Ethics in the digital age

There are various places online to get details of Monday night’s forum on online ethics and standards, sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Metroblogging Twin Cities has the live blog here. They didn’t like it. Note also the image of me, always the last picked for any team during gym class, winning the arm wrestling portion of the event with Chuck Olsen from The UpTake.

UpTake live blog here. A poster asks:

Here’s another question, Why does MPR remove comments from their blogs when the comment is relevant to the post? I’ve heard this complaint from several people and I’ve seen it happen.

I need to amend what I said at the forum (hey, this is what it’s all about, right?). I approve every comment unless it contains an uncivil diatribe in which case there’s no such thing as relevance. I delete a lot of spam comments.

Some posters complain we weren’t taking their questions. See? That’s what they get for not reading News Cut, where there was a form to submit questions/comments. BTW, 100% of those surveyed on the UpTake site say the media is not honorable. But 14% rated the forum as “fantastic.”

There were numerous Twitter conversations going on at the same time. Jon Gordon has been on my case to twitter. Twitter seems like digital spitballs to me. Jeff Jarvis has a different view here.

Update 7:02 a.m. Tue – Chuck Olsen has analysis on his blog and in the comments section below.

So it’s settled, then.

  • Jim

    Listening Bob! Got to give us more of a heads up dude!

  • Michelle

    What a great conversation tonight. To me, the main concept, as a consumer of news and information, is trust and skepticism. One of the speakers tonight mentioned one should find a source for news that you trust more than not. That trust needs to be earned, and it is an obligation of the information consumer to be skeptical, ask questions, and decide for themselves if the source is worth trusting.

    The producer of the information has an obligation to the consumer to be open with how the information is obtained, and when corrections are made. There’s much food for thought here, as there are more and more blogs popping up each and every day with more and more voices joining the mix.

    I think that it is becoming our duty to find voices that are not merely echoing our own ideas, but keeping an open mind, with a nod toward the afore-mentioned skepticism, to find the heart of any matter.

  • Jim

    regarding blogging technology – many sites have the ability to send subscribers email when the posts change or have new comments. I wish MPR blogware would catch up. MPR blog posts would be better if they showed edit – comments can become head scratchers after the original post has been edited. Comments should also be editable and likewise have evidence of change. At minimum, show just the time/date of last edit. That way we at least know – “ah, the post changed after the comment was made”.

  • Jim, you make an excellent point about blog post edits being correctly documented. Less certain about the auto-alert via email but it won’t be passed over wholesale.

    I’m a big fan of the timestamp or other identifier. You’ll notice that Greg and Erica didn’t include times, but did operate in the same space with their initials to identify the source. The UpTake had not only a time indicator (which will show you how late it ran – sorry I had to skip out on a tape opportunity, Noah) but had live feedback interspersed. Very cool. When posting open online discussions I try to indicate the “placeholder” will change as the story/day does, but you’ve really, really sunk the point home. You’ve given me a lot to think about, as did the event. More notes to come.


    Interactive Producer, MPR New Media

  • Bob Collins

    (Sheepish) I guess I should point out that I took out the post that contained links to the live stuff after the event and swapped in a post with all the archive stuff instead.

    One of the thing that I find interesting is if you look at the Twitter stuff and the live blogs, there were two separate conversations taking place. There was the conversation at the event, and then there was the conversation that people at the event were having online — often with someone else at the event — mostly lamenting that the conversation at the event wasn’t the conversation they wanted.

    Hello? What’s wrong with this picture?

    Maybe the answer is when there’s a conversation to be had, put down the cellphone, put down the laptop and have a conversation.

    Unless….. the point was to create online content in which the point WASN’T really about wanting to change the conversation (let alone be part of it ) but to create entertaining content about the conversation not being what was desired.

    So that’s an illuminating part of the event: for me. It provided a data point for the difference between blogs and “traditional media.” For MSM, it’s about a conversation. For bloggers, it’s about the conversation about the conversation.

    That said, I don’t really know why those separate functions don’t co-exist better.

  • Michelle

    I would agree about Twitter. It’s a little too inward looking for my taste, and that seems a little contrary to the theme of tonight’s event.

    And I was a little confused at first about where Bob’s original post went. I was all like “wha??” πŸ™‚

  • Welcome to the world of liveblogging and backchannels, Bob!

    The critique happening on Twitter and liveblogging was actually fairly well-behaved as far as those things go, and often accurate.

    It WAS a little bit of a snoozefest – no fault of your own – and the conversation was heavily weighted toward the gentlemen onstage. Many of the people liveblogging or Twittering did ask a question or try to participate, with varying degrees of success.

    Overall I think it was a good event and we need to keep having these conversations. It’s not going to be possible to satisfy everyone but I hope the critiques are taken seriously and used to make a better, livelier, more interactive event next time.

