TWO days after the Rocky Mountain News published its final edition, with rumors permeating the Twitterverse about which newspaper would be next to fall, dozens of journalists gathered to imagine the future of journalism. Jeff Vander Clute summed up one of the themes that came up at last week's Journalism That Matters conference with this ditty:
"... Life plays the A side over and over
It's time for the B side, time for the 'we' side
We can start a new chapter today
We can turn our voices into change ..."
The takeaway? Journalism is entrepreneurial.
The two main questions at the conference were what elements of journalism are essential, and what elements we are ready to shed. Among those considered essential were traditional journalism values such as transparency, accuracy and truth-seeking. Journalists in the room were ready to shed the legacy model -- working for monolithic institutions based on print or broadcast.
These ideas dovetailed with the conference's goals: Figure out the new roles for journalists and the industry and then launch projects that will help promote journalism that matters in the next iteration of the industry.
Throughout the conference, people used Twitter to share what they were discussing. As he was heading to Poynter, Mark Briggs, CEO of Serra Media and author of Journalism 2.0, tweeted what he wanted to accomplish here:
markbriggs: My best possible outcome for #jtmpoynter: develop a Code of Innovation to guide new-era news orgs. Then build one. http://is.gd/llOf
Participants such as Briggs, who left a traditional journalism job for a media startup, contributed to the conference's entrepreneurial spirit. They believe that independent journalists now have opportunities to fill the gaps left by traditional news organizations that may be pulling back in areas such as investigative journalism and community news.
jackiehai: #jtmpoynter The forms that succeed will present authentic voices, news as social capital, choices and freedom to explore.
Yet among all the fresh ideas, the journalists don't want to give up their values. Tom Honig, who describes himself in his Twitter profile as "a 35-year veteran of print who finally left journalism," shared one of those challenges:
bynxbo: Major issue has erupted at #jtmpoynter -- is there a place for objectivity (or fairness) in new media ecology?
Several journalists said they wonder if their news organizations are still too dependent on their old business models to create innovative journalism. Chris Peck, editor of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., responded that if they feel that way, they should strike out on their own.
Doing that takes an understanding of the tools available to deliver news online, and many of the attendees were hungry for that knowledge. For those folks, Django co-creator Jacob Kaplan-Moss and New York Times Interface Engineer Tyson Evans held a few "geek" sessions and hosted a live chat.
People who want to do journalism independently must deal with business and legal issues, not just technical challenges. David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project, described his initiative to help those people with legal issues such as branding, copyright and setting up a business. In a live chat, he also answered legal questions facing journalists online.
As the conference came to a close, University of Massachusetts student Jackie Hai challenged the participants in a tweet: "Journalists: it's time to be the phoenix." In a blog entry, videos and her tweets, she encouraged "creative destruction."
Everyone left Poynter thumbing through ideas in their notebooks, new links on their Delicious pages and memorable bursts of conversation in their Twitter accounts. Briggs ended the conference with this blog post:
"It's not a question of 'how do you save your newspaper?' ... But a piece of it can be solved if that reporter or his or her editor [focuses] on a form of journalism that is entrepreneurial ... And if it doesn't help save the institution, at least it will position the journalist to continue the important work beyond the life of that institution."
The conversation is continuing. Hai has prompted everyone with questions on Seesmic. If you missed the conference, you can check out photos, videos and tweets from the conference. In the comments below, share your ideas for how you'd like to be entrepreneurial, or answer the question, "What elements of journalism are essential, and what are we ready to shed?"