On peer-to-peer journalism

Oops, not sure how so much time passed between updates, guess I've been busy with other things, like going to Berkeley for my "Journalism's New Life Forms" panel on Saturday. Rusty's got a great write-up over at Kuro5hin which you should check out. The panel was fun and interesting, but too short. Only an hour! Rusty and I could have talked for three hours at least about that stuff, but it was better than nothing.

I've got a lot of thoughts about how panels should work, now that I've participated in quite a few, and I was pleased that this one went off fairly well. I'll try to summarize in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, on the peer-to-peer/amateur journalism vibe: Matt Haughey's observed an increase in traffic accidents at the intersection near his house. This is the start of an interesting, and potentially important, local news story. With a little research, this could turn into a "real" article. Now either Matt could take it to the next level by making some phone calls and digging up some stats about accidents at the Masonic/Fell intersection, or a local reporter (who reads weblogs to keep up on what's happening, to get a sense of what's afoot in his/her community) could pick this up. A phone call to Matt, a few more well-placed calls, and this could (and should) be in the Chronicle. Why has the City apparently abandoned the street light upgrade? Has there really been an increase in accidents? Is the traffic signal less visible than it used to be? Is the City at fault? Are they potentially liable? If you take a look at the pictures Matt posted, you'll see this is a pretty serious issue. One car ended up on its side after the most recent crash.

This is a great example of how peer-to-peer journalism can work. Matt's observed something and he's alerting people to it, and alerting a wider audience than he would if he just made a phone call to City Hall. With more people having knowledge of the issue, the problem is more likely to be addressed. It's a lot harder for someone to sweep this under the rug. (I just love the political implications of P2PJ, don't you?) It's also a great example of how traditional journalists can use weblogs for research and story ideas. I think I'm going to use this as an example during my talk next week in DC (at the O'Reilly conference).