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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Citizen Jounalism – Berkeley Cybersalon at the Hillside Club

Posted by direwolff on June 19, 2005

Tonight I attended the first event tied to the Supernova conference happening this week here in SF. It was part of the Berkeley Cybersalon series held by Sylvia Paull (standing in the picture). This was a discussion about citizen journalism with Dan Gillmor (formerly on the tech beat for the SJ Mercury News and currently a very active blogger), Becky O'Malley (owner/Executive Editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet), and Peter Merholz (Editor of an East Bay journalism blog called The Beast Blog which can be found at www.beastblog.com (note: "eastbay" is pig latin for "beast", hence the name)).

Given that Tribe is exploring ideas around micro-local community publishing, thought this was a worthwhile event to attend. The event itself was held much like town hall meeting at the Hillside Club in Berkeley which harkens back to the days of small stage theatres where communty plays were put on. The discussion was lively and interesting points were made all around. I'll just mention a few here.

* It's tough to make money on community news sites, which is one of the major obstacles for them. As well, it's difficult to keep a community sense with so much comments spam taking over.

* The Berkeley Daily Planet has an annual burn rate of $500K on 20 people and is making a 25% profit. It has many readers who prefer the paper because of their inaccessibility to computers. They also have an online component but only use it to post letters to the editor and such. Exploring greater uses there but the money issue makes this challenging. Their reporters don't get paid much which has helped in running profitably on such a low burn rate.

* A reputation system is needed to somehow validate reader comments and participation in forum discussions. This is particularly important to avoid people making outright lies in their comments. Dan Gilmour felt that the eBay reputation system was better than the non-existing alternatives we have, though he did believe it was far from perfect for journalism purposes.

* Dan's new experiment which is visibile at www.bayosphere.com , is all about hyper local journalism and is using Palo Alto as a testing ground. The company was funded by Mitch Kapor (of Lotus 1-2-3 fame) and Omidyar Group. Nothing there will be foreign to Tribesters, but it's interesting to see others begin to explore what we've already known for some time.

* Blogging and Journalism needed some clarification in terms of the purpose behind what's being written (opinion versus hard news), but that was disparaged by the idea that some times bloggers just write for fun, some times they actually report news, so it's tough to draw the line on purpose.

* For the Beast Blog, even though it's a joint effort between several bloggers working together on blogging here, keeping submissions constant can be challenging.

All in all, this was a good session with interesting attendees who asked provocative questions. People from all sorts of backgrounds where in attendance including an anthropolgist, a librarian, a film producer, a movie sound designer, people involved in initiatives around identity online and new emerging standards, the founder of Rojo (who's also pushing the envelope in some of the areas of identity and group news sharing), and lots of other interesting folks.

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