Real intelligence

Over at Mandag Morgen we soft-launched our new blog Etterretninger today. Our original twist: We have had Etterretninger (“intelligence”, as in military intelligence) as a regular feature in our printed weekly magazine since January 2004. Now we turn the process around: We publish the news items as we find them (mostly on the web), and pick the best ones to publish in the magazine. Hoping, of course, to reach some new potential readers, while participating in the Conversation. Have a look if you understand the language, or just have a look anyway!

Every second

A new blog is created every second, according to Technorati’s new blog growth analysis. The number of blogs tracked by Technorati has doubled in the last five months, to 14.2 Million. Dave Sifry promises more news from his lab – it would be interesting to get a more precise regional breakdown. Also, how US-centric is Technorati actually?

Golden opportunity (wasted?)

As noted here before, Norwegian journalists and editors have suggested some revisions of the press ethics guidelines. I made some positive sounds about the proposal that editors should be obliged to edit/control all posts in web discussion groups etc before they are published (I have some second thoughts, read on).

Reading about the next steps in the process – internal hearings in the journalist union – it struck me: Why doesn’t the press involve the public in this debate? When you think about it, it’s so glaringly obvious. Journalists are there for the benefit of society, the guardians of our beloved freedom of speech, essential to our democracy. But when the ethics guidelines are to be revised, nobody (?) thinks about asking readers, users, citizens – even though we now have the tools. The proposal about editing of discussion group posts (and blog comments) is the perfect illustration. In its proposal, the committee that has reviewed the guidelines write that “it is the opinion of the committee that editing before publishing is the only defensible principle” given the editor’s personal responsibility for everything published in her/his medium.

The principle is good, but maybe there are other ways. Over at Dagbladet Bente Kalsnes deserves credit for doing just what the press committee didn’t: consult the readers:

Increased reader participation and influence, democratization of the media, is part of the fascination with blogs. But on the other hand not all reader contributions are fit to be printed, such as harassment and racism. At we delete what unfitting comments from readers that we find, but it goes without saying that this is a time-consuming job that often feels meaningless. Therefore we are working on other solutions that can improve today’s system. But we would really appreciate tips from you!(my emphasis)

The ensuing avalanche of comments (86 as I write this) demonstrated the pitfalls and possibilities of user engagement: Some very interesting ideas, such as users rating each other, inspired by Slashdot and others, a lot of frustration with media arrogance, cries of censorship.

So what should the good committee of journalists have done? What about inviting the public into the discussion, through a blog or a wiki, then try out the principle of editing before publishing themselves – and then possibly discover that there might be better alternatives.

But it won’t happen, will it?