This week I’ve been thinking about a media myth that needs to die. It goes something like this: "It’s all fine and well for bloggers to do whatever they do, but who is going to sit through city council meetings? Journalists, that’s who.“ This reveals a useless and destructive dualism that keeps journalism from adapting as quickly as it must. It may also be incurable (see Jay Rosen on the enduring power of bloggers vs journalists). I’m going to try anyway.
While it is true that many fine journalists in this city cover city council and the legislature and school boards and other democratic institutions, it is simply not true that only paid journalists do it. Proof? Here:
– The Charrette is an insightful, entertaining blog about urban planning and design in Edmonton. Mike Otto and Scott Lilwall spend a lot of time paying attention to what goes on at City Hall. They often go as deep as or deeper than mainstream media have time or space to do. Take, for example, this post on the rejected proposals for the Edmonton City Centre Airport redevelopment, as well as previous reviews of the proposals, collected here. This is a serious contribution to the discussion that often involves original reporting.
– Speaking of the airport redevelopment, Mack Male offered an interesting peek behind the scenes of that odd May 18 announcement. His post is not written the way a reporter would write it. Doesn’t matter. The point is, he attended the event, dug up information and provided insight. And he did this for free, in his spare time. Does this diminish what the paid journalists have done on that story? No. It just shows that the value proposition of mainstream journalism cannot be "Only we will do this.”
– Which reminds me, that evening, Mayor Stephen Mandel announced the city would put money towards the Katz Group’s downtown arena. The #yegarena tag on Twitter came alive that with details, links to documents and commentary. Pro journalists covered it too, making a “herculean effort,” as Gary Lamphier put it, to file on tough deadlines, but they were not the only ones. And Edmonton is a more informed place as a result of the richness of the coverage.
I could go on. But I’ll stop to make sure I’m being clear. I’m not saying everything will be fine if mainstream media die since the amateurs will pick up the slack. Democracy needs journalism, and it makes sense to me that some people specialize in it and are paid to do it. (The business model still needs work. Here are some good ideas from Steve Buttry.) Others now have the means to do journalism too, and that’s a good thing. Next step is to find more and better ways to collaborate: do what you do best and link to the rest, and all that.
OK, that was more rant than roundup. Some short snappers:
– Walter Schwabe at fusedlogic did an interview with Kasia Gawlak about the dispute between organizers of the Edmonton Slut Walk and the city over whether they ought to pay $2,000 to cover road closures and policing during the June 4 event.
– The new Alberta Party had a lot of new media coverage during its leadership convention over the weekend. David Climenhaga (with a followup here) and Mack Male covered various parts of it, as did party members themselves, notably Dave Cournoyer. The banter continued into Sunday night on Twitter (hashtag #abpleader). The best thing to come out of it was, of course, this.
– One of Edmonton’s most dedicated documentarians of citizen engagement is Paula Kirman, aka @livingsanctuary on Twitter, raise my voice on Flickr. Her photostream will be very valuable to archivists someday (providing we find ways to keep all these pixels around).