Friday, November 06, 2009

Convergence Conference: Thursday quick hits

Quickly wrapping up some other interesting sessions:

Thom Baggerman, Capital had an interesting two-part presentation, first what is the archetype of a good multimedia site and second how is that being carried out by newspapers and in cases where there is newspaper and TV co-ownership in a market. His initial observations:
• People want control over their media
• Convergence requires "tool-neutral" storytellers
His archetype is the Las Vegas Sun. Because it is an insert in the larger Review, the Sun's been able to concentrate on the Web. "I have not seen many other sites that offer up their media so willingly for sharing." He says the NY Times and USAToday come close. But he hit the Washington Post for requiring registration to see comments, hits the LA Times for putting comments into a blog.

He also looked at six cases that he said rose to the top of cross-ownership examples, but he found little content sharing, especially video. The cases he looked at: Dallas, Tampa, Phoenix, South Florida, and Dayton and Columbus in Ohio.

Serena Williams of Arizona State detailed some of the struggles she's had in defining news quality and the extent to which citizen journalists follow it. To some extent she has concluded our traditional definitions of news quality needs a re-examination. She also noted that few news organizations explain (where it can be easily found) the principles/ethics under which they operate.

Traditional definition: large number of sources, diversity of viewpoints, identified sources and local information.

Citizen journalists tend to have more stories with a single viewpoint, but she wonders in the age of aggregation if this is necessarily a bad thing.

She also says there is a lot of research out there that can help as we look into citizen journalism – all the research that has been done into community journalism. Smaller papers tend to emphasize consensus over conflict and interpretation over straight reporting, she said, all useful in looking at citizen journalism.

There was a really good session on legal and regulatory issues that I could write several posts on, but time is pressing. So let me whet your whistle with two quick observations. I hope we'll be able to get more in the Convergence Newsletter:

Woodrow Hartzog of North Carolina, representing a team of five researchers that has carved off a piece of a larger project, said it might be counterintuitive, but that group has concluded that sites lacking clear terms of service tend to actually discourage outside contributions. The problem is that without a good TOS, privacy and copyright issues are murky.

Jeff Wilkinson of United International College (and one of my co-authors on "Principles of Convergent Journalism") says we are entering an age where the definition of "original" will become unclear. In short, if so much is on the Web and accessible, it may be impossible for creators not to have had contact with the same underlying patterns/structures that could show up in their work, even if they don't do it consciously. He calls it the "curse of the long tail."

Hope to have some more from Friday's sessions, but will be running to catch a plane after my panel.

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