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Media Matters in the American Heartland
Prominent bloggers and journalists come together in Nashville, but remain wary of each other
Barbara K. Iverson (biverson)     Print Article 
Published 2005-05-23 10:04 (KST)   
Blogger "graduates" of CARR training at the Freedom Forum
©2005 B. Iverson
Over 300 writers, bloggers and reporters who normally hang out in cyberspace met face to face in Nashville, Tennessee at BlogNashville earlier this month. Organized by the Media Bloggers Association (MBA) BlogNashville's theme was "blogs and journalism" which is a shift from the way traditional media and even some blogs talk about "blogs versus journalism".

Bloggers could sign up for two days of CARR (computer-assisted research and reporting) training at the conference and 14 of them did. The Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) offers this training for reporters and journalists around the U.S.A. but this is the first time that CARR training was offered to bloggers. The training was organized by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

CARR works with publicly available databases and statistical research techniques from the academic world to produce results for investigative reporting. The sources in this kind of reporting are the numbers and information they hold about a topic gotten right from the source.

There are five parts to CARR. The first is posing questions that can be answered from information in a set of data. Second is locating databases kept by private and public organizations like the Census bureau, local governments and watchdog groups. The third is getting the data into a spreadsheet or statistical analysis package (MS Excel, SPSS, FileMaker, etc.) on a PC. Fourth, you need to translate your questions into query language (SQL, for instance) for your computer database program and do some analysis. The final step when you hit "return" and see the results is to analyze the findings and turn the numbers into words.

CARR uses primary sources to get information. Bloggers doing CARR can go beyond just linking to other blogs and echoing what they read elsewhere. The CARR class graduates thought the training was rigorous but interesting and were pleased to get through it.

Hossein Derakhshan of hoder.com blog
©2005 B.Iverson
Some big name bloggers were in Nashville, like Dave Winer whose RadioUserland was one of the first open source blogging software applications, called "father of podcasting" by Dan Gillmor, Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit blog), Terry Heaton (Pomo blog) who writes for OhmyNews, Hossein Derakhshan (Hoder.com) and Rebecca MacKinnon (rConversation).

Journalists at the conference included Dan Gillmor, author of WE the Media, J. D. Lasica, author of Darknet and Mark Glaser of Online Journalism Review (OJR.org).

BlogNashville featured sessions for Milbloggers who talk about the military, faith-based bloggers, political bloggers, most of whom were conservative and sessions for bloggers interested in global issues such as technologies to allow for anonymous blogging in countries with repressive regimes.

The relationship of journalists and traditional media to bloggers and the "blogosphere" is unsettled at this time. Robert Cox, founder of the MBA, found fault with the interview distributed by the Associated Press (AP) and its reporter in the May 10th posting in his blog, "The National Debate.com". However Chad Roedemeier, the News Editor for the AP's Tennessee Bureau, said the story followed AP guidelines and declined to make changes, according to Cox.

A quick "Google" search for the phrases "blogs are journalism" and "blogs are not journalism" found 256 entries for the "are" query and 1,570 for the "are not" query. At the opening session of the conference Linda Seebach, a reporter from the Rocky Mountain Times, who is not a blogger said, "It depends on the post. Some are, and some aren't [journalism]" in response to the question of "Are blogs journalism?"

Seebach, also announced a cooperative project between the Rocky Mountain Times and the Denver Post called "Yourhub.com". The two newspapers provide free web space for citizens to post stories and pictures on Yourhub.com. They want to make a place for virtual communities and win subscribers in the process.

The online version of Yourhub.com will be unedited, but the newspapers' editors will periodically cull material from the website, edit it, and print it in a supplement to their regular newspapers. This is a new twist in how traditional media is relating to the web.

The citizen reporters won't be paid for their work noted Seebach, because newspapers "need to find some other way to make money and pay reporters." Other mainstream publishers have suggested that citizen reporters will work for T-shirts or coffee mugs in lieu of money. Whether this economic model of bartering goods for content will work remains to be seen. Henry Copeland of blogads thinks differently, and led a session for bloggers who want to "monetize" their sites and writing efforts.

Dan Gillmor's session on citizen journalism dealt with libel and intellectual property issues especially as these affect music copyrights and podcasting. It is easy for someone to sue. It is expensive to defend against a suit even if you are in the right.

J. D. Lasica who just published Darknet, a book describing how free speech and expression can be curtailed by corporations seeking overly protective copyright protections, noted that big broadband companies could have a chilling impact on the relative freedom of expression that exists today on the Internet if they move to control what traffic goes over the infrastructure of the Internet that they control.

Rebecca McKinnon and Hussein Derakhshan led a session about global blogging. Hussein's Hoder.com and his work with Iranian bloggers has helped foster a vital community of Iranians who connect with each other via their blogs for political as well as social reasons. McKinnon has worked with Chinese bloggers and specializes in some of the global issues that English-speaking bloggers and bloggers from the U.S. don't face.

The conference included a party at Wolfy's, a well-known nightspot in Nashville at the Gaylord Center where "Tall Paul" a talented local, played guitar. Bloggers proved to be on the geeky side socially, and though host blogger Mr. Roboto tried to get folks out on the dance floor, many preferred to sit at the bar and chat.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Barbara K. Iverson

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