With the debut of New Assignment.net, the question naturally arises: what is "networked journalism," anyway?? Its one thing to speculate about it in the abstract, as I did the other day and as Jeff Jarvis and others have done in the past. But abstract speculation is just the beginning: real-life experiments seem to me to be the place where these terms will get defined.
In his introduction to New Assignment, Rosen asks for reader ideas about what would make a good debut story. This is the general description of what he's looking for:
* is under-covered, poorly covered or not covered at all by the major news media;
* lends itself to “distributed reporting,” where a bunch of people—dispersed but connected by the Net—could contribute knowledge in a manner that would be hard for a reporter or even two or three to duplicate;
* is a story of national, international or regional importance— newsworthy, in other words;
* is doable in about six weeks time
A few bloggers have responded publicly with their own ideas. One of the most referenced examples of networked journalism was this week's successful campaign by TPM Muckraker to uncover the anonymous Senator who blocked a bipartisan bill that would have established a a public, searchable database of all federal grants and contracts. You can see the network in action below the main article, as one by one, individual Senators are eliminated, until the culprit, Ted Stevens, was uncovered. In this case, the network accomplished in matter of days-- contacted every Senator or their spokesperson-- something that would have taken a regular reporter weeks, probably.
So thats one example of how networked journalism could work in practice. Andrew Cline over at Rhetorica.com has another idea for a networked journalism project:
Journalists should tell a different story about politics: the story of citizens' experience with policy and governance more than the story of politicians' political wrangling. I think this concept fits the four bullet points--especially the second. Distributed reporting would enable the network to uncover the most illustrative and contextually accurate citizen experiences of the stuff that really matters in politics.
To me, this is a vastly different proposal than the type of networked, I'm-a-cog-in-a-larger-investigation (this sounds more critical than I mean it too) ones that have floated around about earmarks, etc. There is a degree to which it sounds like Cline's proposal brings a little more of the "citizen" in citizen journalism back to the idea of networked journalism. Still, I have no idea how it would work. It seems to not fit very well with Rosen's bullet point number 2. But there's a "soul" there that I think is worth exploring further.
Anyone have an ideas?