Jay Rosen — NewAssignment.Net

Posted on 14. Sep, 2007 by in Citizen Network, New Assignment, Social Networking

Introduction to NewAssignment.Net: In the Fall of 2005 Jay Rosen, author of PressThink and NYU journalism professor, began playing with the idea for an organization dedicated to experimenting in online journalism. The concept stemmed from his experiences blogging since 2003 and general curiosity about the open source software movement — how groups of people online can work together on a single project. With a Macarthur Foundation grant Rosen was able to see this idea to fruition with NewAssignment.Net. Although closer to an academic research project than a company, NewAssignment.Net works with media organizations that are willing to experiment in open platform journalism.

Main Goal: To spark innovation in open platform journalism. Journalism that is done by a network of people on the web using social media as a tool for investigations. This type of work is done in the open and often relies on a gift economy. “It’s such a new practice area, that it’s unrealistic to think that traditional news organizations would do this work, but if somebody else goes first they might follow. I don’t think that we’ll discover the answers or we’ll provide the solutions, but that others looking on and reviewing what we do will,” says Rosen.

Notable Achievements: Assignment Zero: A collaborative investigation into the trend of crowdsourcing with Wired Magazine. Assignment Zero relied on a network of volunteers to examine the different areas where open source practices and principles have spread, including citizen journalism itself. Upon completion Assignment Zero collected 80 interviews and nine feature stories.

OffTheBus.Net: A collaboration with the Huffington Post, OffThe Bus is Adding a new dimension to campaign coverage by relying on the angles and issues that are important to a network of citizen journalists. They don’t follow the campaign bus, it comes to them.

David Cohn, who was associate editor at Assignment Zero also runs NewAssignment.Net’s blog where he is “Director of Distributed Reporting.”

What surprised you the most?: “That there are enthusiastic people who want to participate in the projects, both citizens and media partners. We have had no problem getting people interested from either end,” says Rosen.

Biggest Practical Lesson/Mistake: When asking users to participate in a distributed reporting project you have to be extremely clear about what you are asking people to do. It must be clear how one can contribute, obvious how their piece fits into the larger picture and what the division of labor is. It is not a science, but an art that must be learned.

Money: NewAssignment.Net is an academic endeavor that is currently supported by grants, donations and collaborations with media partners.

Future Goals: To continue OffTheBus.Net’s coverage until the end of the 08′ election.

To repeat and capitalize on the lessons of Assignment Zero — but with a less obscure subject that is easier for people to grasp.

Devising a social network approach to beat reporting. The idea would be to equip reporters with Facebook-like social networking tools that would allow them to build a network of sources and friends that help them cover their beat.

NewAssignment.Net itself is a project with an eventual end date. A deadline hasn’t been set — but Rosen doesn’t see it lasting more than three years.

What do you hope to get from people attending this conference?

“More people working on the problem of distributed reporting so we can crack the case and new people to work with.”

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