Sasquatch Media



Background: Journalists and scholars have been talking about the idea of journalism as a conversation for nearly 20 years. It stands in contrast to decades of traditional journalism as a lecture, in which the all-knowing journalist alone knows what is news and conducts a monologue with the public on such matters, or perhaps a dialogue with public officials and other elites. Citizens here are at best passive bystanders, though the prospect of journalists serving them in a democracy is a linchpin of this country’s First Amendment.

Public-journalism reform efforts of the 1990s started to advance conversation, though, and then the Internet swept away any resistance to change. Now pretty much any citizen with Internet access and a few Web tools can create and distribute news, collaborate with professional journalists in real time and select what news to follow, if any, from a dizzying array of choices.

The business and the academy were slow to pick up on this sea change but are now taking heed. The repercussions clearly are enormous for both. Curiously, little empirical work developed to help us understand what we mean by conversation and then how to apply it to our most treasured values, credibility and authority. Solid scholarship offers the best hope not only for informing how we teach journalists in the 21st century but how we do news.

My research sought to fill that research vacuum. While conversation is no panacea for industry woes these days –– is any one thing? –– I’d humbly suggest it is a critical component of any news initiative.

Sasquatch Foot ExaminedJournalism
as a Conversation

Doreen Marchionni has worked in newspapers for 17 years, most recently at The Seattle Times. She received her master’s in American Studies at Columbia University and a Ph.D. from The Missouri School of Journalism, concentrating on new-media practices and innovations. She completed her dissertation on “Journalism as a Conversation” in mid-May and is looking for ways to get her research out to newsrooms.

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