Xenia, Social Video, Representative Journalism, News Literacy (New England Forum II)

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It’s time to forget the warnings of our childhood and start talking to stranger, says Doug McGill, whose new column is called “Talking with Strangers.” [Warning: Live Blogging from New England News Forum – accuracy went thataway] It’s based on the idea that xenia, which was apparently considered a civic duty in ancient Greece, is the best way to ensure our national security. He talks about his work teaching journalism workshops, about trying to make citizens think like journalists, understand what it means to be a journalist even if they don’t think they’re doing journalism.

In addition to teaching the food pyramid, we should create and teach a “media pyramid.” “Lost” and “Project Runway” will be the sugary tip, on down to healthy servings of coverage of the city council and so on. He also suggests that experienced journalists who took the buyout go to their schools and offer to teach media and journalism and that we start pushing the culture of reporting as a civic enterprise everywhere we can: in civics class, churches, and so on. Journalism should be like jury duty. His other new slogan for what we should be doing is “Superpoking power.” He’s taken this from David Mathison’s presentation, after admitting that he hadn’t heard the term “Superpoke” before today.

After him Wayne Sutton (left) gives us a tour of some social networks and other tools. Plurk (looks twitteresque) and Stickam (social video network) and Kyte.tv (mobile video) Flixwagon.com (more live video) are all new to me. Bill Densmore chimes in with a bit from a recent “webinar” on advertising, where it was said that button and banner ads are likely to drop in real numbers and video will zoom. So he encourages folks to get video into the sites now. Wayne mentions “location-based social networking” (see brightkite.com) as the up and coming thing, geo-tagged photos and video. Also mentions Viddler and Tubemogul. I want to ask him if he thinks editors and journalists need to know this stuff or whether the role of people like him is key. Will have to do it in coffee break. He and I agree that there has to be something in between journalists and community news site publishers trying to keep up with all the new technology and feeling overwhelmed and them ignoring it entirely. This is of course what he does for a living, as Community Content Manager at NBC-17 WNCN in Raleigh.

Now Len Witt, telling the story of representative journalism, (“rep-j” Bill Densmore calls it) which I’ve heard before. Really happy to hear that they finally found their first “fellow” to report from (and to) Northfield, MN. Misse

(We interrupt this blog post for a brief political plus: One more click on the health care counter! Someone asks whether community-supported journalists will get health care. Will everyone who thinks more people doing journalism in more and more flexible ways PLEASE spend a few minutes promoting universal single-payer health care?)

… and now back to our regularly scheduled debate about whether someone paid by the community can possibly stay independent.

Howard Schneider describes his news literacy course at Stony Brook University. It’s done by the Journalism School but open to all undergraduates. Verification, independence, accountability are the 3 things he says a journalist adds to the media we consume. He tells his students that if they can’t find all of those three things they’re not in the “news neighborhood.” Teaches them between news and commentary and then the difference between verification and assertion. Analyzing the NY Times coverage of the Sean Bell case, the reports of murders, rapes, bodies in the Convention Center freezer during early days of Katrina. See fascinating AJR article where the reporter who wrote the story explains how he made those mistakes.

He teaches them about 5 kinds of sources:
named/unnamed
authoritative/uninformed
independent/interested
sources who verify/sources who assert
multiple sources/single sources

Phase 3 of the course is understanding the difference between news media bias and audience bias. In survey at beginning of class: 79% believe the media has strong political bias. He says this is the biggest challenge of all – getting the audience to recognize their own preconceptions. Points us to Project Implicit, where you can test yourself for hidden bias. Stony Brook is committed to teaching this course to 10,000 undergrads. Their Center for News Literacy is now working to help share what they’ve learned with other institutions, including high schools. They’re even doing pre- and post-course survey of the students to see how their media consumption, voting and other civic engagement and attitudes change and comparing them to a sample of students who haven’t taken it. Sounds great. What will it take to get this kind of course into every school and college? Though I agree with Helen Smith, who teaches high school students to do journalism, adding even a small component of hands-on reporting would be invaluable.

Images: Doug McGill, borrowed from his site, Wayne Sutton and Howard Schneider snapped from my unsteady mobile

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