There is an articulate ‘intelligent commons’

There’s a potentially highly educative spat in progress over an article in this month edition of the NUJ’s off line house magazine, The Journalist. The author of Web 2.0 is Rubbish, Donnacha Delong, has made the original available here. Martin Stabe has more detail of the research it was based on.

Shane Richmond then picked it up with an equally combative piece entitled The NUJ doesn’t understand Web 2.0. But the most spectacular outcome from the orginal article, is the departure of Professor Roy Greenslade from the NUJ. Greenslade is not resigning over one article, but because he sees it as the NUJ making itself redundant. Jeff Jarvis expands his argument:

…it occurred to me that if you’re a union representing journalists today, you probably don’t know which way is up and who’s the enemy and what you’re fighting for. All the old reflexes and relationships are archaic. Unions are structured to fight The Man but now that Man is no longer all-powerful, requiring the joining together of its workers to balance his might. Now the Man is quivering in his loafers, less powerful, poorer, smaller, unsure where the world is headed. Battling The Man could weaken the only guy who is, if not on your side, at least in the same boat with you. Do you really want to go throwing the deckchairs overboard at a time like this?

Suw thinks the NUJ’s intervention is unhelpful to its members. There is also an excellent and lively discussion over at the Media Guardian hosted by Matt Wells And there are round ups from Shane and Laura.

For my own part, it is worth saying that I don’t believe that Web 2.0 is a doctrine, although some of its ‘adherents’ may come over with the smug and irritating zeal of a convert. Rather it’s a rough and temporal attempt to describe what technology is doing to human communication.

For instance, I found out about this article from my news feed on Facebook. Shane’s one of my friends. I then did a 6 degrees of separation search on Donnacha and it turns out we are connected at just 2 degrees of separation through four different people. It’s an order of knowledge you might have had to wait years for before the invention of such sharp applications.

Another Facebook story. I wanted to speak to one of the candidates running for my local Westminster seat, to get an idea of how the ‘ground war’ was going in a key marginal. On Tuesday, I bumped into the local chair of that party as I was going into the paper shop, and told him what I wanted to do and promised I would email him my details.

I was snowed under and didn’t get a chance. Tonight, through a friend on Facebook, I was introduced to someone in the candidate’s party, and lo, the local candidate turns up as a friend of this new Facebook friend. I messaged him via Facebook, and now we’re having coffee in the local Costa next week, when I get back from Belfast.

That is web 2.0. It’s not about journalism. It is about how technology is helping people meet, converse and do commerce, in the widest possible sense of that word. At huge speed. As a professional that speed has some implications for the aesthetic of how and the speed at which some things get done. Although not everything has to be cast in that time frame.

The problems the NUJ research highlights, at least according to Martin Stabe’s critique of it, constitute a failure to understand that if you don’t engage with these technologies, audiences will just talk past you, and accordingly getting their news quicker. And from somewhere other than your paper.

These are problems of newspapers which have not worked out what’s happening. Stoic endurance is not a useful response.

I’ve been blogging for over five years. In that time nothing has happened to blunt my appetite for good journalism. In fact the capacity to pick and choose what I and others of the ‘great unwashed’ want to read, rather than have an editor make that choice for us has sharpened rather than deadened my appetite for journalism.

Good journalism that is. And that’s where the professional competition is coming from. Not the newly articulate and increasingly intelligent ‘commons’ itself.

Cross posted from the Original on RSA Networks blog…

This entry was posted in Conversational politics, Journalism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.