BarCamp NewsInnovation shows hope for future of the media

The media industry is going through massive transformation, from the long, slow decline of newspaper circulation to the continuing Internet revolution and now the financial crisis of several major media companies and the folding of some large newspapers.

If you’re looking for the green shoots of recovery in the media, the recent Bar Camp NewsInnovation in Philadelphia was like a garden club meeting. Part training seminar, part group therapy session, part tent revival, Bar Camp billed itself as an unconference – there was no set agenda ahead of time, potential presenters simply show up with a PowerPoint on a flash drive and write their names on a board, then hope people show up to hear what they have to say.

Here I am, nerding it up in the front row at a presentation by the amazing Washington Post Web Ninjas.

Here I am, nerding it up in the front row at a presentation by the amazing Washington Post Web Ninjas.

Some presentations were stronger than others, but the overall effect of seeing about 200 people willing to spend a spectacular sunny spring Saturday sitting in a classroom to discuss monetizing the Web or a pro-am partnership with bloggers was energizing. People came in from all over the country without knowing who they would hear speak, because they care enough about the news business that they wanted to be part of the conversation.

It really was a conversation, too. Because of the democratic nature of the event, audiences didn’t sit passively and watch PowerPoint slides roll by. They questioned, they challenged, they offered further suggestions.

It was also a little like nerd summer camp, where I finally got to meet people in person who I only know from Twitter and their blogs. I lucked into sitting right in front of Hassan Hodges for one panel, so we got to talk about annarbor.com and his role as the Web guy leading that effort. Of course I was mortified that I recognized his Twitter handle @mapgoblin but had never put together that he was the tech guy Tony Dearing pins his hopes on.

Others have already done a better job of recapping the event than I could ever hope to. It was a wired crowd, to say the least, so the Web streamed video, digital photography and Twitter live blogging documented just about every interesting thing said.

So if you’d like to get some of the benefit of eight hours of good conversation, you can. But I’m not sure if the spirit of “we can do it!” comes through in 140 characters like it did in person.

Just a sampling of the blog posts others have written on BarCamp Philly:

WhatisBCNI? from Jeanmarie Evelly on Vimeo.

More on the Bar Camp series

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