Opening-comments

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Opening comments at the Media Giraffe Project summmit

Excerpts of opening statements and panel comments at the MGP2006 summit, UMass-Amherst, June 28, 2006

Vin Crosbie, Corante Media Hub:

You guys right now are at the more important conference. Because right now we have bloggers, print people, broadcast, bloggers, pure play Internet. We have academia here. We have people from some companies we haven't even figured out what they do yet. But we're all in the news media. And we're not beholden at this conference to any one segment of the news industry's agenda. Not print, not broadcast, the whole bit. And that's a tremendous opportunity at this conference. I do about 10 conferences a year, Jeff's done as many or more as I do and I've never seen a more diverse and potentially greater opportunity than this conference right here. We have only three days to do it, because after three days the next James Bond movie wants this building back, this conference center. But it's a really important opportunity for us to make some progress in terms of what journalism is going to do in the future.

Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine blogger and CUNY professor:

I would like to suggest that we take a couple of pledges. The first is that I hope we don't have another damn conference about bloggers vs. journalists. (applause) Those days are over, or they ought to be. We're here. We gotta' figure out a new world. I would also hope that it is not about preserving the past. That it's not about complaining. That it's not not about seeing each other here as competition. That it's not about working apart as different groups. And it's not about any "us vs. any them." So what is it about? I hope that this conference can be about opportunities. If any group can come together and figure out the reality of this new world and what we can do with it, I hope it is this room. It's about success stories. Even though sometimes we are too darn soon for success stories. I was at the table where people are starting a business in a few weeks. There is no success there yet, but there will be. And the next thing is there is invention. There is creativity in this world of journalism which is what it needs. If our goal this night is to talk about how it will stay relevant, than it better be our job to make it relevant in this new world. So its about reality checks, its about cooperation and its about working together. So I hope that's where it's headed with this one because frankly I've been to too many conferences where it is the same old stuff of one going against the other. We've gone through four or five years of that now. Enough. There is a tremendous collection of brains in this room that can reinvent the future and it needs reinventing. Journalism needs reinvention in a world where there are so many new possibilities. So let's have at it.

Ellen Hume, UMass-Boston, during opening panel:

I may not fit what you are hoping for because I'm one of those people who doesn't thing journalism needs reinventing. It may need a new house. It needs new clothing, new pipes, it certainly needs new languages, but by God if it can't be about verified facts, that hold the powerful accountable, then truely we are going to waste three days. It can't just be about fun and games. (applause) And I want to steal a line from my colleague Gerry Villacres, from El Planeta, forgive me. Muchos gracias. He said he's worried about the media becoming a weapons of mass distraction. Truely, this is what my students have been taught -- that media are really music and film and fun and that's what in my cynical moment I was lead to predict in the Nieman Reports which is that somehow journalism will survive as a website for those who don't get the jokes on the Daily Show. So I have two questions I want to pose that I also challenge my students to think about. Who will pay for investigative journalism? Who will pay for it? They want to do it. But who will pay them? The second is, who will hold the government accountable? And I guess there is a third that follows from the first two. So if someone holds the government accountable, with real journalism, how will we know to believe it? Thank you.

Jay Rosen, PressThink blogger and New York University professor

To me this is an exciting time. Because we have a chance to in a sense do some things over. When the country was founded, all political wisdom at the time said that you couldn't have a republic extended over such a large territory as was proposed for the United States. And one of the replies to that objection was that in the United States, newspapers would circulate freely over roads and through the magic of canals and we would make the necessary improvements so that even though it was true that the legislators and representatives of the people couldn't gather easily, we could get around that objection by circulating news about what they were doing through what was called at that time an extended republic. And they added a few of them, an extra benefit of newspapers circulating and postal roads being built, was that what the people had to say to the government could also come back along the same lines. So that idea that we can extend the range self government because we have ways to inform us has been present since the beginning in the whole idea of the United States. So what's exciting about the current moment is that we kind of get to build that again so that it is really both ways, two ways. And that is different. The fact that the platform we are moving ourselves to now goes as easily horizontally, person to person, citizen to citzen as it does from Boston Globe to reader. And the fact that it is a sending device as well as a receiving device. These new facts about the underlying platform that journalism has to run on mean that we can change journalism for the better. NOw, having said that, I agree with everything that Marty and Ellen and Teresa said about preserving the verification of fact and the ability to challenge the government with discovered truth. I think the future of those arts and of that work is extremely important. But that future is never going to be secured without professionals who realize that their world has changed in some very fundamental ways and that things that they have always believed perhaps have to to be refounded. And the most exciting part about that (a) is can be done -- I think it can be done -- and that (b) I think there is going to be a lot more people involved in journalism and in the arts of informing people, than in the past and that's good."

John McManus of GradeTheNews.org, in a question:

I think that the problems of journalism that we're facing now are bigger than journalists can solve by themselves. And I want to agree with my colleague here from television. I think that we need to reach out for allies. I think in fact that the news organizations are often turning themselves into entertainment organs in order to try to embrace a public that is turning away from them, particularly a young public. So I would suggest that we launch initiatives to do two things. One has been mentioned and that is to encourage a movement toward civic engagement as a required part of the curriculum in every high school in the country. (applause) You need to be an informed citizen you need to be reading and consuming news or else you're going to be screwed as I think a lot of young people are now being, by the Bush administration. The second thing is that I think if people are going to be asked to do the hard work of reading about politics and they are going to support that kind of reporting then they need to be players and I think campaign finance reform is an essential part of voters being again part of the process and I think that redistricting of political districts is important as well. Both alienate and make it less rewarding for peole to do the work of being informed voters and they encourage apathy. And I think unless journalists embrace allies in the education sphere and political reform, they are not going to succeed just by reinventing the varioius media themselves. I think they've got to go broader than that.

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