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New Journalistic Workflow

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This post is a slightly modified/updated version of the post originally published on April 5, 2009:

Jay Rosen tweets:

New method: slow blogging at PressThink, daily mindcasting at Twitter, work room at FriendFeed. Example: post in gestation

This is how I understand that:

Step 1 is mindcasting on Twitter (often misunderstood for time-wasting lifecasting, e.g., this).

Step 2 is aggregation of a number of imported tweets and digestion of them on a platform like GooglePlus, Facebook or FriendFeed.

Step 3 is aggregation of several G+/FB/FF threads into a more coherent blog post.

The next step, Step 4, could potentially be to aggregate the ideas and knowledge from several blog posts and publish as an article in the traditional media outlets.

I can think of even Step 5 – aggregating a number of media articles into a book.

Traditional journalists would call only Step 4 and Step 5 ‘journalism’. New journalists would call all of these steps ‘journalism’.

Differences between traditional and new media, if looking at the process in this way?

1) all steps are transparent and visible to all (instead of privately jotted notes in a moleskin or post-it notes).

2) all steps involve other people who provide continuous feedback and provide additional sources, documents or expertise.

3) depending on the topic or personal proclivities, one can stop at any step, 1,2,3,4 or 5, and whatever is done so far is still journalism.

Web provides sufficient time, space and communication technologies to do it this way, while paper/radio/TV restrict how much one can be transparent, public, collaborative, responsive to feedback and what is deemed worthy of the word “journalism”. Half-baked articles cannot count in such an expensive and restricted system, but can – and can be very useful – in the new medium.

Also, these steps are platform-neutral:

Step 1 is easily done on Twitter, but other Twitter-like platforms can do the same thing. One can do the same even on places like Delicious, Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, Fark, Slashdot or Metafilter. Or even on a blog – this is what bloggers have been doing – quick links and one-liners many times a day – for years before any of those other platforms were invented. One can also do it on Facebook since it introduced the relevant functionalities. Also worth noting is that having this service on one’s mobile device allows for reporting from the scene, i.e., for “breaking news” as I defined here (see all the responses to that post aggregated – Step 2 – on FriendFeed).

Step 2 also can be done elsewhere, though FriendFeed was really suitable for it – aggregating and getting feedback. Google Plus seems to be the best for it now, though Facebook is fine as well. One’s blog is a perfectly good place for it, too.

Step 3 is usually done on a blog, but I can see how it can be done on any other platform that allows for longer pieces.

If one wants to go on to Step 4 or Step 5, one needs to pitch the work to a corporate media entity, probably all online in the future, and get an editorial approval as well as the services of a professional editor for spelling, punctuation, grammar and style. The editor, an expert on the process but not as expert as you are, not even close, on the topic of the piece, should not have a say on the content, but may choose to have it evaluated by other experts (‘peer-review’ of sorts) before accepting the piece.

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  1. 1. dubina 3:41 am 06/26/2012

    George Orwell (Why I Write, 1946):

    What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, nonindividual activities that this age forces on all of us.
    It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness. Let me give just one example of the cruder kind of difficulty that arises. My book about the Spanish civil war, Homage to Catalonia, is of course a frankly political book, but in the main it is written with a certain detachment and regard for form. I did try very hard in it to tell the whole truth without violating my literary instincts. But among other things it contains a long chapter, full of newspaper quotations and the like, defending the Trotskyists who were accused of plotting with Franco. Clearly such a chapter, which after a year or two would lose its interest for any ordinary reader, must ruin the book. A critic whom I respect read me a lecture about it. ‘Why did you put in all that stuff?’ he said. ‘You’ve turned what might have been a good book into journalism.’ What he said was true, but I could not have done otherwise. I happened to know, what very few people in England had been allowed to know, that innocent men were being falsely accused. If I had not been angry about that I should never have written the book.

    Link to this
  2. 2. dubina 4:18 am 06/26/2012

    Frontline: Digital Nation: Transcript

    RACHEL DRETZIN: Bauerlein quotes a 2007 NEA study that shows that while younger students’ reading skills are improving, as kids get older and ostensibly more wired, their reading deteriorates. And he claims that writing skills are suffering, too.

    MARK BAUERLEIN: When The Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed college professors about basic skills today as compared to 10 years ago, only 6 percent of them said that college students come into their classes very well prepared in writing. By a 2-to-1 margin they said basic skills are worse today than they were a decade ago.

    Prof. CLIFFORD NASS, Stanford University: You already hear professors and others talking about changes in the way kids write, so that instead of writing an essay, they write in paragraphs. They write a paragraph and they say, “Oh, now I’ll look at FaceBook for a while.” Or they write a paragraph and say, “Oh, a chance to play poker,” or to do all of these at once.

    So what we’re seeing is less of a notion of a big idea carried through and much more little bursts and snippets.

    RACHEL DRETZIN: The MIT students we met confirmed that constant interruptions have an effect on their writing.

    [on camera] Like, we’ve talked to professors, not necessarily here, but who say that students of your generation write in paragraphs. In other words, there isn’t this kind of connection between paragraphs. It’s like the paragraphs are kind of separate and-

    KAMO: Oh, I do that all the time! [laughter] My papers, my first draft, it’s always, like “All right, paragraph one, awesome. Two, awesome. Three, awesome. I don’t see the connection.” And in my head, well, I was probably thinking about something else during then or I wasn’t look at the big picture. It was short term, short term, short term. Let me write out an awesome paragraph and then go to the next one, my next idea.


    I often see signs of piecemeal thinking in piecemeal writing. Young people, our so-called “digital natives”, exhibit that tendency. When they are aware of that tendency, they put it down to distraction, and don’t care much, but the greater problem is that they are superficial thinkers, not often given to agglomerative hierarchical thinking in search of coherent meaning in depth.

    Go on to steps three, four and five? By all means, do, but first learn how to compose a coherent story from a variety of facts and opinions.

    Link to this
  3. 3. dubina 4:24 am 06/26/2012

    Joan Didion, (Why I Write, 1976)

    I had trouble graduating from Berkeley, not because of this inability to deal with ideas–I was majoring in English, and I could locate the house-and-garden imagery in “The Portrait of a Lady” as well as the next person, “imagery” being by definition the kind of specific that got my attention–but simply because I had neglected to take a course in Milton. For reasons which now sound baroque I needed a degree by the end of that summer, and the English department finally agreed, if I would come down from Sacramento every Friday and talk about the cosmology of “Paradise Lost,” to certify me proficient in Milton. I did this. Some Fridays I took the Greyhound bus, other Fridays I caught the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco on the last leg of its transcontinental trip. I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in “Paradise Lost,” the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote 10,000 words that summer, but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in the City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the Greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits into a grayed and obscurely sinister light. In short my attention was always on the periphery, on what I could see and taste and touch, on the butter, and the Greyhound bus. During those years I was traveling on what I knew to be a very shaky passport, forged papers: I knew that I was no legitimate resident in any world of ideas. I knew I couldn’t think. All I knew then was what I couldn’t do. All I knew was what I wasn’t, and it took me some years to discover what I was.

    Which was a writer.

    By which I mean not a “good” writer or a “bad” writer but simply a writer, a person whose most absorbed and passionate hours are spent arranging words on pieces of paper. Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?

    Link to this

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