American Observer First Run (dry run, sorry)

On Monday we were given the topic for the theme of our first run of the SoC grad magazine the American Observer. Not surprisingly, the theme is “The Future of Journalism”. Are you shocked? It’s timely, of course, cuz everyone going into journalism feels like they’re jumping into some undefined void, but it’s also a bit student-y, to be so focused on our own industry. But whatevs, it works.

We were told to browse both the Nieman report “What’s Next for News?” and the Pew State of the Media 2010 report and come to class with ideas to brainstorm for stories.

The reports are massive and I was working for a while at the bookstore at Busboys and Poets (shameless plug!) that night so I didn’t get as thorough a look at them as I would like. However, I think I may also have had an advantage. One of my classmates observed that it might have been a hindrance to our own creative thinking to see the reports first, cuz then it was harder to think of topics outside of what they covered, they tended to color all the topics were tried to generate.

Here’s some of the broad topics that I was interested in:

  • Hyperlocal! Seems to be a common buzzword in discussions of the future of news. But as someone who is interested in the global angle of things, it makes me wonder what the future for international reporting is if the market is getting more and more locally concentrated. The U.S. is known for looking inward much more than outward, something I came to J-school to change (OMG check out that idealism!), so should I be discouraged? Where’s the globalist’s place in a hyperlocal world?
  • Media and our Brains. The Nieman Report includes an article by Nicholas Carr, who I posted about before, discussing how our consumption of media in a digital, google-ized environment is actually changing how we think, changing our brains. Neat-o!
  • Who is a journalist? The question of who qualifies as a journalist in the world of blogging, online newsrooms, and citizen journalism, who is legitimate is still a raging debate. And an important one as we decide who gets the protections we afford journalists. The Josh Wolf debate may have been way back in 2006-7 but new challenges to the common understanding of what is a journalist pop up all the time.
  • Backpack journalism and the rise of the one-man band. News crews seem to be a dying phenomenon, with one person increasingly responsible for presenting, shooting and editing a package and many people wonder if quality is going to go down the tubes.
  • Net Neutrality. Not exclusively a news concern, but certainly of concern to anyone with an interest in the internet as a democratic egalitarian platform for the distribution of information.

Those are just a few of the topics I brainstormed for our session. Only the backpack journalism/one mand band topic made it into stories selected for the issue.

I won’t be writing a story. I got assigned to an admin position. The editorial positions are going to be rotating throughout the semester so we all get a chance to play all the parts. I and my classmate, Mimi Brown, were assigned as the Social Media Editors (we’re a bit group so we’re all doubling up on responsibilities, and it also makes us play nice together).

For more on our thoughts on the social media aspect of the site, see next post.

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