Jan Schaffer: No free lunch in new info-structure

Posted on November 14, 2007 
Filed Under Blogs, Crowdsourcing

Jan Schaffer points to three community sites that exemplifies the new info-structure:
1. Placeblogger.com,
2. GlobalVoicesOnline.org,
3. BlogHer.org

The three sites aggregate other community sites, set a platform for diverse voices to be heard, and become greater than the sum of its parts.

She warns however that news organizations need to be wary of thinking they can draw a community under their fold and brand without renumeration:

“Remember, though, there is no free lunch. News organizations that think citizens will freely contribute to their citizen journalism pages need to think again.

“While citizen journalism may well be a new form of volunteerism – something baby boomers do when the finish coaching their kids’ baseball teams – it’s a fragile dynamic.

“There must be a high degree of equilibrium, a balance between the giving and the getting, in these initiatives. Money is not the only motivator. People contribute for a reason – either because of a personal passion, to effect change, to learn something, or even to get smarter about technology.

“Be clever in juicing that equilibrium. If you have to pay the high school that uploads the most robust content on your hyperlocal sports site, like the Orlando Sentinel does, consider it an investment in your info-structure.

“Use your Big-J journalists where they can really add value. Professional journalists should focus their expertise and skills on doing investigations, identifying trends, building databases, holding public officials accountable and articulating the master narratives in their communities.

“Ultimately, the marketplace will decide what is news. News will be whatever adds value in a noisy information landscape, whatever helps people get their jobs done, whatever imparts wisdom, and whatever elicits gratitude.

“To figure this out you also need some new players in your info-structure. They include:

1.“Can do-ers” instead of those who whine about what they can’t do.

2.Computer programmers who will be the architects of searchable databases or news games in your info-structure.

3.Collaborators, people who have the sensibility to see the possibilities of working together instead of moving into kneejerk competitor mode.

4.News analysts who will trawl incoming information looking for Big-J opportunities. Minnesota Public Radio uses these para-journalists to analyze information coming in through its Public Insight Journalism network.

5.Tribe expanders. Journalism in the future will come from many places. We should contribute to the momentum of the best and most responsible efforts and recruit them for the info-structure.

For those who embrace these challenges, there is cause for a great deal of optimism.”



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