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We Media 06

(sorry, a bit of a belated post I’m affraid)

On Wednesday and Thursday of last week I attended the We Media Conference 06, which was co-sponsored by Reuters and the BBC. The overall aim of the conference is to examine the intersection between mainstream media and so-called “citizen journalism” (another expression looking ready to banished to join it’s friend “Web2.0” in the sin bin of passé, over-egged terms).

I would much prefer just to think about We Media = all media that exists in the online horizon – which incorporates all the above + fringes.

Many have already posted their views of the event, and sadly I’m a little late with mine due to my trip to Poland. However, I agree with the most of the views of Suw Charman.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the conference was the missed opportunity the conference had to move the debate forward into new territory. The ingredients were all there, it was just about mixing them up in the right way to create the (read: my) desired outcome.

The very first panel discussion was about trust in the blogosphere and MSM, which included such resident experts around trust as Nihal Arthanayake (the DJ), David Brain (Edelman)… Who the feck are they in the world of trust?

The slightly disappointing conclusion of the panel seemed to be that you couldn’t always trust the blogosphere in the same way that you can “sit down, switch on the mainstream news and trust what you read/watched”. Hmmm, totally disagree on so many levels, not only because certainly I don’t always trust the MSM news I watch.

What I would have liked to have seen, but didn’t, was for the panel to have looked at the trust mechanisms both the public and the rest of the media can use to gauge (qualitatively) and measure (quantitively) trust on the blogosphere.

Further more, what mechanisms can be adopted from MSM, and what can be done to ensure trust mechanisms apply only within the domain expertise they are being applied to? A highly trusted video games blogger shouldn’t have their rating applied to any posts they might make on the future of George Bush’s neo-conservative foreign policy in a post-Iraq world, etc.

In other words, the first panel should really have removed the safety-nets, kicked the MSM exec’s off their perches and then set the goals and expectations of the conference far into the distance towards new, unexplored territory. Instead from the word go, a “safe and familiar” conclusion was established that ensured the hardest thing the MSM folk needed to swallow all day was the rather acidic concoction of raspberry and grapefruit juice from conference bar.

This disappointing formula continued for most of the sessions during the two days. Most of the sessions were potentially interesting and could have explored new ground if only some of the discussants had been genuine thought leaders in their field of expertise, and if the chairs had been bold enough to probe their safe and unchallenging view-points further.

Conversations on stage were occurring at a far too-high level for current thinking, and whilst there was much “lower-level” discussion around the tables and between the sessions, it was not the focus and the driver for debate.

As I put it on the backchannel (yes, I was well behaved): “It seemed like most of the day’s insights had come from the floor rather than from the stage”.

Outside the sessions, the conference was actually very interesting, thought provoking and enjoyable. About a third of the attendees were actually of similar mindset to myself – they too were disapointed with the agenda. However, it was quite interesting to mingle with the more traditional media people and challenge their views over certain issues (“interject disruptive thinking into the conversation”, or “kick the shit up” as I prefer to call it).

My only hope from the day was the less-informed, less-aware media people went away with their moderate and conventional conclusions challenged. The opposite happened, with my concern being that the lack of challenging thought simply re-affirmed their stale thinking as ‘current’.

I won’t be working for the BBC next year, and if I don’t continue to work for a media company, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be at next year’s conference (which is going to be held in Miami, Florida).

In fact, We Media 06 potentially draws a close of my public appearances within the online-media scene altogether. It’s disappointing as I feel there are masses I still want to contribute to the debate. And I always enjoy fucking with the safe assumptions of the mainstream media!

But now I will have to do so somewhat from the touch-lines, rather than on the playing field with the big-boys. But that’s part of moving on, and perhaps I’ll find new things to get stuck into instead…

Published in News Thoughts and Rants

One Comment

  1. Ben, The Media Center’s work is one long, continuous discussion/debate. You’re always welcome to “contribute to the debate” through us.

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