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Raise the Bar by Raising the Bar

2 minute read
by Alex Hillman

I wanted to publish this before I arrived tomorrow at NewsFoo, a niche FooCamp co-organized by O’Reilly, Google, and the Knight News Foundation. It’s self-described as “a gathering of 150 key practitioners and thinkers from the worlds of journalism, technology, and public policy who are re-imagining the future of the news.”

I’ve been looking forward to this for a while, a LONG while. I’ve got just as many questions about journalism’s future as I do ideas, so I’m looking forward to learning. But before I walk to the registration table, I wanted to get something off my chest. Hopefully this is able to spark some conversation over the weekend.

Right before the holiday, I shared a link to what I still would consider one of the worst articles about coworking I’ve read. SO bad that I was publicly critical of it, dubbing it “vapid and misplaced”. It raised some eyebrows across the industry, so I thought I would take a moment to explain my stance.

My criticism wasn’t a commentary on Office Nomads or Coworking Seattle, but lazy journalists everywhere. This article is just one of many that I’ve read, the ones that turned my stomach because they continue to tell an inexcusably misunderstood version of the story of coworking.

I could bullet point the misplacement of facts, but that’s not the point. I could harp on the focus on office space instead of social impact, but that’s not the point. There’s no singular mistake, this article simply embodied the most I’d seen at once in a long time.

All of that said, I felt that I needed to speak out because if we don’t raise the bar for the stories journalists choose to tell, who will? The fact that it’s a mainstream article and had no substantial content is all the more reason to raise question. The fact that the mainstream media is publishing anything about coworking puts the responsibility on those of us active in the coworking community to make sure that they cover it to the best of their ability.

If we don’t hold journalists to a higher standard and simply thank them for the free publicity, who WILL keep them looking for the real stories, the ones worth telling, when new “co-working offices” continue cropping up?

This isn’t about insuring our (yours and my) place in the industry. It’s about having respect for our (yours and my) hard work, which this article didn’t display in the least.

There are always journalists who tend to “creep around” looking for lowest common denominator stories and then editorialize, or repeat what others have said, taking no time to understand the context or purpose of the story they’re telling. Worse, it distracts from the real, hardworking journalists and their stories, and distracts the people with stories worth telling by making it unclear who they should tell them to.

If the question is, “wow, Alex, don’t you think you were harsh on that article?”, this is a longwinded way of saying, no, I don’t think it was harsh. I think we’re being irresponsible by not holding writers, publishers, and other storytellers, to a higher standard.

If we don’t who will.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.