Just cross-posting an article from the Journalism That Matters’ Engagement Hub that examines the influence engaging communities has on how journalists work.
At the end of this discourse, someone will accuse me of fouling my own nest. That’s if you ever even see this commentary, printed or online in what used to be called the local newspaper.
Regardless, it will circulate. As do the words of the late Edward R. Murrow, the legendary CBS journalist, more than 50 years later that start this letter. Because if the structures of networks and media ownership and cultural representation remain the same — if they continue unaltered – then the main of us may look up one day dazed at what has transpired and realize we have done it to ourselves.
The North Carolina General Assembly this spring is considering the rollback of a longtime requirement for some local governments that legal notices be printed in newspapers, a revenue stream for publishers totaling millions of dollars a year. States across the country, including neighboring Virginia, have been gnawing on the issue as well.
Should HB 504 become law, nine North Carolina counties and municipalities would no longer be dependent on their local publications as a vehicle for bidding out state contracts, announcing property foreclosures, or conducting in public any of several other government or legal business. The counties represented in this bill could instead post notices on their own electronic servers.
But what would be lost in the transaction? The legacy local newspaper, most likely, already facing technological disruption, the “great collapse” of revenue from classified, display and subscriptions, a product struggling to reinvent itself in our brave, new digital world.
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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.
JTM Online is currently being developed to assist JTM members by providing social networking technologies including member profiles, a searchable / sort-able members directory, friend connections, and public and private messaging between members.
Interactive activity streams,
At the social heart of JTM Online are activity streams – one for each member and one collective activity stream for all members. Members can publish updates directly to their activity streams, reply directly to others’ updates, collect a list of favorite updates, recommend others’ updates, and so on. Activity stream updates are also published automatically to mark events such as a member joining JTM Online or two members becoming friends.
Multimedia including photos, videos, and documents can be directly embedded, i.e. viewable within JTM Online, simply by pasting a link into an update from popular sites like YouTube and Flickr. Each activity stream update has its own permanent URL, useful to people and to search engines alike, enabling direct references and a well seen architecture.
JTM Online will enable members to:
- Have a member profile
- View all public JTM sessions and the rest of JTM Online
- Mark activity updates as favorites and build a list of favorites as references
- Be listed and “discoverable” by others in the JTM members directory
- Create online sessions to discuss topics
- Create sessions to organize and develop projects and initiatives
- Share interests and membership in other organizations
Each online session has its own activity stream, which is both the primary means of communication within a session and a record of all that has occurred in a session. JTM Online members can publish updates to either their own profiles or directly to any session of which they are a member. Each update is given its own URL.
Sessions members can:
- File share documents, images, audio and video files, and archives comprised of other files.
- Categorize documents
- Receive notifications of session activity via email, including weekly digests and receiving an email for every update
- Create a session events calendar for meetings and other events
- Track one or more outside RSS feeds, creating activity stream updates automatically for each new item in the RSS feeds. Sessions may thus act as virtual water coolers, created to discuss the items in one or more RSS feeds, or as official, JTM-based representations of outside organizations.