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News Innovation and the Negotiation of Participation
Unformatted Document Text:  News Innovation and the Negotiation of Participation 13 Some had point-by-point business plans and ambitious revenue targets, while other applicants acknowledged the experimental (even vague) nature of their project and the likelihood that it might fail—yet they emphasized that failure could lead to important learning, for them and others. At the same time, however, there were similarities that appeared across virtually all the proposals. They were united in their effusive optimism for journalism in the digital age, and in their slightly inflated expectations for what they might accomplish. There was a striking degree of sameness in the way these proposals discussed the roles that professional journalists and amateur audiences would have to play in their projects. While it’s true that some projects did not address the professional–participatory nexus by virtue of their topical focus, 10 nearly all proposals touched on opportunities for collaboration and engagement with audiences. Analyzing those particular passages, I found that, in the main, winners articulated participation in three ways: (1) They embraced the notion of citizens participating in the news process, as a given; (2) they envisioned a symbiotic relationship between professional journalists and citizen collaborators; and (3) they saw that giving up control over content not only could be good for audience engagement, but indeed could be good for journalism. That is, yielding control could improve journalism by leveraging citizen participation to (a) complement professional work as a whole and (b) compensate for the gaps in professional coverage that have been made apparent in a digital media environment where a networked crowd                                                                                                                 10 There were several projects that, as proposed, would have little to no contact with “citizens,” such as in the case of the 2009 winner CMS Upload Utility, a $15,000 plan to help smaller newspapers develop a “Web first” workflow through an easy-to-use desktop application. But, even in this case, there was an emphasis on end-user innovation and iterative development as the result of participation on the part of software users (newspaper journalists).

Authors: Lewis, Seth.
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News Innovation and the Negotiation of Participation 13 
 
Some had point-by-point business plans and ambitious revenue targets, while other 
applicants acknowledged the experimental (even vague) nature of their project and the 
likelihood that it might fail—yet they emphasized that failure could lead to important 
learning, for them and others. At the same time, however, there were similarities that 
appeared across virtually all the proposals. They were united in their effusive optimism 
for journalism in the digital age, and in their slightly inflated expectations for what they 
might accomplish. 
There was a striking degree of sameness in the way these proposals discussed the 
roles that professional journalists and amateur audiences would have to play in their 
projects. While it’s true that some projects did not address the professional–participatory 
nexus by virtue of their topical focus,
10
 nearly all proposals touched on opportunities for 
collaboration and engagement with audiences. Analyzing those particular passages, I 
found that, in the main, winners articulated participation in three ways: (1) They 
embraced the notion of citizens participating in the news process, as a given; (2) they 
envisioned a symbiotic relationship between professional journalists and citizen 
collaborators; and (3) they saw that giving up control over content not only could be good 
for audience engagement, but indeed could be good for journalism. That is, yielding 
control could improve journalism by leveraging citizen participation to (a) complement 
professional work as a whole and (b) compensate for the gaps in professional coverage 
that have been made apparent in a digital media environment where a networked crowd 
                                                                                                               
10
 There were several projects that, as proposed, would have little to no contact with “citizens,” such as in 
the case of the 2009 winner CMS Upload Utility, a $15,000 plan to help smaller newspapers develop a 
“Web first” workflow through an easy-to-use desktop application. But, even in this case, there was an 
emphasis on end-user innovation and iterative development as the result of participation on the part of 
software users (newspaper journalists). 


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