BEHOLD THE POWER OF THEM

The ironically named BEHOLD THE POWER OF US is a single-day online news industry digerati calvacade, organized by the American Press Institute and held at the headquarters of the Associated Press. I should appeal to the FEW OF THEM in the media WITH THE POWER to afford an event that’s way too expensive to be much good for majority of the American news industry.

The nine-hour symposium in New York City on Wednesday, October 5th, costs $695 to attend.

Its speakers include Current TV Chairman and former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, Criagslist Customer Service Representative & Founder Craig Newmark, Associated Press President & CEO Tom Curley, BBC Global News Division Director Richard Sambrook, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, CBS Digital Media President Larry Kramer, Netform President Karen Stephenson, Wonkette Editor Ana Marie Cox, Bayosphere Founder Dan Gillmor, futurist Watts Wacker, Yahoo! Vice President & General Manager Craig Forman, New York Times Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, Pop and Politics Editor & Founder Farai Chideya, Gawker.com Editor Jessica Coen, NewsGator Technologies President & CEO J.B. Holston, I Want Media Founder & Editor Patrick Phillips, Union Square Ventures Partner Brad Burnham, Young and Rubicam Brands Chief Insights Officer(yes, that’s actually his job title) John Gerzema, and Micro Persuasion blogger Steve Rubel.

Plus, Edelman PR President & CEO Richard Edelman, Voy Chairman & CEO Fernando Espuelas, MMB Media LLC Principal Merrill Brown, Ogilvy PR Senior Vice President & Creative Director John Bell, Global Voices Co-Founder Rebecca MacKinnon, Backfence.com President & CEO Susan DeFife, PRESSthink Founder Prof. Jay Rosen, Glamor Editor Ellen Kampinsky, Senior Editor, Weblogs Co-Founder & Chairman Jason McCabe Calacanis, BlogAds Founder Henry Copeland, Mobius Venture Capital Managing Director Brad Feld, Wireless Ink Chairman Scott Rafer, 5ive Senior Vice President Susan Mernit, PDX.CN CEO Marcus Xiang, Deutsche Bank Media Analyst Paul Ginocchio, Americans for Informed Democracy Executive Director Seth Green, Majestic Research Co-Founder & Chairman Seth Goldstein, NextNextBigThing Director Dominik von Jan, BIA Financial Executive Vice President Rick Ducey, Greensboro News-Record Lex Citizen Journalism Coordinator Lex Alexander, Mindshare Interactive Campaigns Director Brian Reich, and American Press Institute Media Center Co-Directors Andrew Nachison and Dale Peskin.

That’s a wonderful roster of speakers, probably the best I’ve ever seen for any new media conference! The symposium’s program is aimed at helping American news media thrive in the 21st Century, and will focus on “participatory media.”

So, what a pity that the cost of attending it is more than perhaps 93 percent of America’s daily newspapers, 96 percent of America’s television stations, 99 percent of America’s radio stations, and 99.999 percent of American citizen journalists can afford!

The event is a nice idea. But to whom is the American Press Institute marketing it? It can’t be to the average American daily newspaper, a publicatoin with weekday circulation of approximately 40,000. More than 1,200 of the nation’s daily newspapers have weekday circulations of less than 50,000 and roughly 1,375 have less than 100,000. This event’s registration fee of $695 is far too expensive for those newspapers — particularly when combined with the costs of travel to New York City and an overnight hotel stay in that most expensive of American cities. The total cost of attending will probably run to more than $1,500 per person, not counting taxis and meals. Fat chance of getting the publisher of small or medium-sized newspaper to approve those expenses.

Likewise, an even smaller number of the nation’s 6,000 television and radio stations could afford to send someone to it. And surely few ‘citizen journalists’ will be willing to foot the costs of attending.

I have to ask: How can the organizers of this event hold a participatory media symposium that’s too expensive to attend for the vast majority of citizen journalism participants and for the vast majority of American media interested in participatory journalism?

What’s the effective purpose of this symposium? Is it just a prestige event for the American Press Institute? (‘Hey, we got Al Gore and several CEOs to speak at our event!’) I don’t understand.

If the organizers, hosts, and speakers at this event want it to be effective, they should hold it somewhere less expensive and easier to travel, and make its attendance fee inexpensive enough for most media organizations to afford. The point shouldn’t be to hold a prestige event, but to hold an event that vast majority of its market can attend. Otherwise, it’s just an example of the FEW atop media purportedly helping themselves, while congratulating themselves for purportedly helping the MANY below who work in media but who can’t attend.

Unfortunately, BEHOLD THE POWER OF US will be attended by the few of them in the media who have expense accounts that can easily digest $695 to $1,500 to attend a single-day event about participatory media. That’s not many participants!

So, no thanks! I’ll skip this soireé — and thereby miss seeing the princes of ‘citizen media’.

UPDATE: Two American Press Institute executives reply:

Vin, thank you for your kind words about the quality of the We Media program. But if I may correct some errors…

You say, “The symposium’s program is aimed at helping American news media thrive in the 21st Century, and will focus on ‘participatory media.'”

While we certainly would be happy for that to be an outcome of the event, that is not the program’s purpose. We Media will explore the phenomenon of mass collaboration, with citizen journalism just one part of the agenda. We’ll also be looking at activism and democracy; media gawking; culture, politics and buzz; marketing; and trust networks. The program and perspective is global and presumes a diverse collaborative landscape that certainly includes many more voices than the traditional players you cite.

Also, We Media is being presented by The Media Center, a separately funded division of API with a distinct mission: to help build a better-informed society in a connected world.

The Media Center tries very hard to enable everyone to participate and learn from our activities, even if they can’t be there physically. Here’s how:

1) You can tell our speakers what you want them to think and talk about at We Media here .

2) You can join Watts Wacker and Andrew Heyward and share your thoughts and stories about mass collaboration here .

3) We Media will be live-blogged and podcast. Everyone is invited to follow the proceedings and submit ongoing comments. If they add to the conversation, we will read them aloud and share them with the entire conference. Live blogging and podcasts here .

Vin, we hope to see you online and actively engaged on the morph blog on Oct. 5.
      — Gloria Pan

Vin, the price, the program, how it’s conducted and what comes of it are all legitimate topics for discussion and criticism before and after the conference.

The price may be too high, or the costs of planning and organizing conferences may be greater than you realize. If you’re going to take a shot at the cost barrier you might at least note the fellowships we provided. Rest assured the participant roster will be vastly more diverse in perspectives and experiences than the typical media industry conference you seem to think we should be replicating.

I’m not going to quibble about what U.S. news companies can or can not afford, but I will note that we’ve directed our fellowships to applicants with more compelling cases of poverty.

Your critique is incorrect in one critical respect: you state the conference is intended to help American media thrive in the 21st Century. That’s not the purpose of the conference, or of The Media Center, and I hope you haven’t read anything produced by The Media Center that says otherwise.

The Media Center is indeed a division of the American Press Institute. But The Media Center’s funding is entirely separate, its audience and perspective is global, and its mission is explicitly social and NOT about helping any industry thrive, newspapers or otherwise. The Media Center is a non-profit think tank committed to building a better-informed society in a connected world. We seek to to improve all segments of society through the enlightened use of media and enabling technology.

We Media is for: Individuals and organizations from media, advertising, public relations, marketing, news, entertainment, finance, telecommunications, technology, philanthropy, NGOs, social activism and academia who seek to tap into the shared knowledge and the collective intelligence of the connected society.
      — Andrew Nachison

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