Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Sequel To My Class Presentation

After I presented in class the other day about the Spokesman Review's Transparent Newsroom (which I also blogged about last month) I came across a blog post from Mark S. Luckie's 10,000 Words which tackles the subject of opening the newsroom to the public. Luckie honed in more specifically on news meetings rather than the S-R's more broad attempt through blogging in addition to broadcasting its news meetings over the web.

The post attests to the exact dilemma as discussed in class: what is the value of doing this? He suggested the same point that I made during class that the value lies in reducing the misconception that we the media are the bad guys. He writes:

We all know there are conspiracy theories abound that reckon "the media" has this agenda or that slant or is trying to sway the public in way or another. In reality, most of us are just nice guys trying to perform a service to the global community. Its sad to say, but a great deal of the public doesn't recognize that.

Luckie's solution to the problem is making meetings open to the public. Clearly this has the potential to cause some problems as he is quick to point out that this is not the answer for every newsroom noting, it could "create more trouble rather than lessen it."

Regardless, the idea here is it's at least something to explore.

Professor Kennedy brought up the valid point in class that opening meetings to the public could present some sticky situations should a sensitive story break. Let's say there's a tip that a governor is involved in a prostitution ring (Oh, wait...that already happened!) But you get my drift. Sensitive information on a story can't always be revealed to the public if journalists are to do their jobs correctly. What if the allegations in a potential story are wrong?

So it's clear that there is some discretion that needs to be taken. Journalists will need to feel out what is for the public's viewing. The danger lies in overcompensating and creating a stiff environment that looks staged. With a few minor adjustments suggested by Luckie (i.e. "tucking in those shirts and cutting down on the in-jokes and swearing") keeping it relaxed and natural can be productive for both the public and the newsroom.

Experimenting is a good way to find out and as noted earlier by Luckie (it deserves repeating), this isn't for every media outlet but it's time to admit that the newsroom is changing.

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