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Stories for Navigating the Waves of Change

How can journalists discern what stories are most useful for helping us navigate through turbulent times?

One way to decide is by understanding the roles people play in changing times. I recently described some key roles on the Seapoint Center leadership blog. In brief:

Stabilizers maintain the old systems and structures, for better and worse.

Originators experiment with a range of ideas, from the hair-brained to the brilliant.

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Adapted from Berkana Institute’s Two Loops Theory of Change

These two roles are immersed in the shifting waves of change, caught up in two primary and conflicting forces: maintaining the old and inventing the new. Three other roles work with these forces:

Hospice workers help us to mourn what is dying.

Midwives help launch innovations.

Wave riders assist us in transitioning between old and new cultural narratives.

Journalists can help us appreciate the contributions of people performing each of these roles. They can honor legacies and illuminate values that still endure, even as they report on the shortcomings of failing institutions .  They can extend the reach of promising innovations, giving us hope for the future and more ability to embrace the unfamiliar.  Through telling these stories, journalists support hospice workers and midwives by bringing their work to a larger, and ideally more diverse audience.

Perhaps most critical, journalists can help us through change by being wave riders themselves, making sense of the shifting narratives of our times through the stories they tell. For example, central to journalism’s traditional narrative is “giving voice to the voiceless” and “holding the powerful accountable”. While this narrative still informs journalism, through its convenings among the diverse players in the changing news and information ecosystem, JTM has tracked shifts in journalism’s narrative.

While by no means definitive, the table below is a snapshot of recent observations informed by conversations among JTM participants. I suspect that we are years from a well-functioning news and information ecosystem. Still, we are seeing glimpses of emerging patterns.

Journalism’s narrative…

 

Traditional Emerging

 

Journalism is about the public good. Journalism is still about the public good. And now it is entrepreneurial.
News organizations have a large influence on a community’s cultural narrative. Communities take primary responsibility for their cultural narrative. One strategy: embed journalists in the community.
News organizations are institutions that bring credibility. News organizations are of all shapes and sizes. Some bring credibility. Some bring heart. Collaborations bring us the best of both.
Independence brings stories focused on problems, winners/losers, and scarcity. Independence within interdependence brings engagement in diverse community that leads to stories focused on possibilities, adaptation, and abundance.

 

Unless it is an editorial, no advocacy. Period. Advocacy for a better world (e.g. better education, environment, health care, governance) without attachment to specific solutions.
Stories delivered via print, broadcast, and online. Stories delivered via print, broadcast, online, social media, hip-hop, video games, and other means.

 

By putting a name to what is changing, stories give us a chance to consider what endures from the past that is still relevant and what we wish to embrace that wasn’t possible before. Naming provides language for conversations about changing perspectives and their implications to the practice of journalism.  Where do you see yourself in these shifts? What do the changes mean for you and your work?

What if journalists characterized changing assumptions for education, healthcare, governance, or other systems they care about? How might that spark conversations about underlying beliefs and assumptions? How could it lead to greater understanding of the tensions among people in the system and in the process, cultivate greater understanding, compassion and creativity in changing times?

What are the stories you can tell that help us navigate through change?

 

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Changing Stories in Journalism

For more than a decade, JTM has tracked the narrative of journalism through the conversations it has hosted among diverse groups of people involved with news and information.

Created originally for NewsTools 2008 in Silicon Valley, the two value network maps below highlight shifts in key roles and exchanges in the news and information ecosystem.

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The charts of changing views that follow were compiled between 2006 and 2009. They still stimulate rich conversations about the changing story of journalism.

 

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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.

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TAO of Journalism grows

The TAO of Journalism, brain child of Journalism That Matters alumni John Hamer, President of the Washington News Council, has just reached a new constituency: high school students.

The TAO is a promise to your audience that you will be Transparent about who you are, Accountable for your mistakes, and Open to other points of view.

A recent post, Students nationwide sign up for TAO of Journalism program by Kathy Schrier, director of the Washington Journalism Education Association (WJEA) and on staff at the Washington News Council tells the story.

An excerpt:

Student journalists from across the U.S. took the TAO of Journalism Pledge during annual Scholastic Journalism Week, Feb. 19-25, promising to be Transparent, Accountable and Open (TAO) in their work as journalists. Student journalism groups are invited to take the TAO Pledge at any time, but Feb. 22 was set aside as National TAO of Journalism Pledge Day.

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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.