Saturday, October 11, 2008

Learning to host the party

Here's a metaphor that ought to resonate with nearly everybody who reads this blog: Why albums used to matter. The 3:21 video comes by way of Robin Sloan at Snarkmarket, who found the key lesson to be the admonition that media should be "... figuring out where the party is at nowadays, and setting yourself to be the one who's over there hosting the party."

I immediately took issue with that (before watching the video) because it seemed to presume that success is defined as hosting the party – no matter where it is, or who's there. While that may be true for a movie company with no artistic pretensions, or a television producer looking only for the largest possible audience, it isn't a worthy destination for those trying to perform public service journalism.

Then I watched the video, which I'd suggest will be worth your time, too. We can profitably adopt the "get there and host the party" metaphor, too, with this caveat: we already know who we're trying to host (people who care about public and civic affairs) and how we plan to decorate the room (with the journalism of verification, with opportunities for co-creation and conversation, with social networking tools that can help build community cohesion).

Taken in that light, the admonition becomes an imperative. In much the same way we've talked here about abandoning the outmoded "gatekeeper model" of editing, this reminds us that these people are going to be out looking for a place to party independently of what we do. Our obligation is to ensure them a somewhat more enriching experience for those times they're not headed to the VIP room at the disco.

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