Thursday, November 5, 2009

Media140- You guys should totally make out.

disclaimer: when I'm not being a punk monk, I work as an analyst for Media Monitors and as a media producer with enigmatic emerging outfit Long Play Creative. I was invited along to Media140 as a liveblogger and twitterer. Darling arty blog readers, have you averted your heavily kohled eyes? I'm about to get all corporate. Please don't hate me because I'm employed. We are all The Man. I'll start tweeting about digital graffiti again tomorrow, promise.

Considering I'm at a Media140 conference entitled "The Future of Journalism in the Social Media Age", I've been hearing very little today about the future and an awful lot about the present. As a result, my thoughts have been straying to the past.

July 2008, specifically. That month we all sat down in essentially the same configuration in the ABC's Eugene Goossens Hall for the Future of Media Summit 2008. Back then, journalists were spitting on the bloggers who were supposedly predicting the death of their profession, bloggers were flying their freak flags proudly, and there was generally an air of uncertainty, fear, hope and revolution. In short, we were passionate.

Over a year later, the room has subdued somewhat, with bloggers and journalists politely sharing the bagel queue. The forum's focus, in turn, is on normalising the use of Twitter and other social media platforms in journalistic practice, rather than relegating social media to what we were calling citizen journalists but have now graduated to the lofty title of pro-am.

The stand-out exception was the Australian's Caroline Overington (@overingtonc), who repeated the tired death prophesy of the existing media models, and seemed to be suggesting that the ABC's dominance of social media and ability to provide free online content would lead to the national outlet being the only source of political journalism in Australia. As I mentioned earlier today, the likelihood of a single institutional voice dominating political discourse is simply unlikely in a user-generated age. I look forward to the Murdoch monetisation revolution that Caroline hinted at, and I genuinely hope that it is more imaginative than a subscription model.

@Stilgherrian's call for a discussion of the future of journalism that isn't all doom and gloom and instead engages intelligently with the possibilities before the industry is timely. What is missing from today's discussion are innovative partnerships between journalists and business. While success stories of "learning as you go" such as @leighsales are great examples of journalistic use of social media under the current model, these examples are hardly innovative.

I should clarify that when I talk about business partnerships, I'm not talking about paid comment or PR. Quite the opposite. I want to see joint ventures between the best minds in journalism and the brightest innovators in the digital media industry. Surely it's time to grow together instead of simply reacting to mutually external developments.

The vision of the journalist as curator is one springboard for a discussion of how these partnerships could work. Last week, the Australia Council's Revealing the Arts forum exposed the gaping ideological divide between arts institutions that revere institutionalised curation and the practicing artists that reject it as obsolete. The media industry does not need to polarise itself in this way. Like talented artists, journalists have the skills that are valued by their aggregating institutions. But this shouldn't stop journalists from experimenting with, to borrow a film term, non-theatrical release. Journalists are free-thinking practitioners and should be encouraged to step outside the theatre of the established media outlets. Mark Scott's ABC Open Project is a step in the right direction, but it is not the end of the road or the model that commercial media necissarily needs to adopt.

Perhaps if we started to think about innovative ways to integrate journalistic craftsmanship and ethics into digital media development, the future would be easier to discuss practically and passionately.

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