Jeff JarvisOn 11 September, 2001, Jeff Jarvis was on the final train to enter the World Trade centre before the first plane hit. Just a block away when the South tower came down he walked to midtown and wrote up his story online.

Calling it 'Crisis', he initially thought the blog would last just a few weeks; but nearly six years later - and after morphing into Buzzmachine - his blog has become one of the more influential and progressive voices on the future of journalism.

"It [blogging] took over all available life, it changed my view of media, it made me quit my job, and it changed everything," Mr Jarvis told during an interview at City University of New York's new Graduate School of Journalism, where he is associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program.

"What changed was that I saw the conversation. People linked to me and had something to say and I linked back to them because I had something to say and that was the essence of the conversation - that's what all of this should be.

"News, information and media are all going to be improved by conversation. Yes, there are bozos that say stupid things, but that is not the point.

"The point is that there are people who know more than we do out there and this is a means to learn and gather and share that. In journalism we have to be at the point where we take advantage of that."

Newspapers, he claims, should no longer simply dictate the agenda and give no voice to the views of the reader - they should be engaged.

As part of this conversation, Mr Jarvis added, newspaper sites should make themselves as accessible to the web as possible and not try to prevent or limit aggregators linking to them.

"There are some newspaper companies, not so much in the US but elsewhere in the world, who are objecting to being aggregated. That's like saying to the newsstand guy on the corner 'how dare you distribute my paper and how dare you make a penny out of it?'

"This is a new distribution mechanism, you have got to be found. We in journalism have to find ways to get our relevance out there deeper into the life of the web. If we just expect to keep everyone coming to us it won't work."

He added that the point did throw up a conflict of interest - because of his involvement in a news aggregation service Daylife - but stressed the importance of linking.

"I think we have to look upon this as a distribution and promotion mechanism . . . if you say 'how dare you Mr Newsstand vendor make a penny from my newspaper, I'm going to pull it away from you' that's exactly the same as saying to Google News 'don't show my headlines'.

Mr Jarvis added that the communal nature of 'the conversation' was integral to the future of journalism.

"It's a mistake to think of our natural state as a mass. Our natural state is in niches, as communities. Media became falsely mass with the economies of scale of printing and because of the competition of television.

"In big media they call it fragmentation, I call it choice. I don't think it's a danger because I can get what I want and you can get what you want."

The onset of digital publishing has also led to a need, Mr Jarvis said, for American newspapers to decide what their purpose was.

"Leaving apart the New York Times and the Washington Post, journalism in the US is inefficient. Every paper had to be one size fits all and had to do what everything anyone else did to serve its market.

"Now, does every newspaper in this country need a movie critic? No. The movies are not different from one city to another. In fact the critics are probably your audience. Do papers need golf columnists? No. It's on TV.

"The ability to manage resources has not been taken away from editors and publishers. I think that they have to boil down to their assets, figure out what they are and then put their resources there.

"So if you are a paper in the mid-west in the US, frankly, you get rid of the stock tables and the TV listings. You'll lose a few readers along the way but so what? Figure out what your product really is. If it's really reporting then put your resources into that.

"So the whining that I hear from US editors saying: 'Oh my God we have less money ergo we'll have less reporting' well that's their fault because there is a lot that they can do about it.

"Cut the inefficiency that's there in journalism and find new ways to report more efficiently… then you can put your resources behind what makes you special and what makes you more valuable."

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