Home Page, Journalism News, JTM News, Member News, Spotlight

Interactive Guide to the IRS Decision-Making Process

The Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s Digital Media Law Project recently released its Guide to the IRS Decision-Making Process under Section 501(c)(3) for Journalism and Publishing Non-Profits.

With increasing interest in nonprofit journalism and with confusion over how the IRS is applying Section 501(c)(3) to journalism, the Guide provides detailed information regarding the standards that the IRS uses when reviewing a journalism venture’s application for a tax exemption.

Thanks to Journalism That Matters alum Jeff Hermes, Director, Digital Media Law Project (formerly the Citizen Media Law Project) for sending the announcement.

Home Page, Journalism News, JTM News, Spotlight

5 Concrete Steps to Move the Needle on Media Entrepreneurship

After my East Coast Listening Tour (see my earlier post) where I connected with those in the media entrepreneurship ecosystem, I’ve gathered a few potential steps to move the needle on media entrepreneurship by or for people of color.

1. It took someone else’s perspective for me to see the value of the work of the Journalism That Matters Create or Die series of design | build | pitch events that were held in 2010 in Detroit and 2011 in Greensboro, NC. These events serve as a firestarter…an opportunity for passionate people to meet talented technicians and ignite innovation in the journalism space.  The passion of the Greensboro 52 or G52 has continued to live on our Facebook Create or Die group, where members share their projects, needs and support. We need to move more of these projects up the pipeline to funding and raise awareness for our successes. And it looks like Create or Die 3 will have an important place in this media entrepreneurship ecosystem.

One stop on my East Coast Listening Tour was the Newseum in Washington, DC, where the work of thousands of journalists continues to inspire awe.

2. The second step is to create more venues like Comcast’s DreamIt Ventures, UNITY’s NewU and the NewME accelerator that increase the odds that diverse people and projects can pitch and be heard. As part of this mix, we need incubators that don’t require relocation to Silicon Valley or Boulder, Colorado. A “Bloom where you’re planted” model would bring together training and talent in a geographic space. Journalism That Matters piloted such an idea in Seattle in 2010. The Pacific Northwest Collaboratory was born as a support system for the new news ecology there. That successful experiment should be replicated in other regions.

3. The third step is education and training for the hundreds of potential businesses that wither at the doorways to incubators and pitch sessions. These projects could be successful if provided with nurturing, talent, and access to funds. We need a distributed model, probably online and in physical space, that will help give entrepreneurs just-in-time access to the information and people that can help vet and nurture new ideas.

4. The fourth step is the creation of a talent network so that media entrepreneurs can find and build a talented team that has a higher likelihood of success. Content ideas rarely get funded unless they have a strong technology play. Many ideas flounder because of the lack of a tech team early on in the process of product development.

5. The fifth step is to create a microfund to support application fees and travel fees for potential entrepreneurs to attend and perhaps pitch at the other startup weekends and venues around the country. These small loans, probably of a couple of hundred dollars, will help in identifying media entrepreneurs in need of just the services a robust network can provide (see bullet three and four).

I’d love to hear what others think is needed to make the whole ecosystem a tight, resilient, effective network. I’m still listening.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier is chief instigator of the JTM Create or Die series. She is also an associate professor in the School of Communications at Elon University, where she maintains a wiki on new media innovators of color.

Home Page, Journalism News, JTM News, Member News, Miscellaneous, Projects

Addressing the blockage in media entrepreneurship deal flow

Linda Jue, founding director and executive editor of the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, examines the agenda wall at the JTM Create or Die 2 event in Greensboro in June 2011.

In search of the larger picture of media entrepreneurship, I recently traveled from North Carolina to Washington, DC and environs to meet with incubator directors, serial entrepreneurs, and others in the digital intelligencia. My goal, I thought, was simple. Engage in conversations about the new media landscape and how to fund great ideas.

Admittedly, I went with my own preconceived notions on what I’ve dubbed the East Coast Listening Tour. I was thinking of creating an accelerator to help educate and fund journalism-based projects coming out of the Journalism That Matters Create or Die series of design | build | pitch events in Detroit and Greensboro.

But something shifted on that road trip. Perhaps, like in the movies, my character learns something about herself as she traveled down the highways. As I met with folks like Doug Mitchell, co-director of UNITY’s New U incubator and William Crowder, managing director of the Comcast DreamIt Ventures project and Dr. Chad Womack, cofounder of the Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative, I stopped thinking and talking. I put on my journalism hat. And I started asking questions and listening.

What is needed in the media entrepreneurship space for projects by and for people of color? What do project teams need in terms of education, training or funding? When do they need such interventions? Who is already servicing these people with the skills and knowledge to be successful? What is the audience that is not being served effectively?

Many on the National Association of Black Journalists Digital Journalism Task Force have talked about the lack of financing for journalism projects by or for people of color. New U was designed to help address that gap. DreamIt Ventures was designed to fill that need. But as I chatted with people just as passionate about media entrepreneurship, the larger media ecosystem became a bit clearer. And the gaping holes became increasingly apparent.

With more than 200 applicants for 16 slots in the 2010 class, New U has a very selective process for picking its final teams for mentoring. Four of the 16 go on to actual funding. Same scenario with DreamIt Ventures. Many more entrepreneurs are waiting for their shot than the number of slots available to accommodate them.

Venture capitalists talk about deal flow…the number of ideas it takes for the big one to be found. To me, it doesn’t seem as if we have any problem with deal flow with the hundreds of entrepreneurs of color waiting for a chance to be heard. What I see is a tremendous narrowing of the arteries leading to the heart of the matter – funding. And lots of ideas never see the light of day for lack of access to that flow.

