Events, JTM Findings, JTM News, Portland

Elevate Engagement Manifesto and more

On May 18-21, 2017, a diverse group of 130 journalists, researchers, engagement practitioners, and community leaders gathered at the Agora Journalism Center for Elevate Engagement.

Over a four-day journey, participants explored how engaged journalism can help communities thrive. More specifically, how could we take listening, connection, and trust to the next level?

On the final day, participants identified themes that could support an emerging engaged journalism community of practice to thrive. The result is a proposed foundation for such a community in the form of an Elevate Engagement Manifesto.


Here are other highlights related to the conference:

JTM Findings, JTM News

After the Pocantico conference on Independent Journalism

By Stephen Silha

In May 2015 a group of journalists and funders met around the question: How do we cultivate a vibrant, powerful, and resilient independent journalism ecosystem?

The gathering was inspired by a comment by Bill Moyers about the need for an independent journalism trust fund.  As a result of the Pocantico gathering, while we didn’t have any immediate outcomes related to a trust fund, we did establish more urgently the business necessity of addressing race.  Among the many initiatives we are aware of:

The Media Consortium adopted racial equity as its guiding strategic goal for the next five years. Executive Director Jo Ellen Kaiser reports:  “Our members were enthusiastic in embracing this goal; at our annual conference, 60 individuals from 45 outlets attended an all-day racial equity training led by Race Forward. We are pursuing a racial equity fund; a mentorship program for journalists of color; and collaborative work focused on issues of race.”

A new nonprofit journalism collaborative in Boston. During a recent call, Director Chris Faraone said, “The JTM event I attended at Pocantico, without it, there wouldn’t be a BINJ.” He writes:  “Having known almost nothing about nonprofit journalism before being invited to the retreat, I spent the weeks leading up to the conference studying various models. In the process my partner and I hatched a beta version of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and set out to support independent media makers and small publications.  After surveying the landscape and hanging with the learned gang in Rockefeller country for three days, I was hopeful for the first time since the Boston Phoenix shuttered in 2013. …We are mentoring the next generation of enterprise reporters; more than half of our features in the first year were written by first-time long form writers.   We’re launching new projects and initiatives each month, from the Boston Bubble magazine to an upcoming ethics colloquium. We’re still small and scrappy, no doubt about it. But [we made an] enormous contribution to the public dialogue in Boston this past year—more than a dozen features, nearly 100 columns, several neighborhood events.” [This effort also received funding as a result of Pocantico.] What’s more, the BINJ is pioneering in using the online source Medium to create new income streams:

And, they are spreading the model to other regions:

Information Trust Exchange. Bill Densmore writes: “I connected at Pocantico for the first time with Knight Foundation’s Jennifer Preston, and with Bill Buzenberg, who inspired me and RJI to push on what has become the Information Trust Exchange Project —  / Nearly a year and five task group meetings later, the creation of a shared user network that helps with privacy, identity, advertising and information commerce is dramatically closer to a reality.  The urgency of the need underscored by the Pocantico gathering, and the broad support for this big — but doable — network idea, the rise of ad blocking and “creepy” ad-surveillance, have all been part of the mix.”

Awareness of diversity.  Kevin Davis said the most important outcome for him was realizing “the importance of diversity, inclusiveness and ensuring that the people we serve are sitting at our table.”

To that end, Esther Kaplan reports, the Nation Institute launched the Ida B. Wells Fellowship to in March 2016 to promote diversity in journalism by helping to create a pipeline of investigative reporters of color who bring diverse backgrounds, experiences, and interests to their work.

Redefining “independent journalism”  San Francisco Public Press publisher Michael Stoll writes: There was definitely an undertone of redefining independent as an independence of mind — a willingness to challenge stereotypes, go deeper and take chances that profit-obsessed “mainstream” media wouldn’t.

