Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jay Rosen, I Love You.

In the ever-changing world of journalism Jay Rosen gives me hope. I stumbled upon a lecture he gave to the incoming class at Sciences Po école du journalisme in Paris, September 2, 2010. It is my belief that Rosen is not disenchanted with the current climate of the journalism world but rather, eager to grab a hold of it and prepare future journalists for the road ahead. Here a few highlights from the lecture.

“Seeing people as masses is the art in which the mass media, and professional media people, specialized during their profitable 150-year run (1850 to 2000). But now we can see that this was actually an interval, a phase, during which the tools for reaching the public were placed in increasingly concentrated hands. Professional journalism, which dates from the 1920s, has lived its entire life during this phase, but let me say it again: this is what your generation has a chance to break free from. The journalists formerly known as the media can make the break by learning to specialize in a different art: seeing people as a public, empowered to make media themselves.”

“Seeing people as a public, empowered to make media themselves.” The public can make media themselves? I can guarantee this statement would give a few of my journalism professors a heart attack. I’ve been taught that the media is only reserved for journalists; those who endured classes like Media Ethics, Journalism 101, Media Law, Magazine Writing, and who have eventually graduated with a degree in Journalism. What’s the big deal? Bloggers (a portion of the public who has evoked their right to make media themselves) are seen as uniformed, untrained, and not really journalists because???… Nevertheless, they are capable of creating news, drawing an audience, and swaying opinions. It cannot be us versus them anymore. If you have done the research, interviews, experienced something firsthand…you own that piece of media regardless if you work for The New York Times or run a blog.

“Students of social media and behavior on the Net are highly aware of the one percent rule, which has been observed in a wide variety of online settings:

It's an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will 'interact' with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it... So what's the conclusion? Only that you shouldn't expect too much online. Certainly, to echo Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come. The trouble, as in real life, is finding the builders.”

Last week I was in New Jersey and had the chance to speak with Helen Benedict, author of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq and professor of journalism at Columbia University. I asked her about the state of journalism, death of the newspaper, and about jobs. Benedict stated that 22 recent graduates obtained jobs at a newspaper and 23 obtained jobs in the social media field. We were both surprised. She also reassured me that the “newspaper is not dead yet.” The one percent rule seems to be echoing her opinion.

“In your bid to be trusted, don’t take the View From Nowhere; instead, tell people where you’re coming from. Treating people as a public means refusing to float "above" them. Instead of claiming that you have no view, no stake, no perspective, no (sorry for the academic term) situated self, try to level with the users and let them know where you are coming from. As David Weinberger puts it. "transparency is the new objectivity." You may find that trust is easier to negotiate if you don't claim the View from Nowhere, but instead tell them where you're coming from…”

We can have an opinion?! Thank you, Jay! Now I’m going to show several of my previous journalism professors this statement and watch them cry. In the spirit of Jay Rosen and as an aspiring journalist, here goes nothing…

The Rent is Too Damn High! I'm with Jimmy McMillan.

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