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Jay Rosen's "Distributed Journalism"

NYU professor and new-media sage Jay Rosen tells me that he's launching a new website that allows anyone to cover the news in conjunction with professional journalists. It's a pro-am thing. It's a bit like Wikipedia-meets-Woodward-and-Bernstein. Rosen calls it "distributed journalism." For starters the site is called

"We're trying to demonstrate the viability of lots of people working on a story together," Rosen told me last night. "We don't have a business model. This is a nonprofit pilot project at NYU."

[Already I'm thinking: What's in this for me? How could this possibly be good for those of us in corporate media? And then I realize the answer: Another way to get other people to do my work for me! I provide the overarching theme, they do all the reporting. For free!!! Actually they can do the overarching theme, too, and I'll just provide the occasional pithy turn of phrase -- the "zingers."]

Rosen's enterprise is in conjunction with Wired.comand NewAssignment.Net, an NYU pilot project. Here's an excerpt of a letter he's working on that will run at Wired (possibly with edits):

"Welcome to Assignment Zero. It's pro-am journalism in the open style made possible by the Web. This is a collboration among NewAssignment.Net, Wired, and those who choose to participate.

"I hope you will. Because we're trying to figure something out here. Can large groups of widely scattered people, working together voluntarily on the Net, report on something happening in their world right now, and by dividing the work wisely tell the story more completely, while hitting high standards in truth, accuracy and free expression?

"If they can this would matter.

"It's called Assignment Zero because we needed to jump start our site somehow, and this project with Wired turned out to be it. We're trying to create a pro-am, open-platform reporting tool that we can improve and modify later, for use in bigger, more sprawling and difficult stories down the road. Maybe about the enviornment. Or the schools. Or--who knows?-- the war."

I asked him: What's to prevent this from becoming a platform for blowhards?

A: "Your average blowhard would probably be bored with what we do. There's not enough vitriol. We're hoping. We don't know what kind of participation we're going to get."

What about Bad Information?

That's a concern, he said, but there will be a Director of Verification (now that's a job title I'd like).

All of this will become clearer as the thing develops. Rosen was kind enough to share this idea with me as it launches, even though he knows that I am by every measure the most Neanderthal -- nay, the most australopithecine -- of bloggers.

[Rosen is one of the few people who understands both Blogworld and traditional media, and his blog, PressThink, camps out at the intersection of the two. He says, "It's my one-person magazine of press criticism, and it's about the passage of traditional press to the new world of the Net." What I like about Press Think is that his blogroll is not just a list of blogs, but actually provides context about why each blog might be worth reading.]

[You know our kit-and-kaboodle system on the A-blog would fit into the "distributed journalism" paradigm if it weren't for the fact that the boodlers ignore what I write and so rarely drift on-topic that the doing so is viewed as a stunt, like riding a bike on a high wire and/or eating a beer bottle.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  March 13, 2007; 6:35 PM ET
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