05 December 2008

What if it's the collective consciousness, not the collective unconscious?

What I'm on about this week:

The Big Three's plea for cash, when what they should have done is started innovating like crazy in 1973, when we got our first inklings of problems like these. I can't believe their nerve; I've lost my compassion. I mean, those guys couldn't have shared a jet to come talk? Or proposed they conference call? Come on, where are their strategists? Where are their heads? Stuffed deep into their own pockets, searching for lint in the recesses. I swear. It just makes me want to buy a hybrid Subaru even more than I did before. Now it's spite. (Sounds like the tagline for a silly movie: "Mike Masca and the Revenge of the Blue-Masked Meanies. First it was a crusade. Now it's spite.")

The meltdown. This is the first major financial crisis in my adult life (I'm not counting my cousin-in-law's experience of being in Korea during the Asian meltdown, nor remembering President Carter's environmental speeches and resetting our thermostats two degrees lower to 66 because ours had already been at 68, back when I was 10). The financial crisis feels very much like being in the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 and being only 17 miles from the epicenter: it doesn't feel like it's over yet, even when the ground seems to have stopped rumbling and roaring. I'm still ducking under my desk and waiting for the dust to clear. It feels like it's going to be awhile.

New media: Two things caught my attention this week in this realm. First and worst, the Rocky Mountain News is up for sale. I am sad to see this. I think having a two-newspaper town is a good thing, and I like the way Westword is the little yappy dog that nips at their heels. But I also guess those guys and gals have been shopping their resumes around for a while now, knowing full well if they hang on they may go down with the ship. It's terrible to watch these ships go down, too. It is like watching another great ocean liner sink, having already seen the movie Titanic yet feeling helpless to stop it despite having all that information about what went so wrong. Do we have to recast newsgathering and dissemination as something completely different? Must we turn to grassroots support as we do for vital services like community radio? How many people who listen to community radio actually donate? Can that number be increased if the loss of that resource is threatened? Second: in a news story this week about a local man who is a key member of Obama's transition team, a graphic was embedded in the story that was a little amusing, but also rather shocking to me. (Here's the close-up, if you can't make out this key member of the team.) I was just shocked that they would completely surround an advertising graphic in a news story. Were you surprised when you saw that, too?

I keep thinking about the Spot.us independent reporting-for-pay model; what seems to me to be missing is a way to gauge a reporter's credibility. A newspaper or other institution can open that door for an individual, but it's harder for the individual to push that door open themselves. So how do you create a new, yet credible, institution that is devoted to gathering and disseminating news? Busy minds are working on this problem as we speak, but I think it's like a lot of things (e.g., the healthcare system, the gut-brain connection, and the new killer news app) in that there's plenty of room for solutions from all corners, all comers.


DigiDave said...

As for Spot.Us - each reporter is an individual - and they all fill out profiles and give their own explanation of why they are credible.

That is why I make sure to get a video post of every reporter. So you can see for yourself who they are and determine for yourself if you think they are credible and worth your donation.

It is not an institution to trust: because each story is unique as is each reporter.


vanillagrrl said...

Thanks for your comment. You are right -- the video helps with that. But I also when browsing the print content found detailed cv's and also just a name and location, which made me say "Hm."

I think what I am having trouble with may be the contract rate for reporters: I'm worried the bar is too low in declaring what it will "cost" to cover a story.

I am guessing most reporters will put in a lot of for-the-love-of-it hours to get detailed and complete pictures of each of these issues.

If folks were paid what their services were truly worth, well, then we can talk about "replacing" the newspaper model. I do see how you have the potential to have your story picked up by other outlets, once it's written.

But it remains early in Web 2.0 world, and maybe Spot.Us is spot on. I truly do hope it flies. It's a great venture.