    I guess I’ll go on record and say, as much as I know and respect Dan Gillmor – and he had spot-on insight into these issues – the audience wanted to have a much snappier roundtable kind of discussion. SPJ did *not* need to fly in a Dan Gillmor. We need to have these discussions with our local folks and get DeRusha, Mary Lahammer, Julio, Erica, etc. at the table.

  • Bob Collins

    The reason it was tilted toward the gentlemen onstage is because there was a reluctance on the part of a large segment of the audience to engage. My role, by the way, was to ask questions and to ask you for yours. At one point, you’ll recall, I said I needed to hear people who disagreed with what was being said.

    There was nothing, as far as I know, to prevent anyone in the audience from raising a hand, getting a microphone and having that conversation, and to the extent possible, educating us.

    As far as I’m concerned DeRusha WAS at the table. You were at the table. Noah was at the table etc. The Strib, AP, PiPress, MinnMon was at the table.

    I’m not sure what it all means other than if we actually DID have a productive conversation, a few folks would lose something to write about and I think needing something to write about was a priority for a segment of the audience.

    What I don’t understand — completely — is why people didn’t take advantage of that? If people were able to take the time to — for 90 minutes — write about how boring the conversation was, certainly they had the time and energy to invest in that conversation.

    The dishonesty of the conversation online is when one of the live bloggers, said afterward, “this was great.” Wait a second. You just spent two hours trashing the thing and then you say “it was great.” My response to him at the time was, “wow, you have a low bar.” The honesty that people were able to muster up while punching messages on their cellphones to twitter, or by live blogging, they were not for some reason able to muster up in face-to-face communication.

    To me, it felt like pulling teeth trying to find someone to challenge views that were expressed. That people chose to go online and just decide to make it all one big inside joke is I think terribly unfortunate.

    For a segment of the audience, it was more important to get a laugh from a twitter message than it was to actually engage in a discussion that was likely to bring disparate interests together.

    There were some great questions that should’ve been asked. Does a DeRusha, for example, reflect poorly on WCCO when he’s blogging from a public event, and posting messages about how bored he is? Or, is that the transparency we all say we want? Are there different standards for members of the “traditional media” who blog, and those who do nothing but blog and, if so, what are they? If not, why not?

    I think a lot of stereotypes on both sides ended up being reinforced to those who might’ve spent some time without any attachment to either of our media that’s going to make it difficult in the future to have any discussion with anyone but those close circle of colleagues who already feel the way we do. Too bad, because there were a lot of others things we all could’ve been doing Monday night. And there was a lot of enlightenment from which we all could’ve benefited, and I would’ve liked to have seen us all a little more invested in that as a priority.

    Personally, I felt like I was back at recess getting beaten up for my lunch money. Even worse, I get the feeling you aren’t going to teach me the secret blogger handshake.

  • You and MPR should feel proud, not beat up, Bob. You had a great idea, a great topic and and great group. The dynamics of the evening didn’t work as well as it could of. Big deal. You deserve kudos for the effort and the energy.

    “There was nothing, as far as I know, to prevent anyone in the audience from raising a hand, getting a microphone and having that conversation, and to the extent possible, educating us.”

    Except that Gillmor talked too much and too long. I, too, respect the guy a lot, but he really wasn’t needed last nigh and actually slowed the pace and the tone considerably. No offense — I tend to talk way more than I should too.

    Like right now…

  • Bob, you’re right, my involvement in blogging is a total ethical conundrum. I think I’m in some ways the perfect case study for the new “traditional media” employees. I sometimes advocate online, I complain about lack of access or being stonewalled. I share opinion and emotion there that I won’t share online.

    The problem with the forum was that it was such a slow burn. My twittering dropped off when things got interesting. I think audience members (speaking for my row), felt like the people invited (in the 1st row) should get a chance to speak before we did. And Dan was such a slow talker, it sapped a lot of the energy from the room in the first 45 minutes. The thing didn’t get cooking until 1:30 into it, and then it got really interesting. Until it got side-tracked into a discussion of the relevance of the illegal immigrant issue.

    I thought you did a great job. The guest was thoughtful, yet not the kind of engaging personality needed to spark an interesting discussion. It would have been better with just the panel and you.

  • I meant I share emotion I wouldn’t share Offline.

    Would you really have wanted me to raise my hand in the middle of one of the 10 minute responses, and say, “This is boring!” The old Minnesota-politeness had me waiting for the invited panel to speak first. Perhaps that was dumb of me.

  • Bob Collins

    To be honest with you, when I got there a little before 7 (I was having a big argument with the ATC people over the obsession with Diablo Cody), the people in the front row were NOT the people I expected to see there (except for Jane Kirtley and Steve Perry, who by the way has the greatest radio voice I’ve ever heard) and who I was told were to be the quasi-panel. I was looking for you and Ed Kohler and Chuck Olsen (who was way over on the left).

