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An ecology of story for the well-being of community and democracy

Submitted by PeggyHolman on Wed, 06/04/2008 – 9:00am

My friend and colleague, Tom Atlee, founder of the The Co-Intelligence Institute, developed a map of stories entitled Whole System Learning and Evolution — and the New Journalism
that I think has great potential as a way of thinking about what is
required for both great stories and great story-telling organizations.
In the version below, I changed a few terms (e.g., “community” became
“connect” to create consistency of form) and I added four verbs (in
blue) that, framed as questions, I think could provide a tool for
assessing the likely effectiveness of a story or a news organization.
The questions that Tom’s model sparked for me:

• Does it inform? (a primary focus of traditional journalism)
• Does it engage? (a primary focus of the emerging social networking sites)
• Does it inspire? (almost virgin territory, but hinted at by the idea of “possibility journalism”)
• Does it activate? (also exciting terrain)

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Six Questions that Matter to Journalism

Submitted by PeggyHolman on Sat, 05/31/2008 – 3:32pm

As I read people’s registration comments for NewPamphleteers/New Reporters – the upcoming JtM gathering in Minnesota, it struck me that people were asking questions and bringing expertise in six areas:

  • Business models
  • Cultivating community
  • Partnerships
  • Content choices
  • Craft
  • Technology

Here’s a picture of what seems to be emerging:

We’ve now got a twitter stream for Journalism that Matters: jtmstream. Join us from June 4-5.

Events, Home Page, JTM Findings, JTM News, Resources, Silicon Valley

Possibility Journalism: An Emerging Trend?

Submitted by PeggyHolman on Thu, 05/22/2008 – 9:00am

As I reflected on Journalism that Matters-Silicon Valley,
it struck me that my favorite subject – the power of story to inspire
and engage, was a very quiet theme at this particular gathering. It got
me thinking about the need to say something about what is emerging is
this arena.
It began for me with three threads of the Journalism that Matters-Memphis session:

  • Geneva Overholser, Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting, University of Missouri, introduced herself saying:

“I had been depressed. A couple of years ago, I resolved
to find hope. When you open yourself to possibility you are willing to
experience stuff you haven’t experienced before.”
What a fabulous discovery: finding hope is a choice. Could Geneva’s comment be indicative of an emerging trend?

  • Then I saw a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. at the National Civil Rights Museum:

“But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. …”

What a profound insight when so much coverage is about the dark! Why not also look at the stars in the story?

  • The capper was witnessing two veteran reporters interview the
    mother of Josh Wolf — the video blogger who went to jail for refusing a
    federal grand jury’s request to turn over video he shot of a burning
    police car during last year’s G8 protest. The interview prompted me to
    ask her a question that struck me as a way to see the stars:

“Given all you’ve experienced, what the best possible outcome you can imagine?”

I was stunned by her powerful and cogent response — that she hoped
Josh’s situation provided clarity about the application of first
amendment rights to emerging types of journalists — because it shifted
the interview’s tone from frustration and defeat to hope and

It made me wonder what would happen if the essential questions of journalism added something to

who? what? when? where? why? and how? — namely,
What’s possible now?

And then Stephen Silha and I interviewed Journalism that Matters alum Sarah Stuteville and one of her partners, Jessica Partnow about theCommon Language Project, a startup that took shape at Journalism that Matters-Kalamazoo. CLP puts a human face on international stories.

To my surprise, Jessica told us that asking “what’s possible now”
has become central to their style of reporting. Sarah then told us this

The first time I used “what’s possible now” was reporting in little
Pakistan in Brooklyn. I was hearing about the experience of families of
deportations, mostly young men. I was talking to that community and to
the non-Pakistani community who had very different feelings. People
felt strongly on different sides of same issues. I think the first time
I asked “what’s possible now”, may have come out of frustration. It is
hard to have conversations and not get anywhere. I threw my hands up
and said ok, “what is your ideal solution?” And everything changed. (the interview)

Sarah then offered a second story:

We – Jessica and I – were in the Middle East, talking with a
Palestinian about frustrating, polarizing material. He kept repeating
the same ideas over and over so we 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. (the interview)

The stories we tell ourselves shape the way we see the world. And
that shapes our behavior. A trend towards asking “what’s possible now?”
follows the energy towards our hopes and aspirations. Sounds to me like
a trend worth amplifying!!!