Dr. Michelle Ferrier is chief instigator for the Journalism That Matters Create or Die series, She is the founder and publisher of LocallyGrownNews.com, a hyperlocal community news site now in its second year. She is also an associate professor in the School of Communications at Elon University.

Home Page, Journalism News, JTM News, Member News, Projects

Living Textbook Gets Funding from Ford Foundation

The Living Textbook, funded out of JTM-Create or Die last June in Detroit, has recently received a two-year grant from the Ford Foundation to continue its work.

Co-directed by Emilia Askari and Joe Grimm, this project sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association, is produced by seventh-grade students in Dearborn, Mich., who have a unique take on what it means to grow up Arab American in post-9/11 America. They are among the first generation of Americans to have no memory of what life was before the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The students’ photos and stories were created with a class of seventh graders at McCollough-Unis School. The idea was to help the students learn about journalism and capture stories about their Arab American community.

The students told stories about bullying and the school track team and the Detroit Tigers. They wrote and took photos about sitting down to big, American-style Thanksgiving dinners – with sides of hummus and tabouleh. Most of the kids are Muslim. Some of the girls, but not all, wear headscarves. Some wore green headscarves for St. Patrick’s Day and clipped shamrock antennae onto them. For USA Day, they wore red, white and blue.

For them, the Middle East is a local story. Most of the students’ families come from Lebanon, but the class also has students with ties to Kuwait and Syria. One boy labored over the story of the uprisings of the Arab Spring and what that is doing to his parents’ families in the Middle East. His mother stays up late at night to talk on the phone, losing sleep and weight. They live that story in their home here in the United States.

A video about the project was created by journalistic filmmaker Bill Kubota:

A photo exhibit of the students’ work opened on July 2, at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. The students would be thrilled if you left them a comment or two on their work. So check it out!

“It is our hope that these young storytellers will gain the skills and confidence they need to continue telling about their generation in words and pictures,” said project co-director Joe Grimm.

“We think that the digital literacy skills the students are learning will help them succeed – – in school, on the job and in their 21st century communities,” co-director Emilia Askari added.

Seeded by a small grant from Journalism That Matters-Create or Die, this project is funded by the McCormick Foundation and The Ford Foundation. Kodak, Target, and Costco have also donated in-kind products to support the program.

The project co-directors, Emilia Askari and Joe Grimm, have been working with the students weekly throughout the 2010-11 school years. Askari is a journalist, who just completed her master’s degree at the University Of Michigan School Of Information; she has spent about two decades as a reporter at newspapers such as the Detroit Free Press and the Miami Herald. Grimm is a professor at the Michigan State University School of Journalism and an adjunct faculty member with the Freedom Forum’s Diversity Institute; he previously worked for more than 30 years in newsrooms, spending a quarter-century at the Free Press.

Journalism News, JTM News, Member News, Seattle

Seattle: A New Media Case Study

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently released its “State of the News Media 2011” report. It includes “Seattle: A New Media Case Study,” an essay Pew asked me to write about Seattle’s changing news landscape.

I was reluctant to take on the task because anything short of an extensive study would be inherently flawed. But I decided to do the report to stimulate conversation in the “Seattle Journalism Commons,” soon to be launched by Journalism That Matters Pacific Northwest.

More about the Commons another day, but for now this blog will launch the conversation.

Here are the opening paragraphs of my essay for Pew:

Seattle, perhaps more than any other American city, epitomizes the promise and challenges of American journalism at the local level.

In the last few years, it has experienced both a sharp loss of traditional news resources and an exciting rise in new journalistic enterprises and inventive collaborations between traditional and emerging media. A New America Foundation case study of Seattle’s news ecosystem describes it as ‘a digital community still in transition.’ A new, vibrant media scene is emerging. But it also may not take hold.

I listed several factors that have created positive energy in Seattle’s media landscape. They include lots of experimentation and collaboration, an abundance of hyper-local news sites, and public acceptance of and engagement with emerging media.

I also listed what I regard as unmet or under-met news and information needs. They include voids created by the erosion of traditional media that are not yet being filled by emerging media. Among these are state capital coverage, arts and culture coverage, and public insight or networked journalism. In terms of needs, I also mentioned foundation support, mapping and metrics for assessing information opportunities, and challenges in finding sustainable business models for emerging media.

The report included an annotated list of “noteworthy outlets that illustrate what is happening in digital journalism in Seattle.” It began with a caveat that any such list would be incomplete and immediately out of date.

Boy, was I right. Between the time I sent the final version of the list to my editors at Pew and the time it was posted, John Cook and Todd Bishop left TechFlash and launched Geek Wire.

My hope is that people will build on my list with their own links and observations. You can post them here, and we’ll build a longer list as we go.

Initial reaction to my Pew piece is encouraging, which is to say it is getting some praise and healthy push back from various corners.

A specific criticism that surprised me is that arts coverage is more robust than my assessment. I would love to hear more views on that. In the meantime, the first addition to my annotated list of noteworthy websites needs to be Encore Media Group’s CityArtsonline.com and City Arts Blog.

Also on the list of concerns is that my perspective is an old media view of new media. I plead guilty. This blog is open for other perspectives from the people who are shaping the regional news and information ecosystem.

Please read my Pew essay and offer your thoughts. Here are some specific questions to kick around:

  • What’s the current state of Seattle’s regional news and information ecosystem?
  • What trends are you noticing?  What’s working?
  • What does a healthy regional news and information ecosystem look like?
  • How can we stimulate more dialogue and idea sharing about news and information innovation?
  • How can we create more public engagement with journalism?
  • How can we increase the diversity of voices participating in conversations about journalism?