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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Collaboratory" Journalism That Matters in the Pacific Northwest and Beyond

Virginia Pellegrino, Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Who speaks for the public if no journalist is listening?

This is but one of the questions posed by a group of journalists, educators, new media producers, artists and members of the community who have come together to explore the media landscape in the Pacific Northwest. This unconference organized by Journalism that Matters is entitled: Re-imagining News and Community in the Pacific Northwest and is taking place at the University of Washington January 7-10.

At the heart of the conference is the central question, What is possible when journalists and the public come together? At a time when the basic underpinnings of mainstream journalism seem to be coming undone, this conference offers an opportunity to break through the fear of change and begin to recognize what is emerging in our changing news environment. Words like trust, passion, collaboration and possibility all have been identified as important ingredients in the evolution of what's next. And the questions that are being posed by those attending the conference offer a window on this time of transformation and re-invention.

And so, each morning we were asked to submit a question to the mix, to share our passion and/or interests and take responsibility by spearheading a break-out session around it.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

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Being from the Midwest, I wasn't planning to jump immediately into a conversation focused on the Northwest; but, with the prodding of facilitators for everyone to join in, I clumsily pieced together a topic (which became a Friday session), asking:

How can/should media help people cope with info overload and point to what news (in all of the din) is the most important for media consumers?

Although a fun and fruitful exchange, I'm not sure the seven or so of us that gathered around my question were able to answer it. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "A man may fulfill the object of his existence by asking a question he cannot answer, and attempting a task he cannot achieve."

No truer words spoken, especially since the task of posting my notes to the JTM wiki has yet to be achieved.

"Re-Imagining News and Community - an unconference" lived up to my experience of the JTM series over the years. Facilitated by the very fine Peggy Holman and Stephen Silha, the gatherings are energetic and hands-on endeavors. Organizers use something called Open Space Technology to challenge participants to get out of comfort zones and engage with an issue independently and with others.

I don't know how effective these kinds of mash-ups are statistically, but everyone always has a ball at these things as far as I can tell. Holman, author of the highly-recommended The Change Handbook: The Definitive Resource on Today's Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems and the article "Journalism That Matters: Emerging Cultural Narrative" [pdf] for the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Kosmos Journal, forwards that OST has quantifiable value. I ♥ the technique and plan to incorporate it and others from the Change Handbook in future programs.

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After the conference (and I do mean immediately after, me literally running to make this date because the JTM conference ran late) I had an informal lunch with a few local veterans and advocates.

jan2010_2162What good fortune to participate in a vibrant discussion on the needs of area milfamilies. This photo shows my post-conference Seattle Vets Issue Lunch Clutch, which took place Sunday at Zao Noodle Bar, University Village Shopping Center near the UW campus. Thank you to Theresa, Sue and Gordy for coming out to see me (extra kudos Mr G for logistical support)! I walked away impressed by the area's different VA programs and the energy of its vets advocates, counselors.

You're invited to explore my Flickr Journalism That Matters - Pacific Northwest photos if you have the inclination or time; view all photos in Flickr's jtmpnw pool. Enjoy...

Kris Krug:

Within the last few years, a visible divide has emerged between all media with this idea of new media versus traditional media. It doesn’t really make much sense to divide media into two sparring factions when in fact they can be working and collaborating together. I often find myself in the citizen journalist role, not so much by my strive for journalistic photo features but more by my own personal documentation that I funnel to the internet. I have been known to say that “if you didn’t stick it on the internet, it didn’t happen.” This often arises fits of laughter, but most people find this statement very true. This extends past your twitter and facebook, but into hyper-local citizen journalism as well. ...

Here at Journalism that Matters, Chris Jordan gave a presentation about the photographs he took during his trip to Midway Island. He presented a video that he made, which was first debuted at PopTech this year in Camden, ME. This video consisted of images he shot of young albatross, that had died from plastic consumption. The 6 minute video was accompanied by the musical soundtrack of Christen Lien and challenged his viewers to feel the immense feeling of such images. The one driving point of his whole talk was that the next evolution of journalism or art creation, is finding the passion in your work and allowing it show through your art.

Some of the questions that are being raised at this Journalism that Matters are:

- How do we envision the role of the artist in the future of journalism?
- What is the potential for news as a performance?
- What should journalism be in the 21st century?
- How do we create sustainable freelance communities in an increasingly decentralized newsroom?


