We Still Have a Long Way to Go #newsfoo

Today I got back from a trip to Phoenix for NewsFoo and Kansas City where I spoke at the Midwest AP bureau meeting.

Some Background

If you don’t know what FOOCamp is then you won’t know what NewsFOO was. But the short explanation is this: FOO stands for “Friends of O’reilly” who is a technology media and events publisher. Mr. O’reilly is a bit of a Willy Wonka figure to me and always has been. Instead of selling chocolate bars he sells books. But the snozberries taste just like snozberries. And that’s what makes FooCamp’s different.

It starts with the small things. Your name tag doesn’t have an affiliation. But that leads to bigger things – you don’t spend the whole conference pitching or being pitched. Instead you generally assume whoever you are talking with is a badass in their own respective fields. The conversations turn to more abstract topics. My favorite FooCamp session was about whether technology companies need philosophers. Get the picture?

I told Tim that was my favorite session at this summer’s FooCamp where I was also honored to attend. And he signed up to do a session on it at NewsFoo. More on that session in a bit.

My favorite discussions at this event was one on journalism ethics another on WikiLeaks and another that tried to argue to a “lazy” reader that they should in fact read the news every day (this session was great because all assumptions were challenged).

Many conferences deal with panels, business models and posturing. Those are absent from NewsFoo. But I do have regrets – that I didn’t speak up more.

What I wish I would have said.

If I were to have suggested a session (and this didn’t hit me until the ride home) it would have been “let’s assume there is NO business model” and I would have begun the discussion with my thought experiment that there is no new revenue stream to be had in journalism. So much of our conversation in journalism is centered around this idea of business I always find it interesting when we have a conversation that assumes the business/industry of journalism isn’t possible. I’m not saying we should give up, merely suggesting that when we challenge this assumption we think out of the box.

If I were to have suggested an Ignite (which came to me the day after the Ignite talks happened)  it would have been on my interest in generational theory. While I only have three public posts about generations – it is a fascination of mine and I think always will be. An ignite talk would at least light a fire under my butt to do more research and organize those thoughts.

If I were to have picked a fight

The ethics conversation was great. No joke – that session alone charged me up till the end of the year. I got in a back-and-forth with Chris Tolles from Topix. While we passionately disagreed, it was a good conversation and I thanked him for it later. Disagreement doesn’t equate to a lack of respect.

But at the philosophy conversation lead by Tim O’reilly I do have to admit disappointment with some of the things that were said and the direction of the conversation. Here is a gathering of people hand chosen for their relationship to the FUTURE of journalism or the intersection of media and technology. When we began discussing what role philosophy should play in this many people began defending old traditions instead of applying critical thinking to new situations. Andrew Chavez pointed out this article on the need for a “philosophy of journalism” which I loved. But this article ignores the reality of the web. Which only says to me that we need a philosophy of journalism even more.

I know we have mission statements and goals. I know there are values, even ethics. But most of these are informed by the modern journalism industry and considering the situation that industry is in, journalists need to question assumptions and dig a little deeper. We still have a long way to go. Journalism has a history well before the modern day printing press and it will have a longer future. So does human civilization. But all of human civilization is undergoing change. They don’t call it the information “revolution” for nothing. In light of that – I wish the conversation had been less about the traditions that journalists need to protect and more about questioning them and trying to determine what scenario’s or situations we could face in the coming decades.

Okay, one session left me a little frustrated. I definitely don’t want to sound like I didn’t have a good time. To the contrary – I don’t think I could have had a better time. In fact, that a one-hour conference session left me this frustrated is proof positive. Not to mention it was just good to catch up with people. I consider many of the NewsFoo attendees friends and I mean that in the truest sense. I also got to meet some new folk which is always great. Finally I got some selfish value out of my experience as some new ideas formed and future features/designs for Spot.Us are in the works.

Another post on NewsFoo from Dangerously Awesome.

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