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Monday, July 30, 2007

NowPublic Now Really Rolling

Vancouver-based NowPublic, a "crowdsourced" news site, got ink today for closing a hefty round of funding. Among other things, this is a healthy rebound morale-wise for the so-called "citizen journalism" sector (not that NowPublic wants to call itself that, but others have to have a name for the sector) in the wake of BackFence suspending operations.

Good summary here at Searchviews.

As some of us were musing about the future of media over the past couple of years, Tippett and co. were actually doing something about it. The reason the trend will succeed in a general sense is in keeping with many of the trends we're seeing: old media can't and won't show us everything. Admittedly, some of what we want to see (uncovered parts of golf tournaments; concerts; odd angles and candid shots of famous people) might have a certain illegal "bootleg" or intrusive/trivial "paparazzi" quality to it, but the point is, it's a trend that's tough to hold back. What we're seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg.

So as usual ZDNet's Donna Bogatin (cited in the Searchviews piece) is on the wrong side of an issue! Most of what's on NowPublic, she says, is pretty much just me-too reactions by bloggers to events already covered by major news organizations. Hmm. That's certainly not what we'd want to see, granted, but it's the huge potential that seems to have investors and media players so interested/worried.

Harkening back to some media studies I remember: the big problem with television news was always this notion that what "existed" in the world was only what they chose to show. The media "searchlight" only shone on a few events, and the rest was darkness. In contrast to everything that's going on, that was in reality more like a pinprick of light.

And then we woke up one day, and boy did that seem lame when there are a billion camera phones.

Surprisingly, the advent of 24-hour cable news did very little to improve on that situation. Drawn-out rehashes of the same stories *still* leaves most of the news unexamined and most of the images unshown.

The power of the photojournalist has been plain since Eddie Adams' famous photo from the Vietnam war resonated back in America in 1968 (shown below).


Is it more or less likely that such imagery will come to light if hundreds of thousands of "pro-am" photojournalists are involved in "global blanket coverage"? More likely, of course. It even distributes the risk. If there are a million "journalists," good luck kidnapping a few "key journalists" if you're one of the thugs of the world.

NowPublic is aiming high - as it should. And it's interesting to note that this could be compatible with what traditional media offer - or at least with their wish to improve. No one can watch all that stuff, so there still needs to be an interplay between a massive supply of news, editorial judgment, and variegated demand.

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