Iowa: Where the stories aren’t

The Uptake has a video presentation from Corrine McDermid, who has traveled from Denver to Iowa to cover the caucuses. Her piece centers on the difference in accomodations for “legacy” media vs. “bloggers.”

But what she also has, apparently unintentionally, captured were the similarities between the two media: Hundreds of people, sitting in a room, watching a television. It’s pretty much the same set-up we’ll see in St. Paul later this year, where bloggers have already made a big deal out of being allowed to sit inside the Xcel. If you have a new way of covering news, why cover it the old way?

The story of the Iowa caucuses — like the stories from national political conventions — is not in auditoriums, large rooms, or even on television. Told this way, there’s virtually nothing you can glean from their reports of any value.

After more than a year of listening to the candidates talking in Iowa, there’s been very little coverage of Iowans. It’s a story best told from someone’s kitchen.

  • http://www.theuptake.org Michael McIntee

    Hey Bob,

    The UpTake has been capturing things from the perspective of Iowans. We have four residents of the state with video cameras covering what’s going on.

    Rodger Routh has been doing a lot of coverage for us and it’s not what you see on the networks. Here’s a link to his latest video:

    An Iowan’s view of Gov. Bill Richardson’s Campaign.

    By the way, The UpTake is doing live streaming coverage of what’s going on in Iowa. Some of it live, some of it pre-recorded. Drop in and see how the non-legacy media covers stuff at http://www.theuptake.org

    Michael McIntee

    Executive Producer

    The UpTake

    http://www.theuptake.org

    (Collins housekeeping note: I apologize for how long it took this comment to post. It got filtered over to junk comments for some reason and I neglected to look in that folder on Friday.)

  • http://theuptake.org Noah Kunin

    You are absolutely right Bob regarding the eerie similarity between the two rooms and thus the two coverage strategies. It’s an issue that’s been our number one topic internally both before and now during the Caucus.

    However, there is one major difference which separates The UpTake and the majority of the media out there: instead of covering Real Iowans the UpTake is allowing Real Iowans to cover themselves. We are publishing (and will have more today) video of Real Iowans committing their own DIY acts of journalism in covering the caucuses. By training, investing and marketing this content stream we are going above and beyond what the vanilla MSM citizen journalist programs (ex CNN Ireports)

    I think this plays into one of the key obstacles for the relevancy of new media going forward – we would love to continue the conversation so feel free to email me…

  • http://theuptake.org Chuck Olsen

    Bob,

    I think we (The UpTake) agree with you. Keep in mind, we’re a group of unpaid citizen journalists* pulling off a possibly unprecedented bottom-up video news operation in Iowa – I sure hope THAT is worth noting too. We’re learning, working hard, and having fun with this experiment.

    We’re trying to find and cover real Iowans, and trying to find unique stories. It’s exceedingly difficult, and it’s all been done before. We keep joking that we need to stop in a diner to get some “real iowans” – like you see constantly in MSM stories.

    Today I hope to talk with a lifelong Republican who is leaning strongly toward Obama. She owns a couple of gas stations outside of Des Moines, and I got lucky finding her. That’s the kind of documentary-style video I think you’re talking about, and those are really the hardest to get. Especially in your spare time. :-)

    * We’ve got a little $ in the bank account from our fundraiser to pay for gas and fast food.

  • Bob Collins

    Let me be clear that I’m not referring to Uptake in talking about the similarities in new vs. old media. I’m not NOT talking about it either, though (g).

    The piece was illuminating to me, primarily because it showed the facilities that are being created at all for both new and old. I saw the same arrangement for legacy and citizen media in Boston and NY (conventions – ’04) and it creeped me out. The prospect of recreating that in Iowa now or in St. Paul later this year is distressing.

    My opinion of political coverage is well documented so I won’t go into it here other than to say the amount of “showbiz” involved is astounding, relatively uncovered and is — for my money — the purview of citizen journalism.

    Completely unrelated to the topic per se but fascinating nonetheless, is the piece on Uptake regarding the camera crew that showed up to shoot some footage of phone bank volunteers who didn’t, according to the citizen journalist, “care” about the dead in Iraq.

    I think that’s a piece where the possibilities of citizen journalism go astray. They were a camera crew. They weren’t reporters, they weren’t editors, they weren’t producers. THEY aren’t the ones who decide what is news. They’re the ones who get their orders at the beginning of the day and go fill them. So portraying them as a metaphor for “corporate media” is a bit of a leap, imho.

    However, that’s the way a citizen journalist sees it. So how does one empower the citizen journalist to tell stories and then have a standard of vetting the stories at the same time? I don’t have an answer to that.

    I remain a big fan of citizen journalism. I remain a fan of anything that breaks through the “charade factor” of staged events.

    And anything that examines how we cover what we cover is a good discussion and long overdue.

    Somewhat related to the stories of the Iraq war protesters in Iowa: yesterday a small handful of war protesters staged a march in St. Paul. Meanwhile, about 9 times as many Kenyans living in Minnesota had a rally at the Capitol.

    Guess which one got coverage?

    Whatever the problems America has, having too many sources of information isn’t one of them.

    BTW, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is organizing a forum here later this month. I hope we can get you all to participate.

  • http://stevegarfield.com steve Garfield

    Hi Bob,

    You write:

    “Completely unrelated to the topic per se but fascinating nonetheless, is the piece on Uptake regarding the camera crew that showed up to shoot some footage of phone bank volunteers who didn’t, according to the citizen journalist, “care” about the dead in Iraq.

    I think that’s a piece where the possibilities of citizen journalism go astray. They were a camera crew. They weren’t reporters, they weren’t editors, they weren’t producers. THEY aren’t the ones who decide what is news. They’re the ones who get their orders at the beginning of the day and go fill them. So portraying them as a metaphor for “corporate media” is a bit of a leap, imho.”

    I felt that way too.

    I went to an Obama rally in Boston and a small group of protesters were yelling and shouting all throughout Obama’s speech.

    I thought they were just rude.

    If you give coverage to people who disrupt campaign events, what does that promote?

    More disruption.

    As a citizen reporter you have to make the call as to what you want to share.

    If it was me, I could go either way, but in the end might shoot some video and post it, without the editorial comment, and let the viewer make up their mind.

    The more information we provide, the more truth the comes through.

    I hope to get to NH and share some moments.

    (Collins housekeeping note: I apologize for how long it took this comment to post. It got filtered over to junk comments for some reason and I neglected to look in that folder on Friday.)

  • http://theuptake.org Chuck Olsen

    Several of us feel the same unease with the piece you’re referring to. It’s certainly a different flavor of citizen journalism, some people love it and we think it’s at least worth putting out there to discuss.

    With Minnesota Stories, I endeavored to cover and feature the stories that fall through the cracks of traditional media, and we have the same philosophy with The UpTake. I think that’s really the potential strength of citizen journalism.

    In fact, I think good citizen journalism is necessarily good journalism. How do we define citizen journalism? It’s not clear – perhaps those not doing journalism for a living. If I start making a living at this, I reserve the right to change my mind. :-)

    We’d love to join the Society of Professional Journalists forum.