Brian Russell is the owner of Carrboro Creative Coworking in Carrboro, N.C. He also blogs at Yesh.com. In this interview, conducted by e-mail, Russell discusses what coworking might mean for journalism.
Q. What is coworking? How is it different from going into a coffeehouse and working on a laptop?
A. Coworking is a movement of freelance workers who are joining together to share resources like office space, Internet access, etc. This movement is in the process of going mainstream. It’s poised to really influence how corporations of all size see work. Freelancers aren’t the only ones who will work this way.
Coworking spaces usually have a very professional atmosphere in contrast to coffeehouses. But they are often focused on the type of professionals that use them. For example, Carrboro Creative Coworking has a lot of freelance software engineers. We work hard and play hard together.
Q. What kinds of people are coworking? Are writers and editors trying it?
A. All kinds of people are coworking. Many of them are involved in Web development. But we have many journalists and writers at our space.
These folks really understand the value of community. It’s a natural fit for this type of professional.
Q. Newspapers have typically operated from a central newsroom with bureaus in surrounding communities. Now, many bureaus have closed because of financial pressures. How could newspapers use coworking to cover the news?
A. Newspapers could use coworking spaces as ad hoc gathering places to meet and create news. Journalists should be in the field covering the news and regenerating the news beats of old.
Coworking spaces are also greater community hubs. With a diverse group of people working in the same place, lead generation is amplified. Plus, coworking spaces are about sharing resources and are very cost effective.
Q. In addition to coworking, you have experience in Web development and citizen journalism. In your opinion, how can newspapers better use online media?
A. Journalists must be active participants in our physical and virtual, online communities. Online media is social. No more passive observation. This means reporting should be a two-way process.
The Clue Train Manifesto explains it this way: “A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter — and getting smarter faster than most companies.”
UPDATE: Carrboro Creative Coworking closed in autumn 2011. Russell now works as the chief webmaster for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.