BarCamp Portland and the future of news

There’s talk on the town about adding a journalism session to BarCamp Portland. This should be a time to brainstorm and collaborate on the future of news in the Portland-area, instead of just being a space for¬†journalists and bloggers to come together and try and resolve their issues. Let’s have an idea-generating session on what the journalism needs of Portland are, how we’ll be able to fill those news from the grassroots if/when The Oregonian implodes because of their terrible CMS, and then, in turn, how we’ll be able to monetize that. This is something where perspectives from both camps, the journalists and the bloggers, would offer value to the conversation.

To provide fodder for this discussion, listen to the most recent installment of Dave Winer and Jay Rosen’s Rebooting the News. One of the ideas that I think will “save journalism” is the digital assignment desk Jay starts talking about near the end. His part of the idea is this: a tool to map out all of the particulars that might need to be reported on in the coverage of any given issue. Once the editorial team has this laid out, they can then decide what resources they want to apply and where.

I’d like to take this two steps further.

Let’s both open this up, and allow the community to get involved. Opening this up would mean that all of the information in the database would be transparent, accessible, and machine-readable (by marking information up with meta data). There would be an API so that others could build applications on top of the digital news assignment database (or hack the information into a legacy CMS). A J student could build a visualization comparing the number hours spent covering sports versus ASUO as an independent study project. The list goes on.

The community should be involved with the journalism requirements of a city through two means: contributing to the database of things that need to be reported on, and taking on assignments as they fit their¬†expertise. For instance, and I may have used this story before, my dad considers himself a photographer and enjoys capturing local high school sports games. He’s not the only parent in this geographic community or in the community of the high school that would fit this bill. Using this digital news assignment system, my dad could indicate that he’s wants to go to the game and make images. He’d submit 10 of what he thinks are the best at the end of the night, and the professional photographer on staff at the news organization would select the top two or three to run with the blog post or paper article, while at the same time giving feedback to my dad on what he liked about the images and what needed to be improved. Visitor participation and voting on the website would tell the CRM side of the database that they liked my dad’s work, thus making him more eligible to be the one covering the state playoffs.

If the community had access to what the news organization was planning to assign, they could give feedback and further suggestions. With Spot.us, the community has power to decide what is reported on with their dollars. This community news assignment open platform thing, beautiful name I know, would empower members to suggest assignments, vote on them, and then brainstorm all of the different variables that needed to be reported on.

This just needs to be built, and I’d much rather have the discussion at BarCamp Portland focused on how to experiment with ideas like these.

5 thoughts on “BarCamp Portland and the future of news

  1. Great idea.
    Perhaps worth gathering a Knight news contest app for?

    This is something our news startup has already identified we would like to pursue – perhaps also with you – in spirit, in partnership, with funding – without… How could we also get involved? We’re just a few hours south of you! :)

    my best & kudos,
    jake bayless
    editor@empirereport.org

  2. Boy, I think that’s really going beyond the demands of the CMS tho. I think it’s something that could live in harmony with the CMS, but it’s more of the people side and how you manage your community’s data.

  3. I see that you’re running Plone, Jake :)

    I think this open news assignment system would be worthwhile to build, although it wouldn’t necessarily require funding from Knight. News Challenge funding would mean development wouldn’t start until at least 16 months from now, too long in my opinion. Instead, i’d start prototyping this and building it in stages. Newspapers should be taking their online development into their own hands. I think what would be immediately useful for newspapers in this is an assignment system that made an open database of all their scheduled work. There was a post on MediaShift today that talked about how newspapers in Ohio are taking preliminary steps to share content. I’d bet that the software solution they have for that is pretty darn atrocious. If you could build something that allowed newspapers to share with one another which stories they’re allocating resources towards, I think that would be immediately useful. The next step would be to convince them of the values of opening that information (a la transparent newsroom). Then you start building the community collaboration features. And so on.

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