Archive - Nov 2009
I spent about eight hours on the road driving down to Virginia yesterday. It was a grey day, with brief periods of rains along the way. For the first couple hours, I listened to the news. Then, I switched over to a book on tape. Kim had picked up More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin and On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I decided to listen to More Tales of the City. It provided an interesting soundtrack for driving across Pennsylvania and down through Virginia.
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing as I work on my own novel for National Novel Writing Month. What could I learn from More Tales of the City? There were moments of vivid descriptions, a good complex plot and very interesting characters. It was the characters that interested me most, especially those characters that have lived long difficult lives and were masters of reading people. I realize these characters were fictitious but they were very interesting.
The ability to really understand, to fully empathize with the people around you seems like one of those super powers concerned people might long for. Yet at the same time, it might be like Midas’ golden touch, and be a real curse, enough to drive a person mad.
It provides a very interesting contrast to Pickles, one of the heroes of my story who is perhaps tragically narcissistic. I’ve been asking friends to read sections of my novel and one friend, a psychotherapist from Australia did not like the character of Pickles. I tried to find out what she didn’t like about him, and it was this narcissistic characteristic that he had. I was relieved. It wasn’t that I failed to describe him very well. It was that, if anything, I captured his narcissism too well.
All of these thoughts mingled together during my drive to Virginia. At dinner my daughter and swapped stories of how our novels were coming along. She is well ahead of me at this point. I was hoping to get some good writing done last night, but was too tired after the drive. Perhaps I can churn out a few more words this morning before the festivities of the day begin.
The sound of heavy wind outside only adds to my desire to stay warm and comfortable under the bed covers. It is five in the morning and dark outside. Is the wind and rain are the remnant of Hurricane Ida? I’m not sure but it may make the ride a bit longer. All the more reason to get out of bed and get going.
This weekend is Junior Dad’s Weekend at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. Miranda, also known as @renegadegenius is a junior this year and wants to do the whole Junior Dad thing. Her older sister @MaireadCH is a senior at Mary Baldwin. She didn’t want to do the Junior Dad thing.
I can understand that. I never was one for a lot of ceremony and the Junior Dad events reek of college marketing infused with old southern ceremony. “Few events in a young woman’s life are more memorable than the day she receives her MBC class ring,“ the page starts off.
Events kick off this afternoon with a “VWIL Honor Ceremony”. VWILs are the members of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, “the nation’s premier leadership program for young women” and “the only all-female Corps of Cadets in the world”.
But @MaireadCH and @renegadegenius are not VWIL’s, they are PEGs. PEG is Mary Baldwin’s Program for the Exceptionally Gifted. Like many of their friends in classmates in the PEG Program at Mary Baldwin, @MaireadCH and @renegadegenius both started college at fourteen. It has been a very different sort of experience for both of them, but for both of them, a wonderful, rich and fulfilling experience.
I am not used to all this Dad stuff. I grew up in a family that was not particularly close knit, and only recently, as my father’s brother struggles through Alzheimer’s, have I reconnected with my father and his side of my family. At home, we’ve always tried to talk with our children as peers. They have important thoughts to share and should be part of much of the family decisions. We joke around, and they see me in all my warts, or at least all except a few that I might still manage to hide.
There are times that I feel my life has been hard. The failure of my first marriage was very hard on me. I’ve been very successful at times in my career financially. At other times the successes have been harder won and not financial, but perhaps even more meaningful.
Because of this, I have not been able to give my children everything I wish that I could, and each of them has missed out on things one way or another because of my own inadequacies. Yet each of them are turning out wonderfully.
@renegadegenius, now sixteen, is writing her third novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, or #NaNoWriMo. She self published her first two novels, Subtle Differences and The Silent Serian. I am a couple days behind in my writing, but @renegadegenius is all up to date.
Another struggle I have as a father is how best to praise my children. They are special and I am very proud of them. I don’t want their heads to swell and I don’t want to stimulate sibling rivalries so I am careful in heaping my praises on them. On the other hand, I don’t want them to go through life not knowing how much their father loves and admires them.
So, this weekend, I am driving down through the wind and the rain to celebrate but a portion of Miranda’s many successes. I will dress up and where nice clothes for the “My Precious Someone Champagne Brunch” and the “Junior Dads & Family Ball”. Yet all of this will fall short of giving her the due that she deserves.
Am I a proud dad? Oh yeah!
There were many interesting topics covered at the NewBizNews HyperCamp at City University of New York yesterday. Much of the focus was on business models for a new news ecosphere where online hyper local news sites played a key role. Some of the proposed financial models for new news organizations are available online. They can be tweaked and people can explore what might really make the model work in their areas.
I have concerns about the projections about advertising revenue and what felt like a general disconnect between what I hear at online advertising conferences and what I was hearing here. I was also concerned that their focus on hyperlocal news seemed to focus on communities with a population of at least 25,000. This leaves a town like Woodbridge out of the picture, unless it is bundled with several other towns.
Yet there is much more necessary for these new models to work and one of the most important is the ability of different news organizations to work together in better collaborative models. We need to move away from the current heated rhetoric where old media and new media heavily distrust each other.
Towards the end of the day, this issue was explored in a fascinating reverse panel, “Partnerships with Local Media”. During the panel, Jeff Jarvis took comments from hyperlocal journalists about how large news organizations could work better with hyperlocal journalism. The big issues were the need for a little more respect from the large news organizations, the willingness to share links, or at least attribute hyperlocal sites; in a nutshell, a little respect and willingness to collaborate.
During this session, Jay Rosen spoke about the need for better open source tools to facilitate online assignment desks. It seemed to relate back to his New Assignment project. I’ve always been interested in the New Assignment Project. I think Jay is doing some important work there. But I’ve also always felt a little uncomfortable with it. Many bloggers, especially those with a investigative journalistic bent, have a tendency of being fiercely independent. The idea of an assignment desk is an anathema to them. They want to pursue the stories that are of interest to them. Given that many are working completely as volunteers, assignments make even less sense.
So, is there a way to take NewAssignment, and transform it into something a little more in line with how bloggers think and work instead of how old school journalists and their professors think? It would seem as if crowd sourcing the whole project might make more sense.
People would submit ideas that they think should be covered. This could be as simple as a tip line. Others could submit projects that could be done to cover these tips. These projects might be similar to ‘assignments’, but I’m avoiding what I feel is a loaded term. These projects could then seek funding through a site like spot.us if the writer needed some sort of funding to do the project. Others might choose to do the project for free. News organizations, bloggers, and independent citizen journalists alike could look at projects and see which ones they were interested in, whether or not someone else was already working on the project. This leaves a certain amount of the editorial decisions in the hands of each site. A newspaper which trusts some bloggers but not others could decide which ones to link to and projects might be covered by a blogger whose work they are not interested in.
It may be that NewAssignment is heading in this direction, especially in terms of hyperlocal news coverage. I certainly hope so. What do you think? Can decisions about what stories or events, and how to cover them be crowd sourced with an open collaborative coverage system? What else would be necessary to make such a system work better for all the players in a new news ecosphere?
I'm at NewBizNews HyperCamp. We will be using the hash tag #NewBiz.
So, expect a lot of traffic here. In addition, if I can juggle it, I'll also have a Google Wave with some of the same information search on 'with:public tag:newbiz' If you're on Google Wave, join us there.