Sources as narrators, not subjects. One independent journalist who attended, Julie Schwietert Collazo, explains that the Pocantico discussions have impacted her “in both small and big ways, from introducing constructive criticism into collegial conversations about editorial representation, to being more intentional about being representative with my sources and continuing to push toward a personal model of reporting and storytelling that privileges the sources as narrators and protagonists rather than passive subjects. I’ve also reached out to colleagues to develop and disseminate a list of subject matter experts who identify as Latinos/as, distributing this to colleagues who, in particular, complain that they simply don’t know how to be more representative.”  She also wrote an article on pay for independent journalists:

Culture shift.  Tracie Powell, founder of All Digitocracy, was a Knight Fellow at Stanford: “I made significant headway in figuring out that adding to audience has almost nothing to do with news organizations’ data collection or technology– both are already at our fingertips. The problem is culture. To that end, I’m hoping to conduct a case study, preferably in Philadelphia– both due to the ecosystem and the region’s demographic diversity.  While on fellowship, I also collaborated a bit on an initiative that offers some transparency on how freelance writers are paid.”

From journalism to community.  Just as the Pocantico participants moved ethnic journalism, audience and community to the center of its map of the ecology of independent journalism, Journalism That Matters found its center of gravity moving from the world of journalism more squarely into community engagement. Five months after Pocantico, JTM co-hosted the Experience Engagement gathering at the University of Oregon’s Agora Center in Portland.  Out of it came three engagement principles which are being tested as JTM refocuses on media deserts, communities of color and underserved communities:  “Nothing about us without us” / “Listening is our superpower”  /  “Speak truth to empower”

Moyers & Company. While the Pocantico gathering was originally inspired by Bill Moyers’ idea of creating a trust fund to support independent journalism, Moyers was unable to attend due to family obligations.  One of his longtime producers, Gail Ablow, attended the gathering and is now working with him on . She continues to contribute ideas and perspectives from the Pocantico discussions to Moyers’ podcasts and speeches, including this one at the New York Public Library:

Relationship power.   A number of relationships either created or strengthened at Pocantico have resulted in funding, ongoing collaborations, and “keeping each other informed.”  YES! Magazine’s Sarah Van Gelder reports that Bill Buzenberg has been working with them part-time to strengthen sustainability.  Michelle Garcia is cooking up a new project in Texas.  Jay Harris has carried ideas to his new board role at Free Speech TV. Several funders said Pocantico’s opportunity to spend less-formal time with each other, and with other participants, was useful in their work.

Illuminations Blog, JTM Findings, JTM News

The Takeaway: What’s working in journalism innovation?

 A Summary

  • Find the right people to work with. (Matter)
  • Hackers, hustlers, designers and storytellers are all necessary to transform an idea into a company. (Matter)
  • Partnering with local businesses, including bookstores, newsstands, markets and coffee shops can provide a distribution network for independent newspapers. (SF Public Press)
  • Begin with an “architecture of openness.” (SF Public Press)
  • Partner with organizations doing what you’d like to be doing and you’ll learn how it’s done. (SF Public Press)
  • It is possible to produce a sustainable news product without advertising. (SF Public Press)
  • Individual Donors and Foundation Support are both vital. (SF Public Press)
  • Paid membership programs can provide a revenue stream and increase community investment on multiple levels (SF Public Press)
  • Nonprofits will often choose other nonprofits for partners.  (SF Public Press)
  • Producing “niche news products aimed at specific, interest groups” continues to be a successful strategy (GeekWire)
  • “You’ve got to work your butt off.” (GeekWire)
  • It is sometimes necessary to leave old media organizations — they are not built to foster entrepreneurial endeavors — and build it independently. (GeekWire)
  • “You have to have five or six mini business connected to your editorial business” in order to generate enough revenue. (GeekWire)
  • It’s important to learn how to be a good beat reporter before you add running a business on top of reporting. (GeekWire)
  • “Investors need to share the vision of the entrepreneurs. And it helps if they bring expertise to the effort.” (GeekWire)
  • In the future there will be live eyewitness video available whenever any news story breaks. (AP and LiveU)
  • It is now possible to stream 1080p HD video using equipment that rents for $2k a month. (AP and LiveU)
  • It is possible to bond your laptop’s wifi connection with one or more cellular connections to increase bandwidth using software. (AP and LiveU)
  • Developing a UGC component to any new endeavor will massively expand its editorial potential. (AP and LiveU)
Audience (formerly), Home Page, JTM Findings, JTM News, Resources

An Open Letter to Journalists

It’s time for a new compact between Journalists and the Public.

