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Sunday, 30 March 2008

Anyone interested in an open discussion on civic journalism?

Rosie Anderson has now explained more about the RSA Journalism Network over on the RSA Networks site. The joint initiative with the Reuters Institute of Journalism aims to "support the civic function of news" but will be focussed on working, professional journalists as "a professional sub-culture, a community of practice".
Others who don't fall into this category ("news users") are encouraged by Rosie to start their own discussions.
The main RSA Networks site is currently still open for anyone to register, but as I understand it, that will change as it is recoded and integrated into the main RSA site. At that point it will be for RSA Fellows only, plus occasional invited guests. That may be great for building the Fellowship, and starting Fellows-staff projects, but it doesn't sound appropriate as a discussion space where "professional journalists", citizen journalists and others interested in using social media for social benefit can meet.
I'm personally most interested in breaking out of the old media professional boundaries because I think greatest innovation - and citizen empowerment - is likely to take place as old cultures are challenged, openly. It's time the newspeople stopped seeing those that they write for as "news users", now we are producing a lot of our own content online.
It's a point well made by Nick Booth at Podnosh a while back, when writing about the BBC initiative to support Manchester bloggers.
From my experience of BBC editorial meetings this would require a culture shift. The discussion has traditionally been rather cynical – based on traditional journalistic instinct about what makes a good story. This will often require conflict, criticism and celebrity (or prominence) as a core part of the story. News is made or broken by whether those things exist or can be readily conjured up.
I'm developing ideas about what Charlie Beckett and others are calling networked journalism over at and suggesting we need to develop a new set of values.
Anyone else interested in open discussions about civic-networked journalism, and/or know where they are taking place?
I personally think it is a bit arrogant of RSA and Reuters Institute to think they can have a useful discussion about civic journalism without civic journalists, but that's the new-style social reporter in me showing through.
David (NUJ member since 1968)


Lilly Evans said...


though not a professional journalist, I have participated last year in the AssignmentZero project and would suggest looking at it as an example.

As for open access, I guess RSA needs to decide what is value-added for its members. I believe that attracting a diverse group of people around its brand is an added bonus, so perhaps they can institute a new category of 'web members' with a much reduced fee?

Lilly Evans

davidwilcox said...

Lilly - thanks. "Web members" is a really interesting idea - rather like the "country members" that I believe some clubs used to have. An alternative I've suggested in the past is that project leaders on RSA Networks could decide, with their teams, whether their project should be inside or outside the login.
Anyway, assignment zero looks really exciting if we could learn from it - lessons here. Thanks so much or the lead. Any others, anyone?