Transparency

An idea I’ve experimented with a lot is web casting at a newspaper. There’s blogs and all sorts of different ways to demystify the process and humanize us as newsgatherers. These guys beat me to the punch, I guess. What do you all think? Yes, the audience is, no doubt, small but it is a good-faith effort on the part of the newspaper to open itself up. Plus, with podcasting and live blogging and what not it’s clear that people want immediate information.

An aside (and shameless plug), check me out tonight as I try some live coverage of the hockey game. Because our blogs aren’t yet up it won’t quite be live but period by period.

11 Comments

  1. Chris

    That certainly was a shameless plug :-)

  2. Clint

    Very nice coverage so far, Ryan. Though it’s not quite live, it’s an interesting approach.

  3. Denise

    I’m a bit slow on the uptake so I’ll just ask, is it watching meetings at the newspaper?

  4. Yes, Clint, live just sounds so much cooler. And until we get the blogs up (shamless plug No. 2: the second week in July) this is what we can do.

    Denise, yes, the Spokane paper is broadcasting their budget meetings (when they figure out what’s in the paper the next day). It’s a great initiative to improve transparency and give readers an inside look into what goes on in the paper. We’ll be (gosh, I can’t stop the plugging) doing a similar Web cam operation starting sometime next month.

  5. Ted

    Ryan,

    I thinkmy concerns about web casting budget meetings are similar to those some raise about making public records easily available over the internet: It should be available, but not so easy to get at.

    Letting the public in to watch the meeting is one thing; people are able to tell whether or not there is outside surveilance, and not many people are willing to go the trouble necessary to get to a meeting.

    I think that sometimes it’s necessay to have frank communications that we couldn’t print, either because of strong language or because of the debate of unsubstantiated possible scenarios and personal opinions. If we wouldn’t print it, we probably wouldn’t say it in front of the general public either.

    I think that our raw communication can be reined in a little from time to time without too much worry, as happens when we have visitors in person. But I think that the need to constantly maintain a publicly palatable demeanor during meetings could drive the real decision making process at newspapers out of the budget meeting an into private, individual conversations where, honest, frank, coarse and speculative conversation can take place out of the public limelight.

    If such a shift were to occur, a paper would be faced with twin perils. On one hand, staff would feel bewildered, angry and a variety of other negative emotions if decisions were made in which they have no or little part, but which were supposed to have been made with that input. On the other hand, the meetings the public watches will be something like some town council meetings–the decisions are made elsewhere, but here we go in to put on a little scripted show anyway–a sham.

    But that’s just my ignorant opinion. Also, I think that while I’m O.K. with transparency, you embrace it pretty enthusastically.

    Sincerely,

    Ted

    p.s. This isn’t my clearest writing, for which I appologize, but I’m feeling too tired to go make it any prettier than it is.

  6. Kavita

    I 100 percent agree with Ted. Couldn’t have said it better.

  7. Not the clearest, no, but your point comes through and you bring up some great points about the downsides to excessive transparency. That said, we expect the people we cover to adhere to a sort of public behavior – if they swore in meetings we may or may not think less of them and it would be our call on whether to quote them – so why would we shy away from that same standard. It might be a little different, yes, but I think the benefits of added transparency and increased public buy-in would outweigh those concerns. I don’t know these are interesting questions. You might just have a sort-of “fly on the wall” camera set up that gives you a look in but that allows people a greater degree of privacy than a record-all, see-all setup would provide. I don’t know and I don’t think many people do. It’s a new part of our industry that we’ll have to figure out. I know that transparency is a good thing and if the juice is worth the squeeze and the public is going to benefit, why not?

  8. An update of sorts: What do you all think of this sort of transparency effort? — http://www.postregister.com/ethics/polestars.php

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