Thursday, June 02, 2005

Field Report: Community Media Conference, Chicago

UPDATE, 7 pm: Oops, I meant Barbara Iverson, not Betty. Sorry, Barbara!

So, I just got done attending the Community Media Conference down at Columbia College, a big event that has drawn journalists from all over the country. Well, that's not exactly true - I actually only attended one panel discussion of the conference, "Blogging and Its Effect on the Media" (or something like that), which featured Andrew Huff of GapersBlock.com (disclosure - a friend of mine), and Eric Zorn, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune (who I am a big fan of and read every day, although had never met before today). Oh, and many thanks to the organizers of the conference, by the way, who caught me trying to sneak in for free and let me go in anyway, on the promise that I would leave after the panel was over. Moderating the panel was Betty Iverson, a journalism professor at Columbia College.

The panel was definitely lively and fascinating, although obviously it was geared towards people who have much less knowledge of blogs than you and I do, which of course could be a little frustrating at times. That said - man, who was the genius who put Huff and Zorn together on the same panel? They're both a bit of smartasses, and have this great conversational style of speaking in front of audiences, and the two of them on one panel meshed together as perfectly as tornados and mobile homes.

I ended up asking them about the schism between journalists and bloggers when it came to traditional ethics issues, like finding reliable sources, multiple sources, and where the line lays between reporting a rumor or not. They in turn got into one of the more interesting journalism discussions I've heard in awhile, which concerned last year's senate race here in Illinois between Barack Obama and professional nutjob Alan Keyes. (Basically, halfway through the campaign someone discovered that Keyes' lesbian daughter was maintaining an anonymous blog online about her sexual and romantic life.) All three of the panelists discussed this issue, and where the line laid between whether to report it or not, and where that line changed when it came to a blogger versus a mainstream newspaper. Very interesting stuff.

Anyway, I finally got a chance to meet Mr. Zorn after the panel - and unsurprisingly, he turned out to be this really great, funny, disarming guy, which is always so nice to discover in people you admire. And the four of us (plus one of Mr. Zorn's editors at the Trib) sat around for a few minutes gabbing about the incestuous nature of blogging, and how by the end of the day all four of us were going to have posts up about the panel and about each other, etc. And then I felt bad about sticking around so long, considering that the conference staff had let me in for free, so I took off. Thanks again, you three, for such an entertaining panel!