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Opening the newsroom, Step 1

Sunday, February 22, 2009 by Dave Winer.

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." Permalink to this paragraph

And that's where we pick it up today. Permalink to this paragraph

Here's how you take the first step toward the open newsroom. Permalink to this paragraph

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.  Permalink to this paragraph

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.  Permalink to this paragraph

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. Permalink to this paragraph

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. Permalink to this paragraph

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. Permalink to this paragraph

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


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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.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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