In this age of smart phones, blogs, and social media, everyone has the potential to be a crusading citizen-journalist. But that doesn't mean journalism is easy or that anyone can do it.
Which brings us to the crux of Knight-Mozilla OpenNews's master plan: A "teaching hospital" model built on collaboration, whereby traditional journalists work with developers, technologies, civic hackers, and "data crunchers" to optimize technology, reach new audiences, and strengthen the journalism community as a whole.
It's a symbiotic approach. Traditional newsrooms have a lot to learn from cutting-edge technologists; conversely, "hacker journalists" need to learn the basics of journalism: How to approach sources, investigate leads, write in an effective manner, etc. It's a topic we've looked at before and now we'd like to revisit it, because Knight-Mozilla's plan is finally becoming operationalized.
Knight-Mozilla OpenNews recently put out a call for 2015 Knight-Mozilla fellows to join the New York Times, Mozilla OpenNews, and the Washington Post and become part of what they call "community platform collaboration."
These 10-month fellowships come on the heels of Mozilla's June proposal to create the open source community platform, which was awarded a $3.89 million grant by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
So what, exactly, is "community platform collaboration," and why is the Knight Foundation betting that it's the future of journalism?
The short answer is "content." Specifically, "user generated content." As previously noted, anyone with a smart phone and a camera can be a journalist, but that doesn't translate into high-quality, community-oriented journalism. This is where the community platform comes into play.
The platform will give citizen journalists the tools they need to create thoughtful contributions and build their "digital credibility." (Think of it as an eBay seller rating for journalists.) To accomplish this, Knight-Mozilla OpenNews plans to encourage discourse and communication on publisher sites, develop flexible plugins (tech-speak for types of sharing tools) for blogs and content management systems, and "maintain lines of communication with publishers and developers around the world so there’s an organized flow of ideas, requirements and software built outside our core group."
This is the next phase in Knight-Mozilla and Knight's vision: to give traditional outlets like the Times and the Washington Post access to the technical expertise that builds a more open and collaborative environment, while simultaneously equipping "citizen journalists" with the tools to create compelling and meaningful content.