More insight into participatory journalism

More insight into participatory journalism.
Rebecca MacKinnon’s “The Worldwide Conversation” is an excellent primer on Weblogs and blogging, but what I like most about the paper is her own experiences with participatory journalism. A former CNN correspondent, Ms. MacKinnon runs NKZone.com, a group Weblog about North Korea. In one section of the paper, she tells of a failed attempt to gain access to the country as a blogger and how she was able to provide all the details on NKZone.com.

If I had made my query to Mr. Cao de Benos as a journalist from a conventional news organization, my traditional-media audience would never have known about my attempt to get into North Korea. Audiences of conventional news media hear only about our successes — not our failures. As a consequence, audiences generally are not aware of the effort required for journalists to cover certain kinds of stories. Nor are they aware of the myriad obstacles journalists and news organizations face when it comes to gathering basic first-hand facts about certain countries.

With a Weblog, it was easy for me to share my correspondence with Mr. Cao de Benos, including my reply in which I invited him to supply his information and analysis on North Korea, which I would be happy to reproduce, uncut and unedited, on North Korea zone. Visitors to the site not only reacted to this post with a lively series of comments; one commentor brought our attention to something I was not aware of: a link to a segment of streaming video on a pro-North Korea Web site in which Mr. Cao de Benos proclaims his love for North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il (and at one point even sings about it). This provoked more reactions and discussion. More importantly, the whole exchange provided insight into the nature of the North Korean régime and the people who support it, and North Korea zone’s community was able to experience and participate in the process of discovery. Due to standard news reporting habits and conventions, limited column space or broadcast time, plus a general lack of audience interactivity, conventional news media generally do not let their audiences in on the newsgathering process or enable their audience to participate in this process of discovery to the same degree.

Ms. MacKinnon needs to write a book, because these are the kinds of experiences that need to be shared for others to see the value of participatory journalism.

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