The Weekly Illumination — Issue 4

Welcome to the The Weekly Illumination, a JTM newsletter offering a quick look at the week in journalism with a focus on what’s working in today’s news ecology. The Illumination is a curated collection of stories about journalism innovation, notable job opportunities, grants and updates about Journalism that Matters.

The newsletter is distributed to e-mail subscribers, through the JTM Google Group, and posted to the Illuminations blog. In this week’s Illumination we’ll explore the opportunities in big data journalism, the federal shield law now headed to the Senate and the growing role of experimentation in the newsroom.

Proposed federal shield law headed to full senate

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would give shield protections to some journalists subpoenaed in federal court. The bill, which is a compromise between the language urged by Sen. Charles Schumar and that of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would protect journalists who have been employed as a journalist for at least a one-year period over the prior two decades. The law would also protect student journalists, and it would empower a judge to offer the protection to journalists who would otherwise not meet the new legal definition of a journalist. Although the bill offers more robust protections than previous attempts, it is still written to protect a class of people as opposed to the activity of producing journalism.

With the Federal government poised to define a journalist for the first time in history, the Digital Media Law Project at Harvard has announced a new research study to look at media credentialing practices across the country.

What does journalism that meets the needs of democracy look like?

In the second installment of her series on the purpose of journalism JTM Board Member Peggy Holman describes a holistic system in which journalism and engagement fully support each other to create action and inspire vision, which in turn generate new journalism.

The innovation explosion

In this week’s column, I wrote about how the news ecosystem could benefit by embracing the start-up culture’s commitment to radical experimentation. The purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos will also provide a financial cushion to give the Post room to perform these experiments, reports Ken Doctor for Nieman Lab.

The New York Daily News has announced it’s own efforts to foment innovation. The Daily News Innovation lab will invest and mentor a group of early-stage startups in a program similar to San Francisco’s Matter.

Prison prescribed to treat viral media

A new law in China threatens up to three years in prison if a dissident’s message goes viral. “Internet users who share false information that is defamatory or harms the national interest face up to three years in prison if their posts are viewed 5,000 times or forwarded 500 times,” reports GlobalVoices.

Big data is getting big

The stories found in data can be profound, and there is more public data available to journalists than ever before. But many journalists don’t have all the skills they need to make sense of the all of the data available. Poynter’s Anna Li shares her experiences completing a massive open online course that introduces some of these skills. The course is still available to review through the end of the month.

After completing that course, why not practice what you’ve learned by participating in the 311 data challenge. The $5,000 contest will be soon be announced on Kaggle.

For journalists looking who are looking to scrape data from the web but don’t know how to code, might be just what you need, reports Sarah Marshall at

Job(s) of the Week

The Spokesman-Review is looking for a reporter to cover Spokane City Hall.

USC Annenberg is now accepting applications for its health reporting fellowship, which is scheduled to take place in February.

Each week, The Illumination will include links to jobs, grants and fellowship opportunities. If you are hiring or know someone who is, send me an e-mail and I’ll gladly list it here. If you’re looking for a job, let me know what kind of work you are looking for and I’ll try to post anything I come across that could be a good fit.