Full disclosure: I have been a weekly blogger for NYU Local since last August, but am not an entirely active member. I do pithy posts about New York City and the occasional event coverage, but that is usually it. I was not informed about this sit-in or Charlie's embed; I learned about it the same way as the rest of NYU did- by reading NYU Local.
I don't have much of an audience here but the ones who do know me know that I love journalism and everything to do with it. Those who know me better know that I am an old man when it comes to it– I have always preferred print, even if I do enjoy blogging. So you can imagine my sadness when I read articles about the impending demise of print or how the greatest newspaper is strategizing on how to survive to recession.
But last night, something happened at New York University– or more specifically, at NYU Local– that has made me so excited about the future of journalism. Take Back NYU!, a student-run group, barricaded themselves into the Kimmel Center (for non-NYUers, that acts sort of like a resource center/cafeteria/study area/hangout spot) in order to get their demands met by NYU. They are conducting a sit-in, ladies and gents, like New School did last year to protest against their president. But that's not why I am excited.
Here's why I am excited: My editors at NYU Local heard about it on Tuesday so they planned to get Charlie Eisenhood, the National Editor, to be in Kimmel with his laptop, camera, and camcorder so that he could follow this entire thing. So since 9 pm on February 18, Charlie has been at Kimmel live-blogging his heart out for all the world to see (and criticize, if you check out some of the comments.) He has added pictures, conducted interviews with various members of TBNYU!, and put up videos of the barricades being barged by students wanting to join the protests. And yes, it's not a hundred percent objective, a la The New York Times, but it is so easy to read and follow everything that is going on with Charlie's easy wit and matter-of-fact observations.
Not only that, NYU Local has supplemented Charlie's live-blogging with other related posts, like the op-eds from each differing end, the surveys on whether or not kids or going to get arrested, student opinions of the TBNYU! sit-in! This is an entirely new and interactive way to experience news, and I am absolutely going crazy for it! There is so much to know and so much to read, and some might complain it's an information-overload, but I think that if you don't want to read it, just don't click it. It's so easy and yet so much fun.
The sit-in has entered its 30th hour, and Charlie has just signed off stating sleep as a reason (Sleep is for the weak!- I kid. Charlie might be my new hero.) But I have been absolutely exhilarated throughout this entire thing, refreshing and re-refreshing my page and the NYU Local Twitter page for new information like my life depends on that periodic click of my mouse.
Is it because I care about TBNYU!'s demands being answered, or even about Kimmel being taken over? Hell to the no: I think TBNYU! is wasting their time and NYU's resources; and I never go to Kimmel anyway. But I care so much about this production because it has finally shown me that there is hope for new journalism. It's not going to be all about snarkiness and super-biased opinions from some supposed expert. In the last day and a half, NYU Local has shown me that blogging the news can actually be productive, informative, and educational. And sure, there was some sarcasm from Charlie's end, but that's what made his posts so addicting. He was never either malicious or excitedly supportive (except when it came to the food being brought in for protesters) about TBNYU!'s agenda. I think Charlie steered a great middle between being newspaper-objective and omg-bloggzz-unobjective, and it just makes me so happy to be able to see this at work.
Is my optimism coming a little too soon? I don't know. And please, don't label me as a total convert to new journalism. The newspaper is irreplaceable in my heart and I will always love the feeling of getting the paper in the morning (before it gets stolen- YES!) But I think that whatever comes next could really add to the newspaper, not suffocate it.
That is, if newspapers don't choke themselves to debt before it happens.