‘Journalism without journalists’

“Network publishing is the natural ally of traditional media,” concludes Michael Maier, founder and CEO of Blogform publishing, in his essay ‘Journalism without Journalists: Vision or Caricature?’

In the essay Maier, who founded Germany’s first online-only newspaper Netzeitung and the Reader’s Edition – a site entirely constructed from reader-submitted content, examines projects that have experimented with collaborative journalism projects from citizens and journalists such as the LA Times’ ‘wikitorial’, Dan Gillmor’s ‘bayosphere’, and the Chi-Town Daily News.

In summary, the lessons Maier took with him from these experiments to the Reader’s Edition were:

  • There needs to be a hierarchy of control over reader’s input;
  • Collaboration means working together – reader’s should be encouraged and motivated by journalists not neglected in carrying out their work;
  • “Readers who write hardly think about other readers. They are driven by self-realization.” – the content that readers submit must still address the audience’s interest;
  • To traditional media – do not view blogs as a quick-fix solution: “Several attempts have been made to integrate bloggers into old institutions in order to inject fresh air, but it was not the traditional media that changed through these efforts. Rather, the bloggers lost their spicy language and became tame to please their old-news bosses.”

Perhaps the greatest barrier to successful collaboration between traditional media and what Maier describes as network publishing, he suggests, are profit margins.

“Every day we hear the latest reports of sinking profits for newspapers. Traditional media are trying to remain profitable largely by cutting costs. New journalistic projects are—either willingly or unwillingly—nonprofit.

“The enormous pressure of the market encourages compromise, and I truly hope that NP’s [network publishing] experimental character can be saved from that. A clear focus on the reader is key to a lasting success.”

Citing the success of the Associated Press’ merger with NowPublic.com and Reuters work with Global Voices, Maier argues that it is such collaborative efforts that will shape the future of journalism – for the better.

“Ultimately, it won’t be the angry bloggers or the clueless citizen journalists, not the crazy kids from YouTube or the dark forces behind MySpace who will decide the fate of journalism. Ultimately, readers and advertisers will show what they are willing to pay for. Network Publishing is the natural ally of traditional media. Even in a completely new media world, together, they can help ensure that society gets the kind of journalism it deserves.”

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