We need you.  Your work is vital to the well-being of us all.  I can’t imagine a functional democracy without the passionate commitment journalists make to digging deeply into what matters.  It is a sacred trust and I thank you for doing it on our behalf.

If I – and others –believe that, why do so many of us seem hostile to the press?  Because we feel betrayed.  Where were you when we needed you?  Where were your warnings about the state of the economy?  About the lies of weapons of mass destruction?  About the many stories closer to home that affect our lives and well-being?  Did you miss the clues yourself? Did you know and not help us hear your messages?  How could you let us down?

If you don’t feel trusted, please understand that it is in part the corporation behind you that many of us don’t trust.  When my primary identity shifted from citizen to consumer something died.  You are not your corporation.  I don’t need them.  I need you.

Continue reading

Home Page, JTM Findings, JTM News

Journalism That Matters: An Emerging Cultural Narrative

The following article appeared in the Sprint/Summer 2009 issue of Kosmos

It reflects the themes that surfaced through the many conferences.  Since then, additional themes include:

  • Journalism is still about the public good; and now it is entrepreneurial
  • Small organizations bring heart. Large organizations bring credibility.  Collaborate!
  • Communities can take responsibility for their own narrative.  One strategy: embed journalists in the community
  • Librarians and journalists share common cause for engaging the public in civic life.
  • In the digital age, news and information will look as different from newspapers, TV, and radio news, as these innovations did when pre-printing press, news was delivered from the pulpit.  Think investigative journalism delivered via hip hop and video games.


Journalism that Matters:
An Emerging Cultural Narrative

by Peggy Holman

What does it take to change a social system, an industry?  Like journalism…

For nine years, Journalism that Matters (JTM) has:

*            Invited people from all aspects of journalism: print, broadcast, and new media; editors, reporters, bloggers, audience, reformers, educators, and others;

*            Created space for conversations among peers about what matters most to them;

*            Worked at the emerging edge of the new news ecology.

We have witnessed a new story of journalism being born as the old story is dying.  At its heart, that new story stays true – and enlarges on – a purpose many journalists hold dear: “to provide people with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2001)

The Beginning

For me, Journalism that Matters started with an act of violence.  In 1999 a mass shooting happened at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.  I was working with Appreciative Inquiry, a process based in the idea that positive action follows positive images.  In other words, stories of danger make us hunker down, while stories that illuminate possibilities inspire and activate us. I thought, “the stories we are collectively telling ourselves, through journalists, are not serving us well.”

A friend introduced me to Stephen Silha, a free-lance journalist. Stephen connected us with Chris Peck, incoming president of the Associated Press Managing Editors. During our first conversation, Chris asked an ambitious question:

“What would it take to have a national conversation about the future of journalism?”

Stephen, Chris and I created a plan. We were subsequently joined by Bill Densmore, of the Media Giraffe Project.  While it has unfolded completely differently, Journalism that Matters has convened twelve conversations among more than 800 people from the evolving ecosystem of journalism.

Since we began, technology has radically altered the nature of our communications. The Internet enables anyone to publish, shaking old assumptions of who is a journalist and what constitutes journalism. Social networking technologies such as Facebook ushered in an age of many-to-many connecting.  We no longer depend on a few publishers and broadcasters to set the collective agenda. More than passive recipients of information, we are now active participants shaping our cultural narrative.

