#ONA10: Rebooting the News

Rebooting the News with Dave Winer and Jay Rosen, live at #ONA10. They’re reviewing the master narratives for the rebooted system of news. I’d like to highlight the key points.

“Every node in the network is a news node.” The easiest way to see this is in the Twitter network, where every user is a potential source of news.

Sources go direct.

Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.

“It’s easier trust ‘here’s where I’m coming’ from than the ‘view from nowhere’.” A reason for this is that people have access to a lot more news, as well as background information on that news. Journalists traditionally believe that the “mask of objectivity” is what allows people to trust them. Now, users can see the shallowness of the approach.

It’s dangerous for the news industry to rely on the tech industry for the next generation of publishing tools. Journalists cover tech icons as if they were messiahs. This creates a situation where news organizations passively absorb direction from the voice of God. There is a wish and hope the iPad will deliver a magic solution for newspapers.

The news system was built to deliver a stream of updates about what is new today. It’s been weak on context, or the background information you need to understand the story. A major design challenge in the rebooted system of news is how you can deliver both at the same time.

Question: How would you reboot mid-term election coverage?

Rosen: You’d develop a citizen’s agenda for coverage by polling the citizenry for what they want politicians to talk about. Then, in political debates, you’d look at whether the candidates are actually discuss those issues.

Question: Where should transparency be shown in news coverage?

Rosen: The easiest way would be to just link the byline to a background page on the reporter. It should have a listing of relevant topics and your perspective on them. Instead of saying “here’s the view from nowhere,” you’d say “here’s all of the information I had to write this piece.”

Winer: It’s not always about transparency, either. It’s about being clear about where you’re coming from. A blind man approaching the back of an elephant is going to have a completely different perspective than a blind man approaching the front of the elephant.

Question: Where should news organizations go if they can’t rely on technology companies for the future?

Winer: We’re really, really, really early in the news system of the future. Twitter is a large company now, but it doesn’t have a guaranteed position. For instance, updates on Twitter are limited to 140 characters. Is this the ideal length for a news item? Probably not; there’s room for innovation. Do it yourself.

Question: What is open source, can it be applied to the news industry and, if so, in what ways?

Winer: They’ve actually giving some things away but others aren’t free. Licenses for software use to run hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, certain things are given away but other things are charged for. “Who cares how you pay the bills?” The news industry insists to make money in a very particular way. Anything else is sacreligious. It’s this inflexibility that’s breaking the business.

Rosen: The motivations of people who contribute to open source projects are usually “if we all contribute, then we can all benefit and others can benefit too.” Just think about what we could do if we applied this to news.

Winer: Others choose to go open source to wipe out their competitors. The analog in the news industry is “open the doors” and let everyone contribute. Otherwise, they’ll fork you. Whomever embraces this model, and does it well, will win.

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