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A postscript to today's piece Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I'd say the chance, today, of some news organization trying the experiment outlined in today's earlier piece is virtually nil.

One commenter said yesterday: "What we need now are small ideas with obvious financial underpinnings that can grow organically to fill any unmet needs of customers."

To paraphrase, as the first passenger, in a bus careening down the steep mountainside, to observe that there's no driver, said: "We need small ideas to fix this problem." Yes, even big ideas are small given the dire circumstances. You won't get an argument from me. No sarcasm.

A picture named loco.gifWhen they built the first Transcontinental Railroad, the guys heading east from California had a much harder job than the guys heading west from Omaha. Starting in Sacramento it went straight uphill, and didn't get any better when they got to the summit. So if approaching the new reality from the journalism side is so hard, maybe it's more approachable from our side. After all, what do we have to do, other than find a way to glue the experts together in a cohesive whole and give it authority. Not so easy -- that authority thing, but maybe it's easier than asking the professional news organizations to let their sources into their clubroom?

So what then? Well, turns there's a schematic for it, called Hypercamp, which is an awful name -- but it kind of stuck. It's the equivalent of a press room at a conference, with refreshments, excellent networking both technical and human, and accessible to both news reporters and news makers, without making too much of a fuss about which one you are (you're probably both). Two podia, one at either end of the room, rented by people with formal announcements to make, that's how the rent is paid. Otherwise everyone works for no one but themselves. I'd like to give this a try. Anyone in SF want to set one up? I'd be there from time to time, blogging and schmoozing.

There's another related idea, the Flash Conference -- a convention of experts brought together instantly to discuss some breaking news, to exchange ideas and perspectives, and disseminate them quickly while the story is still fresh. This is another approach that can begin before the news industry either: 1. Opens up. 2. Collapses. 3. Something else.

Can-do or no-can-do. There's not a lot of the latter in news these days -- no wonder the news is so depressing. Let's bring some of the former to the problem and see what happens. It's not like anyone gets out of this thing alive, you know. ;->

Big hugs, Uncle Dave...

PS: I was talking with Nicco yesterday (Morra, his wife, had a baby six weeks ago, lovely little Asa, future football player, swimmer and President of the United States) and he tells me his class at KSG has to read this blog every day as part of their assignment. Excellent. So here's a project for you guys. Set one of these newsrooms up at Harvard. I'd come. I bet Berkman would help. ;->

Opening the newsroom, Step 1 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Yesterday's piece ended with: "At least the Times is using the right word these days -- open -- but not in the way that matters. They're willing to give away what we, in tech, have been giving away for a decade. Obviously that's not a disrupter. They need to give away what they have -- authority. The trick is to find a way to give it away without destroying it. If they can do it, then we will have cracked the nut, scale, massively more news, deeper coverage, and with it -- shifted economics."

And that's where we pick it up today.

Here's how you take the first step toward the open newsroom.

Pick a story that you're covering on an ongoing basis, something important enough that you've assigned one or more reporters to it full-time. Have them continue to do what they're doing, we're going to add to that coverage, in an experiment to learn how the newspaper of the future might work.

A picture named clock.gifNow pick two or three experts on the same subject, and invite them into the newsroom. They will not be paid. No benefits. They agree to the same rules governing the integrity of your reporters. For a period of four weeks, they report to the newsroom, the physical one, not a virtual one, every day, and are part of your news team. They file stories every day, just as the reporters do, and they go through the same copy-edit process your reporters' stories go through, however they get final approval on the articles. The words that appear in the publication are their words, the ideas are their ideas. Their job is the same as the reporters' job -- to report the news. To explain what happened.

I don't know what will happen. It could be no one volunteers, then we either give up or formulate a different proposal. I don't know if their coverage will be as good as the reporters. The goal is to find out! Maybe it will be better.

Now, to be clear -- I'm not talking about recruiting idiots or people whose opinions are (in your opinion) worthless. I'm talking about respected experts, the kinds of people your reporters call to get a perspective on the news the people they quote. Instead of having them talk to the readers through the reporter, I want them to go directly. Their writing should be as readable as the reporters' so I would choose experts who express themselves well.

Anticipating another objection, yes the op-ed page already has some people like this, but not enough. I want people who might look at the news organizations as part of the story with a critical eye, something virtually no reporter does. I want to break as many of the rules of the news business without breaking the one sacred rule, that people report what they see, that they not deliberately mislead, or speak from their interest without disclosure.

Let's see if some creative news organization figures out a way to bring the sources into the newsroom.


Last update: Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 12:18 PM Pacific.

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

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