I am at the Carnegie-Knight Conference on the Future of Journalism hosted by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, & Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. This is my third conference in three weeks, and I think I have reached my limit on conferences. These three very different conferences, however, are excellent examples of the various approaches being studied (and in some instances, implemented) to ensure that good journalism survives the transition to new media.
The first was the Journalism that Matters (New Pamphleteers/New Reporters: Convening Entrepreneurs Who Combine Journalism, Democracy, Place and Blogs) conference at the University of Minnesota. This was a participatory affair full of independent journalists, placebloggers, and other citizen media types who are leading the charge of bringing quality journalism and conversation to their communities. The energy and enthusiasm at this "unconference" was palpable, and I came away quite invigorated -- and optimistic -- that journalism would thrive (and is thriving in some places) on the Internet.
The second was The Future of Civic Media conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This was a conference about ideas, chock full of fascinating presentations by both MIT researchers and Knight News Challenge winners. The focus was on technology and tools led by, in JD Lasica's words, the "real thought leaders who will be driving new media forward in the coming years." I also came away from this conference invigorated and inspired by the bright minds working in this area, especially their deep commitment to increasing community involvement and civic engagement.
Whereas the previous two conferences were largely made up of non-traditional journalists, today's conference is largely focused on professional journalists and traditional news organizations. It seems to be entirely a panel-driven conference (see the agenda here) with presentations from some of the best journalism schools in the country, including the University of California at Berkeley, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Arizona State University, Northwestern, Syracuse University, and the University of Missouri.
Now don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against panels (I am looking forward to getting some work done from the back of the room where I found the lone electrical outlet), but in my experience the best insights come from the discussions that follow, or augment, the presentations and panels. For example, one attendee asked this morning's panel on Working Journalists and the Changing News Environment whether news organizations should start charging a penny or two to everyone who links to newspaper content. Aside from the complete lack of any legal justification for such a licensing scheme (see the CMLP legal guide's discussion of linking), the idea is preposterous and ignores the essential structure of the link architecture of the web. This should have sparked vigorous discussion of how the Internet has fundamentally changed the creation and distribution of news, but it didn't. I am hoping that this important discussion will happen over the next day and a half.