As the name implies, the Networked News lab seeks to support networked journalism.
Networked journalism is a hybrid of citizen journalism and mainstream professional journalism; it uses new media technology alone (wikis, blogs and social networking, Twitter, etc.) or in combination with traditional reporting practices. To cite a blog, to include a message board for reader’s comments, to publish a photo or video submitted by an ordinary citizen: these are all basic forms of networked journalism. Networked journalism, however, need not rely on citizen access to Web 2.0 technologies. To engage with a public that extends beyond a small urban middle-class, networked journalism in Africa is likely to rely on SMS and other mobile-phone technologies in conjunction with web platforms. There is no accepted recipe yet for networked journalism, and so the Networked News Lab sought to find a unique recipe for the Kenyan context.
To that end, the second gathering of the networked invited three prominent bloggers: Daudi Were, Tom Mboya and Kennedy Kachwanya.
In preparation for the meeting, the Networked News Lab’s coordinator gathered background on projects that could provide a kind of networked collaboration on news. We looked at crowd-sourcing platforms, citizen journalism projects and open data portals, among other possible resources. We looked for easy wins – ways that these projects could bolster what the Networked News Lab’s journalists were already doing – but did not find any.
The conversation with the leading journalists helped us to understand why.
There are many reasons why journalists and digital media practitioners remain divided – some material, some attitudinal. Journalists work in an entirely different political economy from the bourgeoning digital media sphere in Kenya. They are, in a sense, different cultures.
Media houses are risk-adverse; new media practitioners are not. Media houses are funded by their circulation and advertising. The new media projects that could network journalists are largely grant-funded, or embedded in a very different kind of commercial enterprise that might be complicated by politicized news reports. Second, there is a great deal of cynicism about the mainstream press amongst the digerati in Nairobi, and some in the other direction as well. Finding the right “fit” is quite difficult is difficult in this context.
A few initiatives emerged from this conversation. Many were related to the up-coming elections. Yet all of them fizzled – a frustrating but teachable moment that ultimately left a mark on the project.