Is Liquid Newsroom's Radical Openness the Future of Collaborative Journalism?

As a journalist, it isn’t enough to just write good articles anymore – you have to be active on Twitter, verify sources on Facebook, and be open to collaboration with your competitors. The social web is changing the practice of journalism. Liquid Newsroom, a startup initiated by German web applications director Steffen Konrath, embraces the increasingly social and open elements of new journalism by emphasizing content curation rather than creation, openness rather than guardedness, and news organizations that are fluid across physical and virtual borders.

Liquid Newsroom is still in its conceptual stages, but it is causing a mini flurry of activity on Twitter. Searching for posts tagged with #liquidnews shows that journalists, filmmakers, editors, bloggers, professors and many others are discussing the possibilities of a newsroom that fosters “radical openness”.

This radical openness is a core feature of Liquid News. According to the manifesto that Konrath posted to his blog early September, Liquid Newsroom is, at its most basic, a form of content curation that relies on the collaboration of its human members. Editors, journalists, bloggers and others in the journalism space would use the technical tools available through Liquid Newsroom to access all the “streams” of a single news item – blog posts, traditional media articles, YouTube videos, Twitter conversations, etc. – and combine them into a coherent news story.

Not only does Liquid Newsroom apply open content curation to global news events, but it also espouses radical openness through its proposed corporate structure. Rather than existing as part of the “business of media” as traditional media (and many outlets within new media) are, Liquid Newsroom would create:

“…content [that] is triggered by events and interest of the people and not by purpose of keeping a company alive.”

The details of how it would do this are not yet fully fleshed out (Konrath has several ideas for revenue streams on his blog), but the idea that a newsroom exists to respond to news and not money is certainly refreshing.

Liquid Newsroom also champions freedom of the press. Konrath sees the social web as the vehicle through which freedom of the press can be achieved: news is sent through “nodes” (elements within the social web such as Twitter accounts, blogs, etc.) on the internet and can still be disseminated when some of those nodes are shut down. In this way, news that is curated through the Liquid Newsroom would be extremely difficult to censor, and freedom of the press would be the system’s natural predisposition.

While Liquid Newsroom is not yet a technical platform that can be used for radical openness, content curation, or collaborative journalism, its manifasto and the conversation it is creating on Twitter are promising. Curation implies that news must be edited in order to be relevant, which is an honest position amid the cries that the internet has set journalism free from the “gatekeeper” editors. With all of the information-overload bombarding those of us who are daily plugged-in, it’s clear that news must be filtered by some mechanism in order for individuals to distinguish the qualitative difference between Lindsay Lohan’s rehab escapades and the flood devastation in Pakistan. And the curation proposed by Liquid Newsroom – social, collaborative, open and fluid – might be just the answer to the question of how journalism can present important news stories without deciding what’s important.