Measuring journalism

Steven Johnson, with “The Glass Box and The Commonplace Book” (emphasis mine):

But they have underestimated the textual productivity of organizations that are incentivized to connect, not protect, their words. A single piece of information designed to flow through the entire ecosystem of news will create more value than a piece of information sealed up in a glass box. And ProPublica, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of organizations – some of the focused on journalism, some of the government-based, some of them new creatures indigenous to the web – that create information that can be freely recombined into private commonplace books or Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalism. A journalist today can get the idea for an investigation from a document on Wikileaks, get background information from Wikipedia, download government statistics or transcripts from or the Sunlight Foundation. You cannot measure the health of journalism simply by looking at the number of editors and reporters on the payroll of newspapers. There are undoubtedly going to be fewer of them. The question is whether that loss is going to be offset by the tremendous increase in textual productivity we get from a connected web. Presuming, of course, that we don’t replace that web with glass boxes.

Whoa, wait a second… how do we measure the health of journalism then? If we were to develop this system, would we be able to track information density of text content or derive the quality of the information produced? Could we then mash this against topical and location metadata to see how well particular communities are being served?

This is one of the things I’d like to discuss at tomorrow’s BarCamp NewsInnovation.

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