The new public debate

Civic journalism, online communities and online debate is taking off in Norway. In a very interesting and positive way, I think. As I am living abroad, in Brussels, I’m following the development and discussions from a distance. I was involved in all those discussion when I was working at Dagbladet, and its good to see all the developments going on in different media companies, for example the citizen journalism experiment in Drammens Tidende, NRK Beta, where users are, among other things, encouraged to suggest new news design, and Aftenposten’s debate system. I’m not saying all these examples are excellent, but I think NRK Beta is really on to something with their open, positive, enthusiastic and fun approach to all things media and technology-related.

But there are also much more to expect in the near future. Jan Thoresen, a previous colleague of mine and a very tech savvy guy, has recently switched jobs from to the publication company Hjemmet Mortensen, and he is now searching for a new community manager, which, by the way, Aftenposten is also doing. The largest Norwegian media communities, Blink and Nettby, will get some heated competition (notice that Nettby (VG) and Aftenposten are owned by the same company, Schibsted).

There has been intense discussions about the quality of the net debate, recently Knut Olav Åmås has raised the voice for more ethics and higher quality, argues against the panic of the online debate. I think it is a telling sign that lots of established bloggers stay away from the media debates because of all the noise. A good thing for the bloggers that Dagbladet has added the twingly feature, so bloggers can discuss the articles outside the ordinary debate system.

Anyway, what I think is so positive and exciting about this development, is that I expect to see more differentiated debate arenas within Norwegian media in the coming years. The tone/quality/style will differ more as the users have more platforms with different rules to choose from. It will change the public sphere and new voices will appear, either through their user names or real names.

Jan Omdahl has written that Dagbladet’s comment system is among the most advanced in the world, and to a certain degree I agree with him. Kristine Lowe has written a good overview in English of the Norwegian media structure. Seems like its time to start spreading the message.

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