    Moderating these things is not my forte; I admit that. I’m too invested in the topic and I’m not that interested in hearing me.

    The illegal immigration issue actually DOES have some relevance to the question of standards, by virtue of the fact it gets back to the role of traditional media as a “guardian of information.”

    One of the areas I kind of wanted to get to where standards are concerned is covering an event or covering what someone says and pointing out the absurdity of it all. To me, Matt Taibi of Rolling Stone (covering the campaign) and Jon Stewart of the Daily Show are doing some of the best journalism out there and it’s THAT vibe that I think bloggers of any stripe are able to tap into. and yet that is an area that traditional journalist are loathe to get into and THAT’s why they — we — end up as stenographers and why there’s a big huff when an AP reporter tells Mitt Romney he’s not telling the truth and people tell the reporter he’s not being professional.

    Of course, we never got to that, and in the end I undid a whole winter’s worth of physical therapy for a strained rotator cuff.

  • Bob Collins

    //and say, “This is boring!” The old Minnesota-politeness had me waiting for the invited panel to speak first.

    Keeping in mind I’m not from here, YES.

    I was sitting there thinking “this is boring.” You were sitting there thinking “this is boring.” Lots of people were sitting there thinking “this is boring.”

    I don’t think anyone mistakes a ponderous conversation for great insight but I might be betraying my public radio employment (g).

    So, yeah, I think it would’ve been great if you’d stood up and shouted “this is boring,” although there was the obvious danger of people rushing up and kissing you full on the lips.

  • It’s hard when your boss is one of the invited people to the panel.

    And the discussion of standards and the melding of the blog attitude with the print/TV attitude is exactly what I thought we were going to talk about.

    Incidentally, I wasn’t even invited to this thing — I heard about it and signed up to attend. It was nice of you to call on me, as my bias was to defer to my boss, and at least let him speak since he was asked to be there.

  • Bob Collins

    // Big deal. You deserve kudos for the effort and the energy.

    I don’t claim any credit for the idea or the effort. I was asked two months ago if “I’d like to do something in the Forum.” I said, “sure, just tell me when.” That was pretty much it. I looked at the calendar on Friday, saw it was Monday, and showed up. There’s a lot of folks who put a lot of effort and energy into planning the event, but I wasn’t one of them. My involvement was merely to give a significant rip about exploring the questions, for example, that Jason raised here and elsewhere.

    Of course, in any event like this, the one element of MSM that’s missing is the person in the newsroom who has nothing good to say about bloggers… or the person who wrote that editorial at the Strib last week that seemed to dismiss blogs as diarrhea.

    Maybe that’s what we needed last night. A newsroom heckler.

  • Bob Collins

    I think the invites were handled by SPJ, but don’t quote me. I saw the list on the Metroblogging Twin Cities post same time you did.

  • I talked to Jane Kirtley about that last night– the fact that we had all the MinnPost people (who have to drink the blog/post kool-aid), and other people who self-selected in, and are clearly interested in a positive relationship between bloggers and traditional journalists.

    Greg tried to raise the issue of trading timeliness for accuracy — no one really picked up on it. It’s a good question. When you liveblog something, for example, you get a sense of the now (sounds like TV News), without the perspective of the entire event (sounds like TV News).

  • Bob Collins

    That’s an area I tried to pick up on when I mentioned that the difference in blogging vs MSM is that on a blog we tend to tell stories incrementally; we’re learning, and sharing, what we learn in real time. It’s a much more transparent process, BUT it’s also a process that sacrifices, on occasion, accuracy — or as Gilmore said, ‘thoroughness.’

    I think that’s OK, because one element that comes into play that DOESN’T factor into an MSM story is people who are watching the story or post being put together can offer suggestions or even information to help give it that thoroughness.

    In MSM the only product is the end product. On blogs, the product is the process AND the end product.

    MSM doesn’t like that much. I think MSM is completely wrong about that.

    the other aspect I tried to get into is why the standards of ethics of journalism appear to have been frozen in time… roughly the time of Edward R. Murrow. Up to then, they were evolving, so who’s to say they shouldn’t evolve now?

    Someone asked last night if Murrow would’ve blogged.

    Murrow, of course, is the paragon of journalistic virtue. But if you go back and look at his stuff, he’d violate some of the very tenets that are now ascribed to him.

    You know, as I listened to Steve Aschburner last night (I’m a big fan of his work), I was thinking of his articles in the Strib when he worked there. And then I was thinking of his interviews when he was on Dan Barreiro’s show and I found the latter to be more informative and enlightening.

    Same with Kessler. I find Kessler far more insightful when he’s on with Barreiro, just being a guy on the other end of the conversation than when he packages up a couple of minutes on TV.

