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April 13, 2011

How should I cover the Wanderlust Festival?

Maintaining Journalistic Integrity in the Blog Era.

At the National Conference for Media Reform last weekend, I had a good chance to reflect on this odd technological-social moment in which we find ourselves: newspaper reporters are out of work, while people who are decent writers—but have no formal training in journalism—like myself—find themselves getting press passes to pricey gigs like Wanderlust Festival. I’m not even positive how to use a colon.

The upside of the effect of the Internet on communication is that many more people get to participate in social discourse.

The downside? I’ve heard of this thing called journalistic integrity and I understand that the press is the Fourth Estate, but my training is in writing the academic essay and not hard-hitting investigative excellence.  Add a personal twist to college writing and you’ve got yourself a blogger!  After helping me get the press pass, Waylon (the Elephant Journal editor) emailed to remind me to “write something real about the event and not merely PR.”  But I still have no training in journalism. I am glad I get to join the conversation and I do want my contribution to enrich public discourse, accountability and critical thinking and not to erode it.

So, what’s a blogger to do? What do readers want? What does society need?

You look at the front page of Elephant Journal and “Funny talking animals (video)” has soared ahead my “Natural disaster. Conflict. Poverty. How do we respond?” in views (125 vs. 32 at 1:42PM). Do you really want to think critically?  At the same time, editors don’t need to resign themselves to fluff and sensationalism. The Elephant Journal staff has featured a story on fighting climate change on the top of the page (currently at 583).

The topic I want to cover at Wanderlust is the ecological focus and charity-oriented work, like the event’s chosen service project, Off the Mat Into the World.  How can I cover this topic in a way that isn’t just regurgitating their press releases, but adding something of substance to social discourse?  Let’s try to combine the best of journalistic integrity with crowd-sourced standards.

Dear readers, please tell me what you’d like to see and how I can do this well. I’ll incorporate your feedback into my coverage of the Wanderlust Festival in Vermont this June—and with your help, be able to pass something “real” on to you all.

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