For generations, newspapers — and then television — gave us the news, telling us what needed our attention.  As we became “consumers” of news, the stories began to change, no longer providing what we needed to know as citizens.  Perhaps, this, as much as changing technology, has created a generation that finds no connection between journalism and democracy.  For many under 40, the information they need to be engaged citizens does not come through traditional journalism.  As aggregators like Google News use algorithms for choosing what stories matter, our cultural narrative arises from what we collectively follow.  So newspaper circulation and ad revenues decline, and broadcast news viewers age (think ads for Viagra and Boniva for bone loss).  Does this decline threaten the health of democracy?  Or has journalism as we know it passed its time?

Journalists struggle to understand their changing role in a context where anyone can publish, people engage each other about what matters to them, and technology aggregates the agenda.  The rest of us struggle with shifting from consumers to co-creative citizens.  Though it will be a while before we have a clear picture of journalism’s new story, its role in democracy, and our role in it, many exciting experiments give us clues to that future.  Through JTM we are learning about

*   the essential purpose of journalism,

*   the nature of storytelling,

*   who is involved,

*   how it is practiced,

*   how it is taught, and

*   how it is financed.

The Essential Purpose of Journalism

If journalism’s old story was to provide people with information they needed to be free and self-governing, in the emerging story, journalism not only informs, but engages, inspires, and activates people to play their roles as free and self-governing citizens.

The nascent beginnings of this expanded purpose are visible through “place bloggers”, online sites providing community news, information, and electronic conversation spaces in which residents exercise the muscles of civic engagement.  People share their stories. They see connections with local governance and with each other.  As the hosts of these local communities meet – as they did at JTM’s 2008 Minneapolis gathering (, they make connections that re-knit the fabric of democracy from the grassroots out, feeding our larger sense of nation-as-community and even world-as-community.  No longer a one-way communication from journalist to audience, journalism sparks community conversation.  This changing role reveals some new characteristics of journalism:

Journalism as…
lecture conversation
central authority community connector
knowledge-centric relationship-centric
one-to-many many-to-many

The Nature of Storytelling

If journalism has an expanded mission – to inform, connect, and inspire action — then the nature of journalistic storytelling itself is changing. Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute offers a model that, among other things, can help assess the likely effectiveness of a story or a news organization by asking:

*   Does it inform? (a primary focus of traditional journalism)

*   Does it engage? (a primary focus of the social networking)

*   Does it inspire? (almost virgin territory, but hinted at by the idea of “possibility journalism” described below)

*   Does it activate? (almost untouched terrain)

*   Is it part of a process that facilitates collective learning-from-experience by the community?  (integrating all aspects as a cycle)

The Sixth “W”

What is possible now?.  An example of “possibility journalism” emerged from a project launched following JTM-Kalamazoo, called the Common Language Project (CLP),  CLP puts a human face on complex, international stories.  Sarah Stuteville, JTM alum and CLP co-founder offers this story:

I was in the Middle East talking with a Palestinian about frustrating, polarizing material. He kept repeating the same ideas over and over so I asked that magic question: “given what’s happening, what’s possible now?” It shifted the interview completely, as our contact began envisioning the situation in a completely new way.

By adding “What’s possible now” to the traditional five “W’s” of journalism – who, what, when, where, why, and how — stories call forth hopes and aspirations.

Who is Involved

At JTM-Washington, DC ( there were fierce conversations between long-time journalists and newcomers.  One journalist had a change of heart about “citizen journalists” when their conversations made clear that the primary difference between pros and serious amateurs were (1) who gets paid; and (2) professionals COVER stories, citizens SHARE THEIR stories.

Journalists are no longer gatekeepers to the stories that matter, though many have been so busy guarding the gate that they have not noticed the fence is gone.  Still, with the vast increase of sources, the role of making sense of a complex and rapidly changing world is more vital than ever. And the range of options for receiving and making sense of news has exploded, becoming more confusing in the process.  Traditional sources — newspapers, television, and radio — are supplemented by blogs, video blogs, and Internet radio.  Sense-making often occurs through conversation, as social networking sites and local platforms for civil discourse support fact-checking and collective meaning-making.