    Years ago, back when I was the political unit editor at MPR, I’d get calls from the folks at the Capitol who would tell me what’s going on and putting it all in perspective, and revealing the whole backstory and I’d think, “great, let’s do a story.” And then the script would come in a couple of hours later and all of that expertise and context was gone, and what was left was the usual political “the DFLer said this, the GOPer said this” riff.

    Why is that? And which is the more effective — and therefore better — journalism?

  • I think we’re missing the obvious answer here…the panel was dull because it was orderly, on topic, rigid, professional, all of the things that we’ve tried to break away from. And, no offense, it’s because it was organized by the SPJ and MPR.

    Maybe what we need is the same “panel” (and by panel, I think more roundtable discussion, but with a moderator just to play bad cop when things go on too long, get too off topic or dull, etc), but sponsored by the blogs. If uptake and Metblog was running the show, would more folks get their questions answered? Would it be more interactive? Would pudding get thrown?

    Might be worth trying —

  • I wonder what the dynamic would have been like if a Twitter feed were projected on a screen behind Bob & Dan; the metroblogging live blog were projected on another screen; and The Uptake were on another.

    And of course, Robin is dead on. We had a room-full of people who are so invested in 2-way communication they gave up a Monday night to chat about it. And we got exactly what Bob said he didn’t want — more of a presentation vibe.

    My thumbnail issues:

    Gilmore was dull

    Panel was too large

    Questions weren’t framed at the outset


    I’m thinking about a lot of ethical issues today

    People were snarky but not mean in online chat

    The fact that the conversation is happening at all

  • Bob Collins

    //Might be worth trying

    Is that the sound of someone volunteering I hear?

  • Bob Collins

    //I wonder what the dynamic would have been like if a Twitter feed were projected on a screen behind Bob & Dan; the metroblogging live blog were projected on another screen; and The Uptake were on another.

    That what I was thinking, too. It’s sort of a Mystery Science Theater approach.

    But then I figured, if people knew what they were twittering, posting was going to be made apparent, wouldn’t the net effect be to dissuade people from being honest about what they were willing to say online?

    Is it possible — I’m just askin’ — that what we learned last night is as a society we are growing to a point where we retreat to our online world to have honest exchanges because we are unwilling to accept the discomfort of the personal, if uncomfortable — discussion?

    Maybe we didn’t learn anything about journalism and blogging last night? Maybe we learned more about communicating, however.

    It kinda reminds me of high school when I gave a girl a note asking her out because I couldn’t ask her by actually talking to her. (g)

  • The UpTake would be happy to co-sponsor and/or co-facilitate a roundtable pudding-toss.

    And you know what? Laptops closed. Don’t project anything. Maybe one person handles the online chat and fields questions, everyone else is engaged and their head is in the game, not on Twitter.

    (God it hurt me to write that.)

  • David Brauer

    The positive relations point is important.

    I found myself flashing back last night to the dawn of my career, when we alt-weekly guys felt ignored/condescended-to by the newspaper guys. To the extent that they paid attention to us, they didn’t quite understand us, and a few of them feared this quick-draw, loose-spined “truth-telling” technique we were trying.

    I will never forget the newspapermen and women who made an effort to engage, who got to know us, and who provided really good tips, both of the reportorial and writing variety, and accepted our criticism with whatever thoughtfulness it deserved. (One of these, by the way, was R.T. Rybak.)

    So last night, as one of the “traditional” and MinnPost-y guys in the room, I tried to remember all those things. I can’t blame any new journalist – and that’s what I think most of the new media folks in the room were last night – for getting frustrated at the stiffness and top-down “expert” beginning of the format.

    As the Monkees once sang, “They’re the young generation, and they’ve got something to say.” They also have different ways of saying it, and I could only imagine myself sitting in a similar forum 25 years ago, with the same feelings (but no computer to bang on as I tried to fill the pauses between Dan Gillmor’s thoughts.) I thought it was excellent of Noah to bring in the Uptake audience’s review – I don’t remember exactly if it was the ice-breaker, but it helped.

    That said, there wasn’t a forum like this 25 years ago, (at least not that I went to), and that deserves a hat tip to SPJ and MPR. I don’t know if, in the end, it was as much about ethics as getting us all in meatspace to break down (and I guess in some cases confirm) any barriers the new virtual world accidentally erects.

  • Chuck – speaking completely out of school for MinnPost, I’d be happy to serve on the Pudding Toss Committee. I’ll bring the butterscotch.

  • I’m willing to coordinate if Uptake is willing to provide the space to hold it in. I have a bit of an idea what I would like to see, based on a really interactive media ethics panel I did with Don Shelby and Gary Gilson about a year ago.

  • Bob Collins

    So if you had a pudding toss, what questions would you have that you would like answers for?

    As I tried to say on Chuck’s blog, there’s GOT to be more to the discussion than an recitation of everything one medium doesn’t like about the people in the other.

