ABC Open

In my previous post, I talked about the News Limited’s Courier Mail and Fairfax’s, and how publishing on the web didn’t necessarily mean that they were following a more ‘open’ model of journalism. Today, I’d like to briefly examine a site that is taking a different approach to journalism,and is possibly a blueprint for other journalistic sites to follow in the future.

ABC Open is part of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (a government funded, public service news agency), and it specifically invites users in Australian regional communities to share, produce, publish stories of interest to them and of relevance to their communities, with emphasis on use of social media.

The site employs two ‘Open Directors’, five state editors, and producers for individual regions within the states, but the stories themselves are created by anyone who wishes to be involved. The site itself is still classified as a work in progress, but the variety of projects uploaded is interesting.

In a way, the site feels similar to ABC Pool (which is less about stories and more about media artefacts) – a ‘project’ is begun and people are asked to contribute. One such project currently on Open, is called ‘Aftermath‘. It is following the aftermath of the recent Queensland, Kimberley and Victoria flooding, inviting people to blog about their experiences of rebuilding their communities and their lives. Instead of journalists simply interviewing the flood victims, or reporting on rebuilding efforts, the people effected are telling their own stories, and in many cases in a much more personal, intimate fashion.

Open is, like traditional newspapers/sites, regionally and geographically specific – it is very focused on the formation and sustainment of communities. It recognises that more and more people are sharing and contributing stories, photo’s and videos using social media. Right at this moment though, and this may not even be it’s eventual direction at all, it is not focused on hard-hitting, political stories. Rather, it focuses on stories that may be of interest to those local communities (or, forms communities around a particular interest).

Another aspect that perhaps distances Open from a more ‘journalistic’ participation is that people aren’t interacting with journalists per se – as said above, there are editors for the different states, and producers for the separate regions, but people are mostly contributing their own stories, without commenting or participating with anything a journalist is doing.

The flipside of that again, is that this is just one participatory aspect that the ABC has created: on the Open site, there is a sidebar listing all the other ways it is possible for users to participate with the ABC, including POOL, QandA and The Drum (which allows the user to ‘comment on the issues and stories of the day’).

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that a government funded organisation has more aspects of ‘open-ness’ than the privately owned sector. Returning once again to Terry Flew,

In many respects, public service broadcasters have taken to the digital media environment in a more effective way than their commercial counterparts. (2009)

Flew lists the ABC as a specific example. It would seem that in the digital age, and with the rise of convergent media, sites such as the ABC are adapting better than most.