For JTM-Silicon Valley (, which brought together journalists and technologists, two maps were created: 1) the primary roles in a traditional newsroom and 2) a preliminary sketch of emerging roles.

We began the emerging news ecology map with three roles: community, beat blogger, and sense-maker.  Given the growing emphasis on conversation,  “community weavers” skilled at hosting civil online (e.g., and face-to-face conversations were soon added.  These roles are clearly just the beginning.

How Journalism is Practiced

Virtually every aspect of journalistic practice is changing, with self-publishing, 7×24 coverage, social networking, crowd-sourcing, Twitter, blogs, mainstream outlets, and more.  Multi-media reporting skills become essential as stories are distributed via computers, cell phones, and iPods.  As distribution goes “high tech”, sourcing stories goes “high touch”.  Public radio’s Public Insight Journalism engages ordinary people to cover news in greater depth and uncover stories not otherwise found (

No longer are events the only trigger for a story.  For example, JTM alum, Ilona Meagher (, unexpectedly found herself an expert on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because she started writing about the interconnections she uncovered by researching a subject important to her.  Now she is in journalism school, learning the craft that adopted her.

More people are involved in telling stories today.  Tapping into networks of bloggers to bring complex stories into focus as “beat bloggers” ( do, journalists move from outside the system to being key connectors within a system.


Stories sourced…

from within the news organization from many people and places
from events from events and noticing emerging patterns
are deadline driven are continually unfolding

Stories disseminated…

media specific multi-purpose (e.g., print, broadcast, web, podcast, cell phone, etc.)

Content that…

publisher owns and creates public owns and creates
answers who, what when, where, why and how answers who, what when, where, why, how, and what’s possible now
pours around the ads serves a greater good
follows the inverted pyramid is edited for readability
offers an A vs. B narrative expresses a systemic narrative (A relates to B, influenced by C, contextualized by D, E, and F)
informs informs, connects people and ideas, inspires, and activates
editor-centric community-centric
arouses inspires engagement

Journalist as…

outsider community member
gatekeeper sense-maker
focused on the external world focused on both inner life and external world
expert, arbiter of truth coordinator, facilitator, convener, evaluator, refiner
professional, dispassionate professional and citizen, passion in the mix
content creator content creator and guide
skeptical of experimentation innovator

How Journalism is Taught

How do you prepare a new generation when the field is radically changing?  Some exciting insights emerged at JTM-DC, captured by Dale Peskin:

Of particular interest are the three roots:

*   broad-based media literacy

*   journalism tools, including traditional craft and values, and emerging values and skills, such as transparency and multi-media reporting

*   the art of engagement – convening community both online and face to face.

How Journalism is Financed

Likely last to emerge will be a viable economic model.  Among the ideas and experiments:

*   Community-supported journalism (e.g., community radio, Democracy Now)

*   A utility model (funded as a basic service, like water and power)

*   Community-owned (every citizen has shares and citizens retain oversight authority)

*   Crowdfunding: JTM alum, Dave Cohn, funded by a Knight Challenge Grant created, “that allows an individual or group to take control of news in their community by sharing the cost… to commission freelance journalists.”

Changes to the economics include:



ad supported multiple sources of support
high cost production and distribution low cost production and distribution
most of the cost is not journalism costs mostly journalism related
profit-driven mission-driven

Open Questions

Two important questions for deeper exploration in JTM conversations:

How do we engage an increasingly diverse audience? And how do we ensure investigative journalism – community, national, international – is done well?

I now believe that journalism is too important to be left solely in the hands of professionals.  Even as journalists struggle with their new role, it is up to us citizens to determine our place in the new media landscape.  Ultimately, the emerging news ecology will serve its purpose well only by answering the question:

How can journalism inform, engage, inspire, and activate us — materially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually — to be free and self-governing citizens and communities?


Kovach, Bill and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism.  Crown Publishers, New York, 2001, p. 12.

Thanks to Steven Wright for the visual recording.