Two guys whose work I admire, and who've been kind enough to talk to me 1-on-1 have slugged it out at BuzzMachine, disagreeing about what was said at the Networked Journalism conference. On the Media co-host Bob Garfield ran a report on the conference, in which he quotes Jay Rosen speaking on his NewAssignment.net pro-am journalism experiment. I will try not to characterize their remarks, for fear I'll mischaracterize some nuance. You can read their comments for yourself.
I can say that I found NewAssignment a worthwhile experiment, but one I ultimately didn't have the time or energy to participate in as much as I would have liked. First off, the topic -- crowdsourced journalism -- felt a little like an inward spiral, something reporting on itself. Also, Jay said, at the conference, many of the participants were driven by their desire to get into Wired magazine, which picked up some of what NewAssignment produced for a piece it had on crowd sourcing. What motivated me was the chance to be part of the new experiment, not some secondary or tertiary mention or byline. I also had hoped to learn more about how it all works, and maybe be better informed so I could inform others. But I found that I was spending my time doing a lot of handling what felt like very junior journalism, even hand-holding, and I had no way to motivate people who weren't already motivated to do more or better. Folks basically sent in what they had, and left. No follow up, and no way to ask "the community" to fill or backfill. Jay has acknowledged that there were fits and starts, and his colleague David Cohn, who also helped but together the Networked Journalism conference, has also said that they may have made a mistake in doing a kind of conventional model for this kind journalism -- assigning stories in a traditional fashion.
I've written a column on another site with a different model, NowPublic.com, which also has problems but may be more viable over time. (It should come out later this week on JackMyers.com.) As Jay said to me, though, just because something isn't a complete success (or even fails) doesn't mean you shouldn't try it. That's what experimentation is all about.