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, 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.


Jake Bayless April 20, 2009 Reply

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

Joey Baker April 22, 2009 Reply

I’m down dude! I really like this plan, maybe include it in the Ideal CMS feature list?

Daniel April 22, 2009 Reply

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.

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