A coda to this story: Josh Wolf attended NewsTools 2008. Here’s a video interview done by David Cohn during NewsTools. In a second interview, by From the Frontline, Josh describes an interesting idea for a live internet news network that harnesses live video broadcasting tools like Qik,Flixwagon and coupled with the microblogging tool Twitter and Skype call ins.

JTM Findings, JTM News

The Next Newsroom: A New Model for Local News

An updated  business plan, an organizational framework, and a creative commitment to launch a new model for gathering local news in a community where 21st century citizens work together with committed journalists to strengthen civic life with the aid of digital technology.

Working Draft by Chris Peck, Co-Founder
Journalism That Matters
March 2008

The whole paper is attached: JTM Next Newsroom Business Plan Revised

Below is the overview.

An Overview

For mainstream American media, the shipwreck is here.

Cracks are ripping apart the economic keel and business model that traditionally have kept print and electronic newsrooms afloat. Both top line revenue and bottom line profit have fallen by 30% or more at most major newspapers in the last five years. As a result, the staffs of most American newsrooms have been cut 20% to 40%, with no bottom in sight.

And there is more. The traditional roles professional journalists assumed they played in geographically-defined communities also have begun to morph. Today, citizen journalists and digitally-defined communities rapidly are rewriting the definitions of who is a journalist and what journalists do.

As more people bypass newspapers and TV and go to Google, YouTube or community blogs to find indexed news, as more traditional advertising evaporates, many American journalists ask themselves, “Is this the end of journalism as we know it?’’

Here is a paradox. At the very moment when the world is poised to be more interconnected than ever before, at the time in history when citizens hunger for more constructive conversations about issues of the day, at this critical juncture where journalism needs to be reinvented, many venerable news-gathering organizations are frozen in fear and trapped in their old models of doing business. This paralysis could grow into a civic disaster. Never before have journalists so needed to rediscover their passion even as they make room for citizens who are willing and able to help shape and gather the news. Never before has digital technology opened so many doors of opportunity for easier delivery of information even as the traditional business model for supporting news erodes. The opportunities for building a 21st century newsgathering organization seem ripe.

But how? Plenty of promising conversations are underway these days about saving journalism. Conferences to discuss the problems facing newsrooms abound. Foundations, former publishers and academics are generating innovative ideas and experiments every week to better define what will come next for journalism. Yet strangely, few comprehensive, real-life efforts have been mounted to devise and road test what might be called The Next Newsroom.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen would attribute this failure of traditional news organizations to stay atop of their industry to what he calls the innovators dilemma. In essence, Christensen argues that successful, well-managed legacy media businesses simply are incapable of acting upon changes needed to survive the tsunami of new expectations and new technologies now washing over the news business. Think about these five Ws for a moment:
• Who has actually pulled together all the promising, innovative guiding principles now being discussed for The Next Newsroom and put them into practice?
• What journalists actually are being hired and trained to succeed in The Next Newsroom?
• When will new revenue models be field-tested to support The Next Newsroom?
• Where are the real-time examples of local communities being served by The Next Newsroom, built to serve 21st century citizens?
• Why is getting The Next Newsroom launched and running taking so long?

JTM’s Next Newsroom wants to answer these questions with a comprehensive plan for action.
The JTM Next newsroom plan isn’t an anguished plea for a return to the good old days. It’s past time for all of that.
JTM’s Next Newsroom builds upon the solid academic research. The JTM Next Newsroom plan incorporates best practices from leading media reformers.
JTM’s Next Newsroom embraces the transformative powers of both digital technology and citizen journalism that will profoundly redefine journalism.
And now, the time is ripe for The JTM Next Newsroom to be launched.