I think there is a lot of caring and passion for the Newsvine community, and I see it most often not only in our arguments with each other over proper format and proper use of the tools we've been given, but also in some of the more personal writing I have read on this site. Asking average folks to become seasoned reporters, virtually overnight, is asking a lot and it is intimidating and scary for many, me included. I think this is part of the reason that so many of us kind of backed off from our initial enthusiasm for the AssignmentZero project.
Another part of it was that we didn't know any of the people at NewAssignment.net, not that we know each other here at Newsvine all that well, but many of us have spent the better part of the last year or so talking to each other, learning more about each other's interests, strengths, and weaknesses, so that in many ways, we're much more comfortable here in a place that we've become accustomed to. The hardest part, I think, of getting any sort of citizen journalism project off the ground is getting to know the people before you can even get things going. There's a level of 'networking' difficult in the beginning, and perhaps there is still some of that here, but I also think we are, perhaps, at a point where we can begin to explore the possibilities of what we might accomplish as a community of citizen journalists.
One of the real challenges we face, I think, is to extend the Newsvine presence and bring this community into the journalism conversation, where we might grow the Vine into something other than bloggers and conversationalists and opinion-spouters (not that there's anything wrong with that) to enrich the community through good web journalism.
So far, I've seen nothing but good come from the relationships I've built up with other people here at Newsvine. Sure, I've gotten and given a few bruises in debates and the inevitable friction between diverse people, we all have, I think. Being open and honest and sharing information with a virtual community like this one can sometimes be difficult, but I also think that doing so takes Newsvine one or two steps ahead of old media in the sense of a changing journalism industry. Where online journalism or citizen journalism is headed is, I think, anyone's guess. This is uncharted waters we're sailing on, which in some ways makes us akin to explorers of the media landscape. There is no map, no old way to show us the method to success as citizen journalists. Is it any wonder the Wall Street Journal and other venues are interested in interviewing some of our most influential Viners? They want to know what we know, and they want us to explain why we do what we do.
Very cold. Set out early, the wind still hard. — Capt. William Clark, in his journal of exploration of the Northwest Territory
There will be many people who will have a problem not getting paid (enough money to live on) to go out and cover a story. They may not take Newsvine seriously because it's not a 'print newspaper'... but there are, I think, others who may have planned on going to an event and think that it would be an exciting experience to cover the story and share it with the Newsvine community, people you have gotten to know. Doing so helps you to feel needed and it gives the community a great context within which to interact with one another. People join Newsvine not only because they are interested in the news, but also because they care about other people, about the state of the world, and about where this thing we call 'life' is headed, and they want to connect with their neighbors, whether they live next door or halfway around the world. There is a demand for a certain something that is not Woodward and Bernstein.
If you're just now starting at Newsvine (I affectionately refer to new users as "sprouts" on the Vine, as somebody - I don't remember who - suggested)... you "sprouts" can expect to roll your rock uphill alone for a while before others discover what you're doing, but don't get discouraged if you don't have many readers yet. One of the things that may help is not expecting everyone to read your pieces if you're not willing to venture out and read and comment on others' pieces. These are your neighbors on the Vine, go outside (of your column) and talk to them, and if you like what they have to say and how they say it, give them your votes, and they'll do likewise for you. It's a good idea to remember that the first "investigative journalist" was the person who first ventured into a cave and came back to tell us all there was no bear inside.
Today, for almost no money, pretty much anyone can wear the hat of a reporter, a community organizer, an ad-maker, a publisher, a money-raiser, or even a leader... the hat may not feel comfortable at first, and it may not even fit properly, but eventually we can wear a hat, and perhaps if we're multi-taskers, we can wear more than one hat at a time. More people, everyday, are discovering this, and they're also discovering Newsvine, and they want to be heard. But not only do they want to be heard, they are also discovering that this new media is empowering them, expanding their use of technology for learning and also for educating others. 'Get Smarter Here' says Newsvine, and we are finding that we can.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. — Mark Twain
Over the coming months (and years?), I would like to invite everyone, all of my neighbors here on the Vine, to experiment with various ways of nurturing and expanding this conversation we're having into new forms of writing... ranging from blogging to investigative journalism, interviews, profiles, poetry, stories, and any other sort of writing you would like to do in whatever Groups you belong to or will create. I know several people are already doing this, and I hope they keep at it, but I'd like to encourage all the others to venture out of their comfortable ruts and try doing things a little differently, try new writing styles, new topic areas you may have never written anything about (i.e. - if you're writing humor, try something serious, or vice versa), aim to reach readers in areas other than those on your friends list or in your favorite Groups where you normally publish your pieces. We are, after all, explorers in a landscape that even the experts at the Wall Street Journal know so very little about.
The second half of this article, which might have been page 2 or 3 if we had pagination, is simply an events list. It belongs with what I've written above because I'd like to encourage people to get out this summer and go to events, go do what you might have done any other summer, but then come back and tell us there's no bear in that cave.