MCDM student Amy Rainey:

It wasn’t possible to be a part of all of the sessions and chats going on, but based on my observations, several themes emerged:

  • Passion. “At this time of transformation, we all need to connect with our feelings and care, and put that caring into our work,” artist Chris Jordan told the audience during an opening night speech. “… It’s time to take the templates off and speak authentic human being to authentic human being.” This idea of showing passion in our work – and showing love for the communities we cover – came up repeatedly.
  • Community. We quickly learned that generations define communities differently. For younger people, our communities are online, not necessarily based on geography.
  • Collaboration. On Saturday, I tweeted that the word of the day was “collaboratory.” By Sunday, a group was working on plans for a JTMPNW collaboratory, a learning lab for entrepreneurial projects and nourishing connections, and tying the idea to the creation of a civic commons.
  • Engagement. Journalists need to stop talking to their audience and instead engage in a conversation with them.
  • Media literacy. In an information-packed world in which everyone is a journalist, the public needs better training about evaluating news sources and information for accuracy and credibility.
  • Hyperlocal. Several discussions focused on the need for collaboration between hyperlocal neighborhood bloggers and mass media. On the final day, a large group worked on building a roadmap for mass media and hyperlocal journalists to work together and find financial sustainability.
  • Government coverage. Many participants were concerned about the effect that cutbacks at traditional media outlets have had on state and local government coverage. But we also learned about new projects to solve this problem. One attendee, Trevor Griffey, is starting a nonprofit site called Olympia Newswire to cover this year’s legislative session and revitalize statehouse reporting.
  • Business models. Creating new business models was, of course, a big part of the conversation. “It doesn’t have to be one model. It can be lots of small revenue streams,” I overheard someone say. Those revenue streams include memberships, foundations, grants, advertising, holding events, subscriptions and so on.

Nancy White, Full Circle Associates:

Yesterday I did a small graphic recording of the session on “Disturbance, Disruption and the Artist” – I like this because I listen more than talk, and those of you who know me, I like to talk. There again was this strong sense of “wanting to stay connected” and I kept feeling like I needed to add a disturbance.

The disturbance I suggest is that we find the continuum of inward connecting to like minded people and share initiatives all the way to the outward facing, networked action which throws each of us connecting outward, not inward. Balancing the closeness and connection of community with the wider possibility of “infecting” others with journalism that matters by forging outward.

We need both.

The second thing that struck me in that session was the idea of a game to connect communities and news. The meme of play with it’s joy, challenge, cooperation and competition keeps coming up in every domain I touch upon. So now, today, I’m wondering what such a game would look like. What do you think? What sort of game would weave journalists and community members into a functional news ecosystem?


Sustainable Seattle:

Eeeek. It was so hard to pick a session. The sessions were created by attendees who had a desire to host sessions, so totally on-topic…..and so desirable! Sustainable Seattle attended the session focusing on respect in communications. We attended with Ashoka/Youth Venture (an organization that creates continuous chain of empathy for youth 12-20, empathy in action, and a change maker campus program, and where there is a local and global) and WA Farm worker Housing Trust (a nonprofit that does policy and advocacy to ensure farm workers have a safe place by working with all the stakeholders to find common ground, a strategy that is working with state legislature!).

Our session host, Kristin Millis, posed the notion if journalists listen and respect the public, readers, and those we write stories about, news and media entities would be more trusted and would stay in business.

  • All stories are newsworthy: What ever anyone has to say, has value to them, so that individual should be treated with respect. If you can’t provide them coverage, offer them resources.

  • There is always a story: There is always truth in a story: Stop, listen, ask, find out more, take the time to find out more. Take the time to listen.
With a journalist at the table with three nonprofit representatives, we adapted these lessons to our efforts: Nonprofits tell stories too- we need to ensure the stories we tell are accurate to our community, and we can do this by listening, and by telling the stories that fulfill our goals and provide information for better decisions (by nourishing people and encouraging action) and that provide a context – the good, the norm and the bad – not just the bad. Nonprofits also are conduits for changing behavior. Collaborating with others in getting the message out is a great way to get the message out, and is cost effective- in many ways! Collaborating in communicating also allow the nonprofit and all to get a better idea of the story.


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