25 July 2006

The Scoop on Open Source Journalism

Jay Rosen is the Richard Stallman of open source journalism: he has thought the ideas and pushed for the action. So anything he came up with would be interesting, but I think that his NewAssignment.Net idea is more than that. It is:

In simplest terms, a way to fund high-quality, original reporting, in any medium, through donations to a non-profit called NewAssignment.Net.

The site uses open source methods to develop good assignments and help bring them to completion; it employs professional journalists to carry the project home and set high standards so the work holds up. There are accountability and reputation systems built in that should make the system reliable. The betting is that (some) people will donate to works they can see are going to be great because the open source methods allow for that glimpse ahead.

In this sense it’s not like donating to your local NPR station, because your local NPR station says, “thank you very much, our professionals will take it from here.” And they do that very well. New Assignment says: here’s the story so far. We’ve collected a lot of good information. Add your knowledge and make it better. Add money and make it happen. Work with us if you know things we don’t.

Do read the whole post: it's long, very detailed and very well thought-out.

I hope it works. But I fear it may not, because it sounds terribly similar to schemes during dotcom 1.0 that were designed to do the same for open source. That is, somebody - companies, usually - would put up money to get particular bugs fixed. Coders would then agree to fix the bugs for the money. It was a great idea, but all fizzled out somehow.

Maybe this will work better, because people will be more engaged about stories, especially if it touches their lives in some way. But in any case, it's worth trying, especially since Craig Newmark, of craigslist, has provided $10K to give it a whirl. (Via Searchblog.)

No comments: