Or maybe that should be: what journalists need to know about distributed conversations.
I came across this survey on Friday, which unsurprisingly found that most (Danish) journalists found reading blogs irrelevant to their work. "Ah, the things they are missing out on," I thought to myself, but was too busy chasing my own deadlines to try to put words to what exactly that was.
And if I had answered 'inside gossip' or 'expert opinion or analysis' it wouldn't have made much sense to these journalists: most people who are unfamiliar with the blogosphere find it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff and struggle with the signal to noise ratio. Similarly, if I had said that blogging helps me clarify my thinking, or store and share links or tidbits I find interesting, which it does - this blog is basically 'my thoughts in motion about the changing media landscape' - it would have been too shallow.
See, if I attempt to explain, to myself as much as anybody else, how blogging and reading blogs is useful, if not invaluable, to me as a journalist, or as a human being for that matter, it comes down to distributed conversations. Or, to use Doc Searls' more powerful metaphors: snowballs and fires.
In the framework of my blog it works like this: I write about a company like Mecom in Norway and another blogger adds a German or Polish perspective, another tips me off about a story I might find interesting in my comment field. Or I write about a law I find worrying, another blogger picks up on the thread and asks a hard question or two, a third does an interview to clarify the situation and adds some very valuable thoughts on what impact the law might have on regimes in Africa, and another cool person analyses the law in a comment (follow-up here).
And even this is really too narrow a description of distributed conversations, but here's a good stab at deconstructing them. Besides, all of this comes on top of how my blog has the marvellous effect of attracting readers who are passionate about the issues I'm passionate about.
How, what, where, when and why? Yes, I'll get back to all that. I got this far, but realised I'm so stuck in deadlines right now that it might take me quite some time to finish this post. Besides, I don't want to write a treatise, so might want to chop it up a bit.
However, I'm moving on to how this necessitates tracking conversations about the issues you write or care about, e.g. with Technorati, and ideally linking to them; how there's lots of opportunities for MSM to engage more with their readers here, and how journalists as well, whether we approve of it or not, are trapped in those Catholic Churches...