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A Word on the New Journalism
Sunday, January 23 2005 @ 06:04 AM EST

One of the best things about doing Groklaw is that it's a conversation. As soon as I write something, readers begin to provide more and often better, or at least more nuanced, information. As they do, I often add it to the base articles, with an Update notice, or sometimes it shows up in the next one. That is what makes it hard to mirror Groklaw articles accurately and another reason why I don't let Google in. Stories are typically not finished for about 24 hours, sometimes more, because Groklaw is a group effort.

After I posted an article in which I wrote that Venezuela was working on a decree adopting FOSS for government use, based on a report in the media in the US, for example, there was a comment from Rafiel, a reader there in Venezuela, that the decree had just passed, and he provided a link to the PDF of the adopted decree in Spanish and a link to an English translation, all of which I added to the article.

Dan Bricklin has a column on audio, transparency, and the new journalism, which I know you will enjoy, since he writes in part about you and Groklaw while tracing the media coverage of the Massachusetts decision on Open Formats. He noticed a change in the quality of comments on the story here after audio of the informal announcement and a full transcript were made available here, even a change in the way I wrote about it compared with the first story. He also notes a difference between comments on Slashdot when they ran an earlier, briefer story about the event, which seemed to lead to less comprehension of the story, and comments here, and he attributes the difference to the fact that we made a lot more information available, not just a brief report from the media. Take a look. He praises your commenting.

I think he's on to something. He suggests that not just raw data but also hearing a person's voice, not just a journalist's report about that person's speech, leads to greater understanding and less mindless criticism.

[blink] . . .

. . . Hmm. . .

If that's so, I'd best start podcasting right away.

Or at least any time I get it into my head to write about Santa.

I'm not touching the Easter Bunny. Although just between you and me, rabbits don't lay eggs. I'm pretty sure about that.

I trust if I'm wrong, a reader will so advise me lickety split so I can update my article. The new journalism is all about credibility.

He references Dan Gillmor's blog in which Gillmor suggests replacing the goal of objectivity, the foundation of the old journalism, with his suggestion of four pillars of good journalism for today's journalists: thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency.

By transparency, he means in part linking to source material, "bolstering what we tell people with close-to-the-ground facts and data". That has always been Groklaw's foundation and its hallmark. To me it's not just an ethical imperative; it's natural, because it's technically possible now. There are no space restrictions online, compared to a paper newspaper, for example, which can only be so big, the Sunday New York Times notwithstanding. So there's no reason not to share everything you know and all you can find, so your readers can make up their own minds.

Gillmor participated in a conference put together recently by Harvard's Berkman Center on blogging, journalism, and credibility. I can't recommend reading all the comments on that page, but as is typical for Berkman, the collection of references and resources is excellent, including podcasts by some of the participants and a transcript done live as the conference went on. Audio of the event is promised.

Anyway, the official translation of Eric Kriss's remarks is now on the state's website ("Edited and condensed from a transcription of the original oral comments." -- Say, would that be moi?) They are also translated into French, by a Groklaw reader who decided it was an important story for French readers to know about too and contacted me first and then Bricklin and Kriss to get permission. First he translated Groklaw's transcript, and when the official one was put up, he updated his translation to match.

And this mushrooming of information, spreading in ways not originally anticipated, is also part of the new journalism, as is the fact that I am collecting the best of your comments to send to Mr. Kriss. Well, actually, I'd like it if some of you would help me do that. If any of you would like to do that, see if you can pick the 10 or 15 best comments from the two articles and email them to me, please. As always, leave a comment that you are working on it, though, so others know who is doing what. I don't think we need more than maybe 5 people, tops, on this.

Oh, yes, you unbelievers. Jonathan Schwartz really *is* going to answer your questions, and soon, I'm told. He's just been busy.

Speaking of the human voice and raw data instead of reports about it, you might enjoy this BBC program, a rather intelligent exploration of patents in the US, including remarks by Larry Lessig. You have to have RealPlayer to listen to it. I mention it here, not because I like to confuse you by putting links to something that seems unconnected to the main theme. It actually is connected. One of the interviewees is the head of the USPTO, and he tells us why he thinks the Patent Office is fostering innovation. He can tell because they are issuing more and more patents.

I figure this is a fine test case for Bricklin's theory about audio.

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