    I mean, we’ve done that, right?

    If you could avoid all discussions, twittering, live blogs, radio broadcasts…. and just wave a magic wand…. what is it you say as you’re waving it (other than “serves you right. Be gone!”)

  • tom

    Chuck, that sounds like a mediation between the Bloods and the Crips – leave your cellphones, laptops, blackberries, guns and knives at the door.

    For what it’s worth Bob, I missed the forum but have spent a good chunk of the morning reading about it. The fact that the dialog didn’t end last night would seem to be an achievement.

  • Bob, I really didn’t feel that kind of hate in the discussion last night, and it wasn’t even that hot online, either. I appreciate your strong effort to get people to say out loud what they type, but I think we’re headed in a way-too-defensive direction here.

    How ’bout a simple: “Sharing experiences” theme. Very open-ended, but seriously, when people speak from experience about how/why they’ve done things, it helps things be constructive even when critical. The bottom line for me is learning. I have a lot to learn and would like to continue doing so. Having a bunch of committed new and old journalists in the room sounds great to me.

  • Bob Collins

    There’s the other element to this. For the person who doesn’t blog and the person who isn’t in MSM… why should they care? How does how MSM and blogging and the relations or understanding they do or do not have relate to the audience.

    Oh, right, the audience! (forehead slap) (g) I think there’s some evidence that the audience for a blog is primarily other bloggers (at least for now) whereas the audience for MSM is not primarily other MSMers.

    Does that change how you write, what you write? is there a tendency to write stuff that gets you mentioned on MnSpeak, or linked to other blogs.

    How do you write to the audience and if there’s a difference in audience make up, shouldn’t there be a difference in how you relate and what you write? And if so, why should you need the same ethics/standards?

    I’ll hang up and listen.

  • I think there’s a lot of questions that could be talked about. A primary one is where the line between fun and interactive is versus seriousness. Blogs write the more emotional side of news, but because of that are dismissed as an unreputable news source. How can they gain credibility without losing the tone and flexibility that makes people prefer their news from there?

    When you run a site, how responsible do you have to be for the content of each of your contributors, especially when you allow anonymous ones? That’s something the MSM never grapples with. And how do you crackdown on that without losing the fluidity and community appeal that makes them appealing.

    How do you marry bloggers, who are used to running on their own without deadlines or supervision, with journalists who find it hard to work without the rigidity of the newsroom, who need to come up with their own material, and need to move faster and with more (albeit quicker) topics than they are used to?

    Or the back and forth between blogs and MSM, especially when we have papers who contact us to complain if we don’t properly source, but who, when using us for a source, often tell us that the attribution ended up on the cutting room floor thanks to their editors?

    And for Erica, what about the folks who just want to blog and are tired of being painted with the “citizen journalist” brush?

    Just to start…

  • The more I think about it, the more I regret spending anytime online last night. ((Although when you invite liveblogging, you’re going to get liveblogging!))

    I’d like to hear:

    1. Does blogging by a MSM journalist enhance or detract from credibility?

    2. Is there a line that the average viewer/listener/reader doesn’t want crossed?

    3. What are bloggers/videobloggers doing in terms of honest, authentic communication that the old-skoolers could emulate?

    4. What standards/vetting process do old school media types go through that bloggers serious about journalism could emulate?

  • Robin and Jason – my God, we have so much to talk about! Those are amazing topics right there. We *are* way beyond the tired blogger/MSM divide.

    The UpTake will gladly offer our offices in downtown St. Paul. BYOB. Perhaps April? We can maybe take this offline, as it were.

  • agreed on both accounts

  • To somewhat rehash what others have said, I think the format was limiting and offputting to would-be commenters and it was exacerbated by the boring kickoff.

    I realize it’s probably hard to have a more inclusive, livelier discussion and still have it be intelligible to radio listeners. I waited literally 5 whole minutes to have my comment heard and by the time it got back around to me, my comments were probably a little off topic.

    I think we spent way too much time talking about the differences between MSM and CJs/bloggers and not nearly enough time talking about where the middle ground is. Chuck asked that question point-blank and got no answer. I would have thought that we had smart enough people in the room that we could have taken that extra step, but I got the sense that a lot of journalists (in the room) (and not necessarily you, Bob) still don’t quite get it.

    “One of the speakers tonight mentioned one should find a source for news that you trust more than not. That trust needs to be earned, and it is an obligation of the information consumer to be skeptical, ask questions, and decide for themselves if the source is worth trusting.”

    I don’t know if Michelle’s referring to me (probably not) but this is the point I was trying to make with my comment, with the additional point that CJs/bloggers and “traditional” journalists go about this process differently.

    To Julia’s point about timestamps: We opted out of using the CoverItLive tool that Noah used on The Uptake for a couple different reasons, but it did occur to me a ways in that we should make note of the time occasionally, for reference/context. Which we did, sort of. FWIW.

