David Weinberger has a thoughtful look at Reddit as journalism. He calls it “community journalism,” a distinct variant of “citizen journalism.”
Two gems to put in your shoe:
- What’s interesting to a community is not enough to make us well informed because our community’s interests tend to be parochial and self-reinforcing. This is not so much a limitation of community as a way that communities constitute themselves.
- One of the mistakes we’ve made in journalism and education is to insist that curiosity is a serious business. Perhaps not. Perhaps curiosity needs a sense of humor.
Via Jay Rosen.
I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M DOING THIS
I’m going to jump in the middle of Robin and Gavin’s exchange on the DC Comics reboot, even though I explicitly told both of them that I didn’t want to read about it and had nothing to say about any of it, because some things Robin just wrote sparked some ideas that I want to follow here.
Today, you don’t go work at Marvel and DC because of what they are; you go because of what they have. It’s almost like a natural resource. Superman and Batman are potent substances. They have this incredible innate energy, this incredible mythic density, built up over decades. They really are like petroleum—a bright eon of individual organic contributions all compressed into this powerful stuff that we can now burn for light, for entertainment, for money…
How do you weigh the opportunity to work on an old titan like Superman against the opportunity to create something wholly new, and to potentially profit from that creation? Is it only sentimental or emotional value that draws an artist to the former—or is there more?…
Maybe what we’re talking about here is the difference between being an entrepreneur and being a custodian. We tend to think of artists as entrepreneurs, right?—inventors, trailblazers, risk-takers. To make meaningful art is often simply to try something new.
Now before I start, I want to stipulate a few things. First, I want to take seriously Robin’s two primary arguments in his post:
- “I want to talk not about Superman’s universe, but our own—because I think this strategy says something interesting about creative economics today.” Let’s call this the explicit argument.
- Comic books themselves, as content, not just the strategies of their publishers and artists, have something to say about this. Let’s call this the implicit argument.
And I want to add a third point, that I’ll call the unconscious argument. It’s something I don’t think Robin necessarily intended, but which is entailed in the way he formulates the problem:
Everywhere in Robin’s post where he writes “artists,” you can substitute “journalists”—and probably many other nodes in creative economies, broadly construed.
Yarghhh this Grantland story about the rise and fall of The National is too big to summarize, too rich to blockquote. I do have some thoughts I want to synthesize and share, somehow, but in the meantime, I beseech you: if you are interested in media and journalism, business and technology, go read it. It’s wonderfully constructed (a kind of cut-and-paste oral history) and a pleasure to read… and it’s not really a story about sports, or even sports journalism. It’s a story about technology, and how far we’ve come.
The New York Times’ Lens blog is a gem, and it proves it again with this latest post, about photojournalist Bryan Denton’s experience in Libya. Okay, so, most of the post is written by C. J. Chivers, which is like cheating—Chivers is one of the ten best reporters in the world right now—but even so, the whole package is emblematic of what Lens has been able to do consistently: go deep, really deep, into the real craft of reporting.
Here’s one part that really struck me. This…
Denton: We departed from Benghazi on April 13 [aboard a Greek ferry that had been pressed into evacuation service]. The trip lasted about 16 hours. There was evidence of artillery impacts on some of the structures in the port, so we knew that the area had come under fire. The entire trip between disembarking and arriving at our safe house was probably an hour. As with other stories in the past, it was one of the more stressful periods, primarily because you are new on the ground and haven’t yet picked up on how things work yet. I often equate conflict with music and dancing. It takes a little while to figure out the rhythm. But once you do, you can start to dance.
…followed by this:
Denton: [C. J. Chivers] has been great to work with on this story because, as a former Marine with many years of war reporting under his belt, he has a great deal of experience and perspective on how battlefields work and shift.
In Misurata, a great deal of planning and thought went into each story before we reported it; finding out what exactly was happening at the locations we were planning to report from, how we were planning on moving there and how much time we wanted to spend on the ground. Misurata is not a place where you want to hang around on the street and wait for stuff to happen.
Whenever we were outside of the compound we were staying in, we were wearing full body armor, including eye protection. We carried personal medical kits, including tourniquets, in case one of us was wounded while reporting. We’d check with each other periodically, and when it was decided that both of us had what we needed for the story, we’d pull back to our safe house, and get to work on filing the day’s story.
I like the demystification there. War reporting isn’t some magical, macho art form; it’s a sequence of decisions that you make very, very carefully. Yes: courage is a prerequisite. But like most reporting, this is a craft. It’s something that can be learned. It’s something that a person can practice and get better at—under the tutelage, say, of a master like Chivers.
I really highly recommend the entire post: it’s at once totally harrowing—horrifying, really—and surprisingly cool, collected, cautious. This is the world of the war reporter. This is the world of the craftsman.
From Robert Krulwich’s 2011 commencement speech at UC-Berkeley’s Journalism School:
Some people when they look for a job in journalism ask themselves, What do I like to do and Who can take me there? Who can get me to a war zone? To a ballpark? To Wall Street? To politicians, to movie stars? Who’s got the vehicle? And you send them your resume and you say, “I want a seat in your car.” … And you wait.
But there are some people, who don’t wait.
I don’t know exactly what going on inside them; but they have this… hunger. It’s almost like an ache.
Something inside you says I can’t wait to be asked I just have to jump in and do it.
So for this age, for your time, I want you to just think about this: Think about NOT waiting your turn.
Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy. Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.
And when it comes to security, to protection, your friends may take better care of you than CBS took care of Charles Kuralt in the end. In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back.
And maybe that’s your way into Troy.
This speech makes me want to run around the entire internet, giving a million high-fives.
(via @edyong209, who gets high-five #001)
Forget journalism—this chat between Gerry Marzorati and Mark Danner over at Nieman Lab has tons to say about writing and the public sphere in the most general, awesome sense. Couple bits that really resonated with me:
Gerry Marzorati: One of the things that’s really taken off in the last 10–15 years: The public has a hunger to actually encounter the writers who are writing these pieces. One of the ways nonfiction writers are able to make money—not all nonfiction writers, but a fair number of them—is on the lecture tour. A kind of 19th century idea, the book as a loss leader for actually going out and encountering people.
And I did not know this:
Mark Danner: It’s really an amazing “back to the future” thing. Tolstoy did War and Peace by subscription, and finally, with publication in full, the earlier volumes were substantially changed. You signed up for the beginning and you basically saw it in progress.
Makes me think of the amazing Max Barry. That’s a model I really, really want to try.
I’m sitting in the dev lounge during the last of the day’s sessions at Public Media Camp, an unconference for folks interested in public media stuff.
Fair warning: This is not going to be your standard Matt Thompson Conference Liveblog, and will possibly not be interesting in any way. I’m trying out two things: (1) live curation of Twitter (which I haven’t really done), and (2) a Snarkmarket-customized CoverItLive template, that will allegedly not require you to see the title page. I’ll be very excited if this latter thing is true. Update: Not true. Still have to click to see the liveblog. Darn it.