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AssignmentZero: Investigating for innovation

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Jay Rosen launched NewAssignment.Net earlier this year as a possible way to build on the citizen reporting model. (The project is nonprofit but has received $100k in funding so far from Reuters.) Last night, he -- in association with Wired.com and Newsvine -- unveiled its first editorial project.

It's called Assignment Zero, and its purpose is to learn from other open source communities and apply that knowledge to journalism.

From Jay, in an email earlier this morning:

It's distributed, pro-am, social trend reporting with a Big Media partner.  The platform we've created could be used for any big sprawling trend story.  The big sprawling trend story we're starting with is right in the center of Wired's beat: the spread of crowdsourcing itself, also called "peer production," also called the open sourcing of everything.

We're going to investigate--with lots of help from volunteer contributors--different ways people are collaborating online to produce stuff-- from the intelligence community, to new products with better designs, to peer patent review, to arts and crafts that have gone open source.  That's a story where readers know way more than we do, so Assignment Zero is an attempt to actually collect that distributed knowledge.

This is a fascinating project, one that has the possibility of moving ahead of the simple user-generated video or blog that's currently standard at newspaper sites across the country. (The beta might be Washingtonpost.com's self-indulgent, ripped-from-Apple cit-interview series "onBeing" that recently launched.)

I'd invite every journalist (and every would-be jurno) to spend quality time at Assignment Zero as it unfolds. Too early to comment on content, but there may be more to learn in the application of Rosen's idea than in the editorial stories themselves.

More information:
The Assignment Desk
Example of someone filing a tip
Jay's welcome letter

Seed Newsvine

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