Media Giraffe speaks

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by Mary Turck, 6/4/08 • The Media Giraffe came to the Twin Cities today, talking about new pamphleteers and new reporters. What is this new media business? What’s the difference between bloggers and reporters? Who gets to be a journalist? And what does a giraffe have to do with it?

More than a hundred people gathered to talk and argue about the new media and our roles in it. As we head toward the National Media Reform Conference (beginning Friday), the pre-conference offers some new insights and information.

According to the Media Giraffe Project (MGP) Web site, their mission is “to foster participatory democracy and community. We do so by discovering and celebrating above-the-crowd individuals making innovative, sustainable use of media. They use fresh, effective tools and approaches that empower and inform citizens.”

Margaret Duffy (University of Missouri) has been studying new media. During the first phase of her research, she focused on 64 new journalism sites in 15 large, medium and small cities. Among her findings (reported more fully at her research site) are the following interesting, randomly selected, tidbits:

1) News sites (and, to a lesser degree, blogs) offer people an opportunity to participate through uploading:

• information about community activities (28% of news sites offer this option)
• news and features (40%)
• letters to the editor (20%)
• audio (16%)
• photos (20%)
• video (12%)

2) Everyone is trying to sell advertising, but it’s not working.

3) In all age groups, a diminishing number of people agree with the statement: “I need to get the news (national, international, local) every day.”

4) People look to news sites for
• connectivity (stories where I know the writer, stories I can share with my friends, something that make me feel smarter)
• Information (especially alerts on damaging or harmful situations and stories that make me think)
• entertainment (something that is just plain fun)
• shopping/consuming (everything from restaurants to lawnmowers to theater)

Good information, and lots to think about for a citizen journalist/editor. This morning, I had three e-mails responding to a recent Voices column. Somehow our site didn’t make it obvious that readers can just post—without going through the editor. Anyone can post a comment on a story. Anyone can submit a letter to the editor, an article, an event for the calendar. Just click on the “Contribute news” button at the top of the page, and follow the directions.

Looking at the participation list from Margaret Duffy’s report, I’m proud of the TC Daily Planet. We give people opportunities to contribute in almost all of those categories. People can post articles, events, comments and letters to the editor directly to the site. For photos and video and audio, submissions have to go through editor@tcdailyplanet.net. (It’s not a matter of censorship, but of software.)

Almost everything gets in somehow, though all articles and events wait for an editor’s okay before going “live” on the site. (That’s mainly to deal with spam, though we also screen out press releases.)

We’d like more reader-contributed content—more articles, more opinions, more events. Let us hear from you!

Mary Turck is the editor of the TC Daily Planet.