Thursday, October 01, 2009

A kvetch-free journalism conference

They said it couldn’t be done. But it was.

They said a conference about the future of journalism couldn’t take place without the usual kvetching about the golden, olden days, with publishers grieving shriveled margins and editors caviling about the bloggers challenging their previously unassailable wisdom.

But we did it. The two-day Media Technology Summit sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley adjourned today without sliding into the Bermuda Triangle of denial, anger and depression that ordinarily characterizes such shindigs.

Working closely with with Dean Neil Henry and Assistant Dean Gina Rieger, I helped organize the summit, which was sponsored by the Koret Foundation, Google and the McCormick Foundation.

The more than 100 participants at the meeting included a fleet of tweeters who provided a far richer record of the proceedings than could be attempted in any single post. So, I won’t try.

Thanks to Chuck Peters, play-by-play coverage of the first day of the meeting is organized here and the second day is embedded below. Thanks to Tara Hunt and the nearly two-dozen others who took turns along with her at the podium, copies of most presentations will be appearing here in the next few days.

How did we route around the journalistic Bermuda Triangle?

Maybe it was the feng shui of the Googleplex in Silicon Valley, where we met. “It’s so shiny here,” said one participant. “It makes you feel like nothing could be that bad.”

Maybe it was because an eclectic array of speakers from the worlds of media, technology and academe stressed the possibilities, instead of the challenges, of moving journalism into an era when it roams wider, digs deeper, reports better and is more intellectually, psychically and financially rewarding that it has been for several long years.

But it probably was because we learned about the power of human and computer networks to not just enlighten the public discourse but also to enliven commercial prospects for the news organizations smart, bold and nimble enough to leverage them.

Much experimentation lies ahead on the uncertain road to the future of journalism. And experimentation, by definition, is loaded with uncertainty and the prospect of failure.

But the road to wherever we are going will be a bit easier to travel, because this conference left the usual baggage behind.

Other views on the summit

Following are articles I have discovered about the conference. If you know of more, please let me know at alan [dot] mutter [at] broadbandxxi [dot] com.

With information galore, we need news judgment

Summit takes hard look at future of journalism

Le future "hybride" des medias

Reflections on Day 1 of UCB Media Tech Summit

Last Rocky Publisher Conducts News Autopsy

25 Lessons from Media Summit


Blogger Jennifer H. McFadden said...

Congratulations. Wonder if ONA will be able to accomplish such a feat.

10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad things are shiny and optimistic at the Googleplex.
I guess those thousands of un- or underemployed journalists at hundreds of outlets are just to darned pessimistic.
Baltimore Sun - newsroom down by 80%. Seattle Times - newsroom down by 65% or more. And so on. The robbery of news content for pennies by Google is an insidious tragedy. Praising them as shiny is sickening. They found a loophole and exploited it, aided by publishers then in pursuit of clicks and hits.Big deal. They made one good bet and are now reaming the industry that serves up this free "content" as it withers and dies.
Shame on them for acting as if this is some kind of brilliant business strategy.
Would love to see their "shiny" campus empty out by 80% and see how optimistic they are then.
Disgusted, just disgusted.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous The Consumer said...

The Future of Media is the sole province of me.

Not some self important group.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can have a qvetch-free journalism congference, but not a qvetch-free journalism conference comment thread.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The late, great copy editor Dan Sullivan probably would tell you it's "kvetch" and "kvell." Glad to hear there was a conference without them. Your constant admirer

9:06 PM  
Blogger Newsosaur said...

Oy vey! I spelled kvetch with a q in the original post. It is now fixed.

10:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A refreshing conference, it appears. I hope we are in a 10-20 year phase of massive disruption to clear the way for a shiny new future. I really do. Because maybe I can outlast that. How many years in are we? Five? Ten?

I don't think there is enough recognition among journalists that web users really enjoy reading interesting and long stories and we need to simplify and make that much more easy.

I think there is a HUGE amount of money and convenience factor in text-based mobile ad delivery. If we can geolocate it and give users lots of control over it. Let them make it their own. This should be such a HUGE money maker, but news organizations are being clueless and timid. This is where we should be experimenting.

I also fear that entrenched newsroom production technologies will fatally hamper web-site development, preventing ease of use and appealing ui/navigation.

The lack of R&D funds is serious at newspapers. Are we going to rely on venture-backed technology startups to do this for us? Are we going to rely on angel-philanthropists? Why don't we do this for ourselves? Because we just don't know how? Why don't we hire people who do know how?

My concerns:

- Our news organization is slipping into the pay model, site registration, moderating comments mode. Does this mean we will cede success to an upstart competitor in the future?

- There are too many of the best journalists who feel that moving backwards toward a now non-existent business model is the answer. Yes journalist positions are down. Even decimated. But is that the prime problem? Maybe ... but I don't personally think so. We need better vision and planning from our top management. They simply woke up too late.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your report on your conference sounds a bit like a full press PR release

7:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Conference presenters were excellent. The world is clearly changing, and the news business has to adapt. This has happened to many industries. It was exciting to hear about the many new business models. I remain optimistic about the future of news.

10:36 AM  

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