Thursday, September 17, 2009

Draft manifesto for e-journalism

Here it is, with some trepidation, a draft manifesto for e-journalism, 17 points, just like the other internet manifesto for journalism.  It contains controversial sections, in particular 9-12. There's quite a lot of agreement with the original internet manifesto - we just think if you're doing a manifesto it needs to set out things that can be done. It's now starting to dawn on the world at large that there is a desperate need to sort out the economics of journalism on the web and deal with the twin issues represented currently by Google and the BBC...

1/ News production always costs someone. Good quality news costs the most.

2/ The internet enhances the ability to attribute and link to sources. Linking may not always be feasible but should be part of news writing.

3/ Other web users should respect news-gatherers and link to original reports where possible.

4/ A substantial proportion of users will be educated to a high level and will have, at the least, basic knowledge of probability and statistics. Journalists should show respect for the numeracy of their on-line readers.

5/ The traditional distinction between news and comment must be retained.

6/ Traditional news media have decades of experience of editing, presenting and sifting news that can be brought to the new world.

7/ Human ability to create interesting and readable packages of news and other journalism will not be exceeded by AI devices in the foreseeable future.

8/ Public scrutiny and ability to comment and challenge news reporting enhances news quality.

9/ State or tax-financed news sites should not attempt to be comprehensive and should only contain material directly gathered and produced by the organisation in question.

10/ News and pictures collected by state or tax financed news organisations should be made available to other news organisations with free licence, possibly on a geographical basis.

11/ News organisations reproducing news licensed by state or tax-financed organisations should always identify the source.

12/ News aggregation organisations should be subject to specific monitoring by regulatory authorities for monopolistic power.

13/ Those who provide news stories to journalists are entitled to have embargo times respected. Embargoes continue to be useful devices to allow journalists time to evaluate and balance stories and continued use should be encouraged.

14/  Providers of news, ie press officers and PR organisations, need to look beyond the traditional media outlets, making their source material available to all in a timely and accessible fashion.

15/ The web massively enhances the competition to be first with the news. It should also enhance the competition to be different about the news, both in presentation and content.

16/ The nature of breaking news may lead to reports being up-dated constantly. Changes should be acknowledged so far as possible, and new formats explored, but live reporting should not be hampered by efforts to impose complex technological protocols.

17/ Copyright is essential and should be enforced and enforceable. Law-makers may need, however, to reflect that attribution (and linking) is a defence against plagiarism.

Ideas considered and rejected:
a) RSS feeds should only contain original writing.
b) Journalists should withdraw cooperation from news aggregators that carry advertising.

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