Give me 10 minutes and …

Many hands make light work, or so the proverb says, and on my morning walk I recalled a remark that I heard once at a conference of non-profit groups that were brainstorming on how to use technology as an organizing tool. One speaker — and pardon me that I can’t provide a pointer right now — had a big thought: what could a group do if it could get 10 minutes from thousands of people who cared about the same issue?

I love that notion because if there is something revolutionary about this current media-morphosis — other than big outfits like Google picking the pockets of big newspapers and television — it is the potential for dispersed groups to make common cause. We see examples in many realms. Scientists have used it to help filter signals from outer space in the “>search for extraterrestrial life. During disasters like the Indonesian tsunami ad-hoc humanitarian websites became popular conduits for assistance.

I believe this concept of group effort must be applied to everyday issues and that journalism should be the discipline that focuses attention and coordinates ends — provided journalists can learn to employ new communications tools, as I’ve written before.

For example let’s say journalists decided to investigate contracts let by the local public works department — or the Pentagon for that matter. Is there a way to divvy up the work so that hundreds of people could each devote a few hours to scouring public records? This is a different than journalism as practiced today but the current journalistic support structure is crumbling (a matter of concern to newspaper reporters like me!).

One new forecast of doom comes from market watcher Warren Buffet as noted by Buffalo Rising Online. (I spotted this on Poynter which picked it up from HyperGene but I’d urge you to explore the Buffalo site — it’s gorgeous and looks home-grown).

But I’m sick of hand-wringing. If corporate journalism is dying can we take the best of its values and practices and transplant them to new media hosts? Obviously this is the work of many, many minds and many, many years. Nor do I think this is pre-ordained. In fact there is an unfortunate tendency for advertising-driven new media to pander to creature comforts and shun tough topics as I’ve lamented before.

But in this 10 minutes perhaps I can offer at least my own hope that a decentralized and still-potent media may yet arise if enough believers spend enough time to make it so. Little by little does the trick, at last that’s what Aesop said.