I was at the Headstar edemocracy conference on Tuesday (link here) which was as ever a really good programme.  The keynote speaker was the head of News from the BBC (Helen Boaden) and she gave an excellent presentation – not the least because she made excellent use of the AV and put up images and clips to support her points rather than loads of words and then reading them back to us.  Mental note to make sure I start making more of an effort with powerpoint…

Anyway, her session was about the role of the citizen journalist and there were a couple of things that struck me that I wanted to note:

  • Firstly the fact that the idea of a citizen journalist I think needs teasing out.  There is an inherant tenson between the role of a citizen, which is to participate in the democracy, and the role of a journalist which is to observe and report.  I think media organisations need to be careful how they use these kinds of terms because the two purposes are at odds.
  • Helen also talked about how the news ‘market’ is getting more and more fragmented and that there is no longer the kind of shared viewing experience that used to exist.  I wondered whether this can be linked to drops in general participation as news becomes less mainstream and more of niche where you go to consume the type of news that you like.  Democracy thrives on debate and in a world where you seek out only the information that you are intersted in you are not feeding it.
  • She use the 7th July bombings and the huge effect that these had on the general acceptance of user generated content by the public.  Looking at that footage I have to ask how much of it was reporting and how much was morbid voyerism.  But thats a whole other post in its own right….

I went to some other excellent sessions as well – and chaired a panel with a pair of interesting presentations from Redbridge (who have launched a new web 2.0 site) and a researcher from Manchester called Paul Hepburn who is looking at ways in which sites connect up and link on specific campaigns.  He had some excellent visulisation software and it was fascintactig to see the web of the www really illustrated.

There was a panel with a number of MPs at the end of the session and I have to say this was very disappointing.  No real innovation and a lot of complacency all round.

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