beyond geographic boundaries and are inherently interactive.

Eventually, mobile technologies including SMS and still and video cameras would also serve as tools to allow the general public to contribute to the media.What did this mean for journalism? Gillmor points out that it brought more voices in the media and injected a greater sense of humanity in reporting, which he says had become lost in mainstream media. With each of these new technologies, the media model moved from one to many to many to many or few to few.

Initially, big media may have ignored “amateur” or “grass roots” journalism, but these publishers have since proven to be powerful. Certainly in the case of politics, blogs have made things happen–as Gillmor shows with the Howard Dean Campaign. Interestingly, he predicts that due to the maturing of the internet, “net-savvy campaigning will rule 2008.” The election of President Obama shows he was correct. Just like an outdated journalism model, politics were transformed from top-down to “edge to middle politics.” As Gillmore wrote, now, “the consent of the governed means more than the simple casting of votes.”

Besides contributing to the discussions that journalists were having, Gillmor writes about online users who have begun their own conversations about journalism itself. “Amateur” content creators have joined professional journalists as watchdog’s for society, but they have also become watch dogs for journalism. Online users have come to demand more transparency from journalists and also expect to engage directly with them. While we have had “letters to the editor” for some time, journalists now face the instant reaction to their work in emails, online comments and even blogs by journalism critics.

I agree with Gillmore. The public’s ability to contribute online content, as well as it’s demand for transparency, truth and accuracy, should not be seen as a threat but instead as a development that is improving journalism. With more voices in the conversation we gain more information and new perspectives. As Gillmor wrote, our readers as a collective know far more than we do. They also notice more, hear more and pick up on important issues that the mainstream media may not be aware of or may have chosen to ignore–such as the statement about Strom Thurmond that incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made in 2002. Journalists should recognize contributions from the public as a gift. They can provide tips, ideas, information or even photo and video content. We have seen during many disasters, such as the earthquake in Haiti, that information and media from the people living in the country during and after the event has been invaluable.

One of my favorite parts of Gillmor’s book was his analysis of in Korea. Founded on the principle “every citizen’s a reporter,” I think this is an incredible example of the value of “amateur” content. By allowing anyone and everyone to report on the news, the site’s content was much more balanced than Korea’s traditional media. Issues were quickly and aggressively exposed because so many contributors could not be controlled. Unlike the traditional media outlets, offered content the public was hungry for because they created it themselves. Furthermore, I believe this site furthered a democratic conversation.

With online content, journalists have been challenged to face a new level of scrutiny online. This was initially difficult for me. I started my career as a traditional print journalists but now I write for a series of community blogs hosted by KOMO News in Seattle. In writing online content, I have received more immediate, and sometimes harsh criticism. But the online response to my work has made me a better journalist because it holds me accountable for the content I produce. My online writing is much more a living text than anything I ever wrote for a print publication. If any facts are wrong, they are quickly caught by online readers and I, in response, quickly correct them. Additionally, online readers will often ask questions on an issue and suggest new angles to investigate. Through this kind of collaboration my work improves.

I agree with Gillmor that journalists should recognize the value of niche journalism when covering complex subjects such as politics. Big organizations cannot possibly report on everything political, but by following the conversations happening on issue-specific online publications, we can stay gain ideas for future coverage and learn what really matter to the public.

Journalists should not be so arrogant to think that they don’t need audience feedback. As Gillmor suggests, we should instead say “thank you!” and listen more to their contributions. We should show interest in audience interaction and be thoughtful about how we engage them.

For journalists today, the message is not “adapt or die” but rather “adapt to thrive.” By recognizing the value of the public’s online contributions journalists have a chance to create some of the greatest content to date.