Several of my Global Voices colleagues are in London this week, participating in the Reuters/BBC-organized We Media conference. I’d been sad that I couldn’t be part of the event – I agreed to be part of the Metaverse Roadmap conference previously and didn’t relish the prospect of a London to SF trip Thursday evening.
So far, not so good, evidently. BBC is hosting today’s sessions and has been plagued with technical problems – the video feed has been unreliable, there’s been no audio feed (my preferred method of participation) and the chat system hasn’t worked. (My guess is the estimable Matt Hassock will have all this fixed for tomorrow’s sessions, which Reuters will host…)
But the real problem seems to be the content – a rehashing of the bloggers versus journalists debate that’s leaving most of the GV participants pretty frustrated. Rebecca speculates that they’re asking the wrong question: “The question we really ought to be focusing on is: how can citizens and professional journalists work together to create a better and more well-informed public discourse?”
Neha, our South Asia editor, is upset that, in defending blogs, many seem to end up critiquing “breakfast blogs” and emphasizing the good, journalistic blogs out there. (I’ll own up to using this line of defense. I too often throw the mommy bloggers to the wolves in explaining blogs to journalists and NGOs…)
Itâ€™s also important we understand that bloggers arenâ€™t responsible for each other. The same way Guardian isnâ€™t responsible for what the BBC does. Itâ€™s sad if journalism as a profession feels threatened by citizen journalism. But if it makes them clean up their act – Oh! Why not? It is unfortunate that people who support citizen journalism have to feel so defensive in a forum that was supposed to engage the two camps. I feel like theyâ€™ve divided them up even further.
And Rachel Rawlins, BBC veteran and now our managing editor, is just pissed off:
The “rest of the world” has featured entirely peripherally. One unfortunate panellist referred to the plucky media in the developing world operating in conditions “from the stone age in a mud hut”.
I mean WTF?
We are now enduring an exercise involving “digital assassins” who I assume are being put forward as “average” digital media consumer/producers. These people are so far from being global as to be confined, judging by their accents, to Greater London.
In the BBC’s defense… these conferences aren’t easy to hold. Bloggers see the rise of citizen’s media as preordained and inevitable; many reporters tend to see bloggers as barbarians at the gate, helping destroy the proud and honorable profession they’ve spent their lives defending. Tomorrow’s panels will almost surely be more global, as GV’s had a strong hand in organizing them and Rebecca will be moderating two of them.
A last observation (in a post that’s already embarrasingly long, as I’m not actually at the conference!) – while global news organizations seem obsessed with the bloggers/journalists “dichotomy”, local media seems more open to this idea. I gave a lecture at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts a few weeks ago as part of a class taught by Bill Densmore, who has edited several Berkshire County newspapers. Bill observed that local newspaper editors generally understand the value of journalists cooperating with bloggers because local papers don’t get produced without the help of lots of amateurs. That baseball story, town meeting summary or theatre review might have been produced by a seasoned, experienced journalist… and just as likely was produced by an intern, an amateur trying to get some experience, or someone in the community who was passionate that an event get covered.
Maybe these conversations aren’t best
yelled held between bloggers and journalists from highly professional, structured, hierarchical news organizations – maybe community papers could help provide an ideological bridge between camps?