J.D. Lasica has a very interesting post here from a session at the Aspen Institute and San Francisco State University’s Roundtable on Mobile Media and Civic Engagement.
He poses the notion of a “posse” of collaborators who could use Twitter to send questions to a reporter who is covering a news event. It sounds like a great way to harness the crowd’s ideas and help the process be more interactive.
How many times have I, certainly, returned from a news conference only to say, “Damn! I wish I’d thought to ask that question!” (Not to mention how many times one or another of the photographers I had the privilege of working with asked the smartest questions of the day!)
I want to add another dimension to J.D.’s proposal, drawing on the UNLV J-school’s group blog last month. I played the nominal role of air traffic control while about 20 of my students swarmed the campus and the CNN Democratic candidate debate, armed mostly with cell phones and to a much lesser degree, with digital cameras, digital recorders and one or two laptops.
Our main form of communication that week was text messages. They’re virtually free, fast and quiet. And most of the students aren’t the least bit interested in slowing things down with a phone call or something as archaic as an email, which you may as well have to go out and pick up from the front lawn.
What we lacked, however, was a universal real-time touchstone, where everyone could simultaneously see what was going on. Most of the students don’t have broadband/web access on their cellphones, so they couldn’t see the blog, and they sometimes stepped on each other’s posts.
But with only their cell phones, they could get and contribute to a Twitter feed to the blog, and loop in Utterz, a moblogging tool that served us very well that week. The combination would be one more iteration of an Echo Web and one ginormous, open conversation.
This is again different than Steve Outing’s city desk idea (which it looks like NPR and the New York Times, probably among others, already are doing). It’s also not the same, although it does leverage on, the KPBS feed, which began as a 900-follower Southern California Wildfire alert before evolving to news, or the Orlando Sentinel’s Shuttle feed, which dates back to the summer, or one of he earliest Tweets that broke the Minneapolis bridge collapse story.
One more note before I stop dawdling and get back to grading. J.D., I fervently hope your concern over the reporter being a controlling conduit may be moot.
It seems to me that any news organization with the gumption to try this sort of thing would also be inclined to post the Twitter feed right next to the story, because the back story is an integral part of the story.
Cool transparency, no?