  • Jim

    For an additional perspective – there were (at least) two of us at home listening, sitting at the kitchen table streaming the discussion to our laptop speakers, and we found the discussion entirely interesting and stimulating – not boring at all.

    Any statistics on how many people were listening online?

  • Bob, first off, thanks for your involvement with the forum. I did think the event was “great,” enjoyed the evening and the venue for different viewpoints.

    However, they were mostly all the same viewpoints — Dan Gillmor’s. While I respect him and his writings, that guy talks very slow and monopolized the entire night, every comment, example, etc.

    My personal frustration so noted in the MB liveblog came from my expectation of the evening — an expectation set by you in a MB comment:

    “It’s worth noting that there IS no panel, so questions about why someone isn’t on it are relatively irrelevant. Gillmor is the guest. But the panel is the audience.”

    As the moderator, your role was to ensure discussion happened with that audience. Instead, the invited guests found their observations monopolized by more Dan Gillmor ideas. My expectation wasn’t met, so I said so.

    Overall, however, it was a great “first” discussion – and one that by its very nature reinforced stereotypes on both sides and raised even more good questions. I look forward to #2 and hope that even more people will take advantage of new media to share their POV at events like these in the future.

    After all, the old MSM concept of one person telling you what they think is dead. It’s time we all agree on that, at the very least.

  • // And for Erica, what about the folks who just want to blog and are tired of being painted with the “citizen journalist” brush?

    This is where Metroblogging straddles a line. We haven’t (thus far) done any real reporting or “journalism.” But we could if we wanted to. If any individual author were so inclined, they absolutely could, and I would strongly advocate that they present it as such. And if I were so inclined to go about reporting on a story, I’d certainly take a different approach on gathering my information. But what should that approach be? What does the public need to know about what I did to give me some credibility as a reporter? Blog-readers have different requirements for credibility than non-blog-readers. I can suss out what our audience would want to know about my process. But what would MinnPost or WCCO want to know before they pick up a story from Metroblogging? That’s the sort of discussion I was hoping to have.

    I keep saying the strength of blogs — especially niche blogs (Metroblogging’s niche is “local”) — is that they’re all about making things relevant. Not just another boring regurgitation of the facts, but what the facts mean for you and me, in this context. It’s a complement to reporting and both have value.

  • “To Julia’s point about timestamps: We opted out of using the CoverItLive tool that Noah used on The Uptake for a couple different reasons, but it did occur to me a ways in that we should make note of the time occasionally, for reference/context. Which we did, sort of. FWIW.”

    cover it live is really difficult to use when you have more than one person liveblogging. We noticed that on Super Tuesday. It’s doable, but harder to have the conversation between livebloggers, although easier to add in reader input.

  • Bob Collins

    A couple of points I had in the back of my mind that didn’t come up:

    * I found out about a fire in Minneapolis last week by reading Metroblogging. So I think you actually DO reporting in the sense of the word, Erica

    * I saw an article in the Strib last week about Mac Hammond selling his jet. Charlie Quimby (Across the Great Divide) was all over that story 3 or 4 months ago, multiple posts, as he put 2 + 2 together. No attribution by Strib. Bad.

  • My ALAMN blog is long defunct, and I am not MSM, so I guess I fit the “Missing Link” demographic.

    I work with the media for a living. To not stay up on New Media and changes in the industry would be stupid, even for an old white dude like me.

    Furthermore, I’m interested in this stuff. I’m a citizen. I vote. I need good, ethical sources of information to make the right calls. I don’t care if it is from the teevee, the paper of The Uptake, I need to know I can count on them.

    This is important to me.

  • Michelle

    From the comments I’ve been reading here, and the comments that I read over on twitter, there was a conversation going on last night that could have made the discussion more lively, more engaging, and more varied in viewpoint, but people decided to participate by slagging off the event in their online world and in doing so were not participating in the discussion at the forum. That’s the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Michelle

    Erica – I think it was a male speaker who was talking about finding a news source to trust. Wish I had retained their name, but it wasn’t a direct quote, just the flavor of what they were saying and my spin on that idea.

  • people decided to participate by slagging off the event in their online world

    I’ll admit, trying to stay engaged but also take time to capture everything in the moment is very hard to do. Had we not been asked to liveblog, my liveblogging effort would have been less comprehensive.

    But I really did have to wait 5 minutes to get on a mic. Not at all conducive to more lively discussion. Questions that I thought were important were pretty much ignored/not answered (including Steve Perry’s economics questions).

    Michelle, can you remind me again who you are?

  • Bob… to your first post, I’m not sure I can say “I didn’t like it.” Yeah, some of the tweets were sarcastic…Twitter is the perfect outlet for that…plus I’m a sarcastic SOB. As I told Julio earlier today, couple that with my somewhat jaded view of traditional media, both commercial and non-commercial, and voila! tweets as one liners.

