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Sept. 25: Rewarding the Truth: Facts, Fibs and Accountability in Political Reporting

"Rewarding the Truth" -- Sept. 25

What will it take to increase the rewards for telling the truth in politics?

In a test of a unique collaboration technology, Journalism That Matters (JTM) will create the platform for a 90-minute, solutions-based discussion of that question with a public teleconference, “Rewarding the Truth: Facts, Fibs and Accountability in Political Reporting.” Among participants will be political press analyst Justin Peters of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Anyone can participate for free by registering in advance for the phone-in event, which will run from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on Tues., Sept. 25.  Journalism students from Elon University, the University of Nevada-Reno and the Missouri School of Journalism  will be among participants.


Amy Lenzo -- Maestro facilitator

Amy Lenzo, Maestro facilitator

Particularly since the U.S. political-party conventions, politicians, political