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November 13, 2004

How Do You Blog Ideas into Events? PressThink Tries to Find Out

Event blogging-- "live." We have only scratched the surface of what it's about. For example, here I am, blogger at an event: the Online News Association. It's meeting in Hollywood all day today. At 2:00 I will be part of a panel called I Robot. How to leverage automation to your advantage.... (read more)

Hollywood, CA, Nov. 13: Event blogging— “live.” We have only scratched the surface of what it’s about.

For example, here I am, blogger at an event: conference of the Online News Association. It’s meeting in Hollywood all day today. (Hollywood: still our dream factory, right?) At 2:00 I will be part of a panel called I Robot. How to leverage automation to your advantage.

Robots and journalism come together in the dream factory: you have to admit that has sex appeal. Before that, the keynote address from Wonkette, who should be in the movies. (And she’s a blogger.) Should be quite interesting.

Now in its current meaning,”to blog” the ONA would be to attend sessions and post summaries of them. Like Jeff Jarvis was doing this week. “Session notes” is the default style. An extremely useful thing to do, especially for those who type fast. Also common is the “here I am” post, and the “who I saw” entry. When they get back home, bloggers cast a backward look and interpret what went on, as I did with BloggerCon III. (Notes and Observations on the People of Moore’s Law)

With Not Up to It, my post from earlier this week, I described what I intended to say the next day to a group of journalists at an Institute here in Los Angeles. That was blogging the event beforehand by “releasing” into Net space some of the ideas I planned to inflict on the participants the next day:

“Not mainstream journalism the practice, but the contraption it has for explaining, situating and defending itself has in 2004 finally broken down, given out after 40 years of heavy, reliable use.”

Most of the Institute fellows (working journalists) were innocent of what PressThink had said Monday when I greeted them at luncheon Tuesday. Tim Porter at First Draft, who was there event blogging (but in a different way than I was), told his readers what happened at the Omni Tuesday, drawing the lines of argument “back” to my set-up piece, Not Up To It. Porter’s account made Romenesko, so Not Up to It had a second debut.

Most of its readers got there via Tim’s event blogging. A signifcant number were steered in by Marc Cooper of the Nation, who blogged it the next day. ” …Rosen rocked the boat as one of our lunch-time speakers, declaring flatly that the American mainstream media model—something he calls ‘the contraption’—has effectively collapsed.”

So that was event blogging, too. During my part in I Robot, about two hours from now, I am going to be injecting where and when I can the image of a “contraption” that has broken down in mainstream journalism and specifically newspapering.

What contraption? You can read about it here (Cooper) here (Porter) and here (PressThink.) How will I be “injecting” into ONA my sense of a contraption that has stopped working, gone dead? We will have to see what happens. I’m not sure anyone knows how you blog ideas “into” events.

This conference, the Online News Association, received a gift when Tom Curley, boss of the AP, engineered an act of intellectual leadership in the guise of giving an opening address: This is going to be a period of great change for the media, as we wrestle with many old and new demons at the same time — legacy technology, silo-ed bureaucracies and entrenched workflows on the one hand, and the killer apps and new voices of the Internet on the other.

Read it. This is the head of the AP with a radical’s message about change. See Command Post on it too.

Now I have to dash to Wonkette. After that it’s Robots in the Press Room, with PressThink invited to give a blogger’s eye view of automated news sites. And then it’s the Big Politics ‘04 Panel, with Arianna Huffington, Joe Trippi, Mickey Kaus, Jehmu Greene, Dave Winer, moderated by Dick Meyer, editorial director,

More later. Here’s the schedule.

Uh, I almost forgot: PressThink is up for an ONA award, too. But that’s later tonight.

UPDATE, 10:25 pm: Big congratulations to Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News, writer of Dan Gillmor’s E-Journal, author of the all-important book, We, The Media, and winner of the 2004 Online News Association award for online commentary, small sites. (PressThink, and Mark Glaser of OJR were the other finalists.) There’s a reason why Gillmor’s weblog has, at last count, 2293 links from 1883 sources. ONA recognized that with this award, its first given to a blogger. (Full article on the winners.)

Two important moments from the I, Robot panel. (Here’s a report from the ONA site.)

First, Bill Gannon, Editorial director and managing editor, Yahoo! News explained that Yahoo News, an aggregator, relies on “human editors” (journalists) and thus their judgment, which he said distinguished it from Google News. Nathan Stoll, Google News product manager, agreed. He said that Google News—the idea for which came from a computer scientist—was a selection system based on an algorithm. It’s automated, unlike most other news sites, or blogs for that matter. (Here’s another site, neither Google nor Yahoo, that was originated by a person, but operates on an algorithm.)

I said that human editors are good to have, a smart algorithm is also good, but what will ultimately spell the difference in quality is the strength of the relationship or two-way connection between the filterers (editors) and the users for whom the filtering (editing) is done. The stronger that two-way connection is between editors and users, the better the filter will be in filtering in and out— for those users.

This is a challenge to people in mainstream newsrooms, because they are not used to associating content quality with quality of connection. On the other hand, I didn’t get the sense that Yahoo or Google were there yet, either. Bloggers, I said, were showing the value of being interconnected.

“The news, as ‘lecture,’ is giving way to the news as a ‘conversation,’” said Tom Curley in his opening address. “An active two-way connection to the audience has always been the secret to success in our business, whether you’re talking about inspiring a letter to the editor or selling classifieds and cars.”

That an “active two-way connection” with the public is essential to successful journalism has indeed been a big secret in the news industry; and Curley was being clever in his phrasing because he knows most journalists do not see it that way. For two-way journalism is hardly the norm in American newsrooms.

Second: I tried out a new way of explaining The Contraption and its demise. I said that I had been told by a lawyer friend that in any transaction involving sale of an asset, there’s a moment—perhaps it is only conceptual one—when no one owns the asset. Meaning the seller has reliquished it, the buyer hasn’t taken possesion. And that, said my friend, is when a smart lawyer can make a buck.

I told the audience at ONA that I felt journalism was at a similar moment, when no one quite owned it. “I see it as up for grabs today,” I said. It’s not clear exactly who is in possesion. “And that’s why were having this panel today with Google and Yahoo, not traditionally thought of as journalism companies.” I don’t know what Bill Gannon of Yahoo thought of this comparison. But Nathan Stoll of Google said he agreed with my assessment: weird moment, up for grabs, lots of uncertainty, not clear who owns it.

More on ONA when I return to base. Cheers.

Posted by Jay Rosen at November 13, 2004 12:02 PM