Story location: http://archive.pressthink.org/2008/06/19/beatblog_update.html


June 19, 2008

Update on Beatblogging.org Six Months In

David Cohn is moving on to figure out if crowd funding can be made to work for news. Another young web-savvy journalist is moving in: Patrick Thornton. He's going "scour the Web for the people who are pushing the practice of beat reporting."

I have an update for you on Beatblogging.org, the project I announced six months ago in this post: These Beat Reporters Will Try the Social Network Way. (“Thirteen sites want to see if it works: from the Houston Chronicle to the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, PA, plus ESPN.com, MTV, the Seattle Times… Some of the beats: Child welfare, Dallas public schools, ‘green’ tech, Big Pharma, digital music, Procter & Gamble.”)

I said then that the project—which is part of NewAssignment.Net—offered a simple proposition: “Maybe a beat reporter could do a way better job if there was a ‘live’ social network connected to the beat, made up of people who know the territory the beat covers, and want the reporting on that beat to be better.” I felt the only way to find out was to try it for a year, with different beats in different locales and different editorial settings.

David Cohn—Digidave in the blogosphere—who as editor of Beatblogging.org has been steering the project, has gotten funding from the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge Fund for his own project, spot.us. David will be trying the crowdfunding route to see if passage to a new business model for news can be found there.

It’s very much in the spirit of my original proposal for NewAssignment.Net in July 2006. It’s also the kind of thing DigiDave was meant to do, and I am excited to see if he can make it work. I hope PressThink readers will watch what he’s doing and help him out if you can. (Developers: he’s hiring.)

Replacing David Cohn at beatblogging.org is Patrick Thornton, a young, born-on-the-Web journalist and blogger who has been working for the website of Stars and Stripes, while also commenting on new media and old journalism at his own site, and on Twitter, where he is quite active. (I have recently started up on Twitter myself: here’s my feed.)

Some of the original thirteen beat reporters are making progress; they’re setting up networks and figuring out how to use them. Some were blind-sided by contraction in the news business more severe than expected, and some have not done a helluva lot that’s new and different. (See this post for more.) Pat will be reporting on their progress at Beatblogging.org in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, David Cohn discovered that there were many other reporters out there who had beats and blogs and were starting to piece together a more networked approach. He began to profile them and their practices at the site.

Patrick is going to build on that discovery and “scour the World Wide Web for the people who are pushing the practice of beat reporting” by adapting it to where technology is today. (From his own announcement post.) We know who some of them are. We’re going to find the rest and follow them more closely than we were before. (If you’re one, let Pat know.) Then we’re going to pitch the best of what we find back to our original thirteen beat reporters, and to what I hope will be a growing constituency of wired journalists online.

In fact, see Ryan Sholin’s announcer: WiredJournalists.com welcomes BeatBlogging.org. “After a round-robin series of conversations between Jay Rosen, David Cohn, Pat Thornton, and myself along with Howard Owens and Zac Echola, Iím happy to announce that WiredJournalists.com and BeatBlogging.org are joining forces to bring attention to the unsung beat reporters gathering their sources around the bonfire of a blog to better fulfill the mission of figuring out just how much more than us our sources know.”

They have 2,100 members already… “a huge pool of people doing innovative work, an increasingly international bunch… full of reporters that the mainstream media blogosphere (MMB?) hasnít heard of.”

Finally, here’s video of me explaining to business journalists what we have learned so far from beatblogging.org: six key lessons.


Posted by Jay Rosen at June 19, 2008 12:42 AM