Inside Out – June 07

June 1, 2007

How about this for a stunning statistic? In February, more than a third (37%) of US internet users visited MySpace.com. When Rupert Murdoch -that mogul of moguls of old media – purchased MySpace in 2003 for $580 million he grabbed a sizzling hot property in the new media world.

MySpace and its ambitious rival, Facebook.com are the leaders among social networking websites. Wikipedia tells us that social networks are where interactive users submit their personal profiles, write blogs, create groups and upload and download music, photos, and video.

But if MySpace and the video phenomenon YouTube are mostly about swapping and sharing things trivial, amusing, or hilarious, they’re also a force in politics and a must stop for American presidential candidates. MySpace has just created its “Impact” channel with unfiltered information about all the hopefuls- frontrunners, dark horses, and no-hopers- they’re all there.

For video coverage, the place to go is YouTube’s “YouChoose 08” where an unguarded comment captured on a mobile phone and spotted by a blogger or political action group can destroy a political campaign. John McCain’s “That old Beach Boys song ‘Bomb Iran’. Bomb, bomb, bomb…” quip has been seen more than a million times and has put him and his campaign on the defensive.

So how does all this relate to the Frontline Club. Some of you are already aware that the latest Vaughan Smith brainchild is the Frontline Club Network – our own online network for connecting members whether they’re on assignment, freelancing, or working on media projects. As best we can determine this is the first dedicated online journalism professional and social network.

The Frontline Club Network is at what one of its architects, new media journalist Ben Hammersley, calls alpha testing stage. But those of you already signed up or about to will see its potential. There are all the obvious features of the other social network site-networking, blogging, creating groups built around specific interests and organisations and posting video and photos. Those post-Frontline event discussions can now live beyond the Club bar and engage anyone who saw the debate or watched the video online. Yet the network has greater aspirations related to the overall philosophy of the Frontline Club in championing independent journalism and both showcasing and publishing the work of freelances and independent journalists.

But will the Frontline Club Network, I asked Ben Hammersley, run the risk of debasing, not enhancing journalism standards? After all, how much User Generated Content (UGC) exists out there -material not gathered, processed, and published according to any shared journalistic values? That’s where the Frontline Club can make a difference according to Hammersley and “will hopefully provide a higher quality of content than is usually found on the Internet. It’s less about UGC than about helping traditional journalists transition to a digital marketplace as individuals.”