    Last night was the first time I’ve opened up the computer to follow Twitter during a gathering like that. I’m still not sure about my need for Twitter but I thought it would be a great chance in that environment with that group to see what transpired on line. I found that fascinating…the Twitter conversation is exactly like a radio listener talking about what they are hearing on the air with someone in the car. The difference is those being talked about can’t hear it and it’s not being recorded for later review. That Twitter experience alone would have been enough for me to say it was time well spent…

    But that’s not the only reason it was time well spent…Bob, you did open up discussion on many issues that needed discussing. I believe there were great comments both in the room and online that reflected that. You are exactly right that the audience could have changed the course of the evening by being more vocal.. somehow the environment didn’t seem to be conducive to that. Perhaps there were too many journalists in the room…mostly traditional…that are converting to, trying to understand or wishing to avoid new media journalism.

    I’m not sure I quite understand the invited guests concept. Yeah, you need to have some people there you can count on for perspective and content but wow…there were a lot there. Was the whole front row “invited guests?” In addition, when one non-journalist popped up he was greeted with a very confused look by those upfront. It was not a real “thanks for your comment” moment.

    Perhaps, as Jason also noted, I won’t be opening my laptop at the next forum, but then again…that’s the nature of new media. Everybody gets to comment.

    I will be part of the next discussion on this topic and I will look forward to another gathering in the UBS Forum. If I didn’t like last night I wouldn’t say that. I will however make some changes in my expectations and my participation “in” the room.

    Thanks very much for your efforts. I appreciate it.

  • Michelle

    Erica, I am a fan and reader of the News Cut blog, have been a blogger myself for 10 years. This topic is of interest to me, but I am not a journalist. I was listening last night to the online stream, so wasn’t in the room and didn’t see people waiting to speak, or other dynamics happening at the event. From my kitchen table (same table as Jim, who has also commented on this post) the conversation was interesting and engaging. I’m bristling a little bit today at some of the comments about the “boring” event. At the same time, today’s conversation is a great continuation. Very lively!

  • Thanks, Michelle. I was just curious as to where you’re coming from. I can see how the various online captures of the event would come across the way they did if you weren’t in the room.

  • Michelle

    You are welcome, Erica. Don’t know if this distinction is helpful, but I am reacting only to the twitter posts I’ve seen, not to others who were live-blogging the event.

  • As a citizen much more than a journalist I thought the forum last night was less than lively but certainly not boring. I was there in person, without a laptop, so I didn’t follow the backchannel discussion on Twitter or elsewhere. I think the comments today about the boredom factor just reflect the different expectations of people who were at the event. I got the feeling from listening to all of the comments by people from MinnPost and elsewhere that the audience in the room were mostly journalists. There was a very heavy practioner vibe but most of the comments remained abstract. Two moments stood out for me as opportunities for a much more practical conversation – Jason DeRusha’s comments about covering the caucuses as a reporter and losing credibility if he participated and the questions about immigration and bus crashes at the end. Having another forum where the moderator explicitly asks for direct experiences might bring more of these discussions forward.

    It’s interesting to note that almost all of the comments in response to the bus crash question were defenses by journalists in the audience about why the immigration angle was a legitimate part of the story. I think this shows who the majoritiy of the audience was. I wish there had been more time to explore Bob Collins question about whether the media had a duty to report on the backlash or possibly even ignore the issue of whether the driver was an immigrant or not. The defensiveness of the media to criticism of the coverage seems to be as naive as the New York Times expecting no backlash to the McCain story. Everyone who has watched the news, much less produced it, should know that a story that intersects death, kids and immigration is going to be pouring more gasoline onto the toaster.

    I think another factor that set the tone were the opening comments by Gillmor that took the blogger versus journalist question off the table. He may have said it too slowly for some in the audience but I thought it was one of the best parts about the conversation. I expected there to be a lot more fireworks between bloggers and journalists but I’m thankful that particular fire was quenched early. The forum succeeded for me because it started to move beyond the blogger v. journalism debate. The conversation felt like something was missing because the terrain here is messy and we’re still trying to find common ground.

    Overall I thought the forum was worthwhile and the comments online have added to that sense.

  • Michelle

    Todd, you make a great point about blogger v. journalism debate. I too am glad that that part of the discussion was removed from the table early on. The tool is not the content, and now that the tools to create and distribute the content are free and widely available, the discussion needs to move beyond that.

  • Michael Caputo

    As the organizer of the event… this conversation is heartening. Because, while we admit that it didn’t go according to plan – the conversation continued. That’s a good thing – and very much desired when putting on such a forum.

    We hold a number of different styles of forums. This set-up was the most conventional – host, featured guest…. people in an audience.

