Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Sipping At The Firehose: A Conversation At Town Hall

by Matt Rosenberg December 10th, 2010

We don’t lack for public information to feed our civic instincts, but there’s too much coming at us. How can you tell what’s true, what’s useful, and what’s not? Gatekeepers and barriers to entry in publishing, reporting and opinionizing have been dead or dying since, oh, I’ll say, 2004. And that’s a hugely positive, democratizing development. It was fueled at first by the rise of free blogging software, then online new media with journalistic street cred, then grassroots online news operations winning more followers hourly. Add in Wikipedia, YouTube and podcasts, social media, social bookmarking, new online communities focused on storytelling, social media aggregation, hyper-local civic deliberation, and more. Sprinkle with more and better mapping and data tools, social search and open source, and OMG, soon there’s a multi-hued, firehose-force information stream pointed at your cerebrum.

At Town Hall in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood Dec. 16, learn more from two eminently credentialed gentlemen named Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach. They’ve written a new book about how to sort through it all and add value to the civic space. It’s titled “Blur: How to Know What’s True In The Age Of Information Overload.” (Ticket and event info.)

Rosenstiel and Kovach suggest six key questions to ask when processing news.

  • What kind of content am I encountering?
  • Is the information complete? If not, what’s missing?
  • Who or what are the sources and why should I believe them?
  • What evidence is presented and how was it tested or vetted?
  • What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?
  • Am I learning what I need?
  • Objective sources and spin-free facts are especially important in coverage of public policy. They provide a foundation for opinion and dialog that gets warped fast without them. That’s one reason for the Public Data Ferret project I founded earlier this year.

    Disclosure moment: Journalism That Matters-Pacific Northwest – on whose News Collaboratory stewards council I sit – is a co-sponsor of the event and the moderator Michael Fancher, former Executive Editor of the Seattle Times, is a friend, colleague, and advisor on a new non-profit I’ve formed called Public Eye Northwest.

    It should be an illuminating conversation. Hope to see you there.

    3 Responses to “Sipping At The Firehose: A Conversation At Town Hall”

    1. Bob Yoder says:

      Thx for the NEWS. Hope to see you there! Bob

    2. Ya betcha, Bob. I hope you can be there, and report on it for your fine Redmond neighborhood blog!

    3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Emily Keller, Corey Murata. Corey Murata said: A great follow-up to the #mcdm #opensecrets forum: Sipping At The Firehose: A Conversation At Town Hall http://j.mp/eMvQEs [...]