Thursday, January 10, 2008

Our First Call for Contributions: Your Assignment, Should You Choose to Accept It

For the short version of your assignment go here.
For an explanation on why Broowaha is doing this - keep reading.

The Internet has dramatically changed two fundamental aspects of human culture.
  • How we stay informed
  • How we socialize
It's our hope at Broowaha to take the best from both these revolutions and combine them to create something totally different.

The cost of publishing has reached almost zero. Which means the power of the press now belongs to everybody. Hence, Broowaha - a place where citizen journalists can inform each other about what's going on in their communities. Sites like Broowaha empower people to take control of how they stay informed. The fourth estate, which was the news industry, is now in all our hands - so we all share that responsibility.

The other revolution, how we socialize, has made it possible for like-minded people to find each other despite geographic distance and share their collective wisdom. Everywhere you look online you see people sharing recipes, how-to tips, pictures and knowledge. Wikipedia is probably the best example - it is a collection of human knowledge.

Yes, the Internet has modernized how we stay informed and virtually invented collective wisdom, but there still isn't a practical application of collective action in journalism.

We believe the future of citizen journalism is when groups of concerned writers, dispersed around the world, tackle the same issues together. Imagine if we had 50 writers who all agreed to cover the effects of "No Child Left Behind" at their local school. We would have 50 stories that served local readers, but we would also have a national view of the issue. We would have context that no single journalist, professional or amateur, would be able to get alone.

Imagine if we had 100 writers all look into environmental justice in their city?
Or if we amassed 40 people to look at the conditions of homelessness in their area.

We live in a global village and there are issues that effect us all - and we can get to the bottom of them if we want.

This Sounds Intense. I'm a Little Intimidated By it All.

Short answer: Don't worry, we are going to start real slow (and extra fun).

Long answer: What has been described above is really just an idea - one that lots of theoreticians and journalism scholars think has potential, but nonetheless is untested. To our knowledge the closest working example was something called Assignment Zero, which Broowaha's editor-in-chief David Cohn played an integral role in. The biggest complaint I noticed from this experiment was that the topic was no fun. Everyone liked the idea of reporting on a story together - but nobody wanted to report on that particular story.

Fair enough. Broowaha is going to start very small and very simple. First and foremost we want this to be fun, a way to meet new people and get your stories in front of more eyes. If along the way we push the boundaries of citizen journalism - all the better.

Our first call for contributions will be "The Best and Worst: What You Love and Hate About Your City."

We invite everyone to write an article in two parts. The first part will be an editorial about all the things that make your city what it is. What gives New York it's attitude? What keeps Los Angeles sunny, San Francisco sailing and what gives Paris that je ne sais quoi?

The second half is for all the "glass is half empty" writers out there. Along with the good comes the bad and the second half of this call for contributions can be about all the aspects of your city you can't stand.

Some tips
  • Be creative - have fun with this. Originality is the name of the game, since other people at Broowaha are probably writing about the same city.
  • Ground the stories in something other people can relate to.
  • Links: Check out local blogs - get a feel for what other people in your city think. With our new text editing tools, it's a snap to link back to their thoughts.
How you can participate
  • Write the article and before you submit it to the editor scroll down to the fourth section of the submitting process "Call for Contributions" and include it on this list.
  • Tell a friend, blog about it, spread the word.
What calls for contributions can we expect in the future?

This first call for contributions is about having fun and being creative. We want to do future calls for contributions that will ask you to review cafes, interview musicians, reports on new local businesses and more. The sky is the limit. We will be checking out the articles on this first call for contributions to get ideas - or you can comment below to let us know what you think would make a good topic.

And now - a phrase I hope to use more and more here at Broowaha: Onward!

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