    There have been others that have literally been roundtable discussions where a moderator just makes sure cross-talk is happening (that means fewer people).

    But we’ve done hybrids of the roundtable that involved many more participants. I wish that I had set it up that way.

    I guess I’ve walked away from this feeling as though I’ve learned something about how to make these events better.

    I do appreciate you giving this venue a shot – and want you to come on back again.

  • Bob Collins

    // Was the whole front row “invited guests?”

    I THINK SPJ was responsible for the invited guests and as I said other than Kirtley and Perry, the people I expected to see in those spots, were not the people I had anticipated seeing in those spots. If I hadn’t spent so much time in a passionate, if not fascinating, debate with my All Things Considered pals on the notion of Diablo Cody being Minnesotan, perhaps I’d have had more time to figure it out. C’est la vie.

    One colleague made an interesting observation. She noted that there 8 laptops in the room and when someone said something — even during a boring period — they banged away. The MSM folks had notebooks, and when something was said — even when boring — they were writing.

    Same comments, both writing… but presumably for different reasons.

    To the “immigration/accident story”, what I wish I would have said was this, “Who, What, Why, When, Where, How.” Whether your a MSMer or a blogger, those are the elements of a story and you answer every single question until there are no answers left and until you do, you don’t stop.

    What I heard last night — somewhat off topic, yet still important — was that “Who was the driver” was a topic best left alone. Frankly, that it came from a journalist scares me.

    What that says is we don’t trust the audience with information. What a tragedy of American journalism and for the American people that that sensibility is now working its way online.

  • Wow, ton of comments. I’ve been in meetings since this event, so I have not read every word here, so sorry if I’m repeating things.

    I think it was a good event, I was not bored and I think the two panelists did a great job.

    The problem I had was the event was not was it was billed for. There were only two panelists. There were people invited to be panelists, but there were very little separation between them and the audience. There was an organizational choice made to only put two chairs upfront. Why was that choice made? Why were the other supposed panelists ignored? I had to call over one of the people with the mic, who was very nice, and ask her why they had not gotten to the panelist in the program.

    I, as an audience member, was very confused by this and others may have been waiting for more interaction from the people listed in the program.

    So, even though I actually really enjoyed the event, and liked the discussion, the event was not what it was billed for.

    Can we call for a do-over? πŸ™‚

  • Ahh, note to self – read emails before posting comment. I love the idea of co-hosting another event. Maybe we can make everyone arm-wrestle to see who can speak first.

    Also, lets make sure our volunteers know who the panelists are so they can make sure they get to talk – but I guess if they are *all* sitting at a table, it might make things easier too.

  • Bob Collins

    I was not a panelist. I was a moderator. Dan Gilmore was a guest.

  • Thanks Bob, I understand that part, maybe…

    Why weren’t the panelists sitting at a table? That I don’t understand. I’ve never seen panelists not on a panel before.

    Why didn’t the volunteers with the mics not know who the panelists were supposed to be? It may have been a simple miscommunication, and organizational oversight, but if these people were invited to be panelists why weren’t they treated as panelists?

    I would have gone to an event billed as a Q&A with Dan Gilmore, hosted [moderated] by Bob Collins too, but that was not what this was billed as – even though that’s what it was.

    Anyway, hate to belabor that point, but I am curious about that. It was a pleasure meeting you Bob, and I did enjoy the event as it was.

  • Bob Collins

    Not really sure. I’ve not been to a Forum event before Kerri Miller’s think on binge drinking and they scattered the “panelists” throughout the audience, I THINK (don’t quote me) to encourage the sense of give and take and involvement in the audience.

    I”m not sure exactly WHO was invited or who did the inviting or WHAT constituted an invitation. I don’t know if it was a “hey we’re having a party, can you come?” type of thing or it was a “hey, can you do a panel?” sort of invite.

  • To make things more confusing, the SPJ site calls Dan Gillmor a “Lead Panelist” and the front row people “Contributing Experts.” Suffice to say the arrangement there wasn’t clear.

  • Michael Caputo

    To the give-and-take with Jason, Bob and Chuck.

    We have sought to deemphasize the panelists in other events by putting them in with the audience.

    However, the setup last night put the spotlight on Bob and Dan… and we did not put the seating in more of a loose circle (where a number of people are sitting on the other side of the room).

    This was perhaps my biggest regret – because the physical arrangement used last night tamped down audience involvement.

    As I said – the flaws are noted… and we’ll aim to use the experience to improve future gatherings.

  • Thanks Michael! I appreciate the effort to bring the audience into thing more. That is a difficult balance to get right.

  • Once I realized I wasn’t so much a panelist as an audience member with a good seat, I got it. πŸ™‚

    Ditto what Jason said. I’m certainly not allowed to be in charge of organizing anything, for good reason.