Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Assignment

Slashdot is this week interviewing NYU professor Jay Rosen, a long-time proponent of civic journalism.

Rosen recently started NewAssignment.net using seed money from craigslist founder Craig Newmark, a $10,000 grant from the Sunlight Foundation and, it was announced last week, $100,000 from Reuters.

What is New Assignment? Essentially, says Rosen, it is "a way to fund high-quality, original reporting, in any medium, through donations to a non-profit called NewAssignment.Net."

What is of particular interest is that New Assignment will use Open Source methods to undertake the reporting.

What do Open Source methods mean in this context? They mean having professional journalists and what Rosen calls "the smart mobs" work together on reporting assignments. "Rather than proclaim one over the other," he explains, the aim is to utilise the advantages of both.The reporting will also take place in an open and transparent way.

In other words, professional journalists will work openly and co-operatively with ordinary citizens to produce news reports. As Rosen puts it, "The site gives out real assignments — paid gigs with a chance to practice the craft of reporting at a high level. Because they’re getting paid, the journalists who contract with New Assignment have the time — and obligation — to do things well. That means working with the smart mobs who gave rise to the assignment and handed it over to an editor and correspondent with the story part-of-the-way there."

So the starting point for assignments will be the Web and the smart mobs. Then if deemed worthy, at some point a story will be adopted by New Assignment and developed by journalists. Says Rosen: "The correspondent doesn't 'take over' until work is well along. The early stages are done in the open. The money for the reporting isn't raised until the story is outlined and partially developed. Which means you can see where it's going. Don't like it? Don’t contribute! The evidence for why there's a story there can be examined by anyone who is interested. When you go to the site itself, www.newassignment.net, assignments are in motion, from bubbling up to rolling out, sort of like projects at a studio."

The plan is to run a test project this year, with a view to going live in 2007.

I posted an extensive Q&A interview with Rosen on the topic of Open Source Journalism in March. And it is gratifying to note that amongst the six background items that Slashdot has recommended people read before posing questions for Rosen — including articles published by The Washington Post, USA Today, The Economist, and PBS — is the interview that Rosen did with me.

If you want to join the discussion on Slashdot then click this link!

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