The seeds of the illuminations project are tied to the origins of Journalism That Matters itself. JTM Co-founder Peggy Holman tells this story of what inspired her to seek out journalists as partners:
When a racially motivated shooting occurred in 1999 at a Jewish Community Center, such events were rare. As a student of Appreciative Inquiry — a process of asking possibility-oriented questions that focus on what is working and what is possible to inspire collaborative and wise action, I thought, “The stories that we tell ourselves shape the way we see the world. And that shapes our behavior. Our cultural storytellers — journalists — are telling us stories that aren’t serving us well. I wonder how an appreciative approach to journalism might help?”
Since the topic wasn’t central to the conversation among journalists at that time, Holman listened for any sign of it as a place from which to build.
When JTM convened its 2007 conference in Memphis, Geneva Overholser, former Washington Post Ombudsman, introduced herself by talking about finding stories of hope. That theme continued to evolve throughout that gathering and beyond. When JTM met in 2008 in Silicon Valley, the idea inspired the idea of a sixth “W” to add to the journalist’s traditional who, what, when, where, why and how: what’s possible now. It also resulted in a blog post — Possibility Journalism: An Emerging Trend?
Fast forward to 2012. When JTM became a 501(c)(3) in 2012, its newly formed board met to ask, “Now what?”. Among the outcomes of that meeting, a breakthrough occurred that focused us beyond the convenings for which we were best known. We defined our value proposition as:
- Bringing together a wide array of people so that journalism engages communities and communities engage in journalism.
- Using breakthrough engagement that fosters collaboration, innovation, and confidence to address complex challenges.
- Making visible the emerging principles of journalism by, for and of the people by sharing stories of the evolving news and information ecosystem.
That third element — making visible the emerging principles of journalism — led directly to this project.