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The future of journalism?

This Magazine Staff

“An experiment in open-source reporting” is how Jay Rosen refers to his web project NewAssignment.Net. Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU and a prominent media critic, is proposing a new kind of citizen journalism in which the audience works with journalists by providing story assignments and feedback, while the professional journalists “carry the project home.”

Central to the idea is that readers can donate to the assignment directly, although other funding arrangements will probably exist. Apparently, this is an idea with traction. Already Rosen has secured $10,000 each from the Sunlight Foundation (a web-based watchdog of Congress) and Craig Newmark (of Craigslist fame) to develop the project. With newspapers struggling to remain relevant, thus leaving increasing numbers of journalists out of work, both citizens and media professionals have interests in a project that can advance democracy through the Fourth Estate.

Rosen seems to envision contributions from “large groups of users” rather than single investors, but I wonder if such an idea could be vulnerable to appropriation by wealthy users who can afford to offer larger amounts of money to put journalists to work on stories that may not be as beneficial to democracy as those ideas coming from the bottom up.


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