Thursday, February 16, 2006

Dick Gordon debuts today

Connection was one of my favourite shows on NPR and I was dismayed when it was suddenly and inexplicably pulled by its Boston host station last year. Fortunately for me and my neighbors, WUNC had the sense (and the money) to bring Dick Gordon here, to Chapel Hill. He has developed a new show, called The Story, which debuts today at 1pm EST. For the first month or so, it will run only on Thursdays, and then spread to five weekdays afterwards.

This week's edition of Raleigh Independent has a scoop on the new show: Dick Gordon connects with the Triangle, written by one of my favourite Indy writers, Cat Warren. The whole article is worth a read (man, she can turn an article about grass slowly growing into a riveting read!), but I especially like the last part, about the attempt to make this show a bottom-up, audience-driven show, not with call-ins (there will be none), but with an attempt at real citizen journalism - listeners picking topics, mailing in stories and participating in making stories for the show:
What if The Story, instead of ground-pounding for its stories and sources, partly depended on tens of thousands of listeners across the nation? These listeners wouldn't just sit and passively talk back to their radios, or send a pissed off or a congratulatory e-mail after a story ran--an e-mail that might get distilled to two sentences and read on the air. What if the audience itself helped create and report the stories, a feed-in loop, not just a feedback loop? Wiki journalism. This kind of participatory journalism via the Internet is right on the verge, too. It's also a nice big smack upside the head of a recalcitrant, if not shin-splinted, mainstream media.

I hope Dick Gordon succeeds. As a blogger, thus a so-called "citizen journalist" myself, I applaud the attempt and have the faith that this will be a success - actually I expect it to be much more of a success than even Gordon and the producers are expecting right now:
"The venerable profession of journalism finds itself at a rare moment in history where, for the first time, its hegemony as gatekeeper of the news is threatened by not just new technology and competitors but by the audience it serves," noted an influential report by the American Press Institute in 2003. Darned audiences.

"There's a resistance," notes Gordon with his trademark restraint. "It means we're not in charge anymore. Who am I to decide, in fact, what the story is?" So the new game in reporting town essentially repeats this mantra: "My readers and listeners know more than I know." Imagine.

To take that seriously, you can't just be launching editors' blogs here or hosting reader or listener response forums there. Horizontal, open-source journalism means you take thousands of readers and listeners, you ask them regularly for their input, and you mine them like crazy to help define, frame and even sometimes report the stories.
As they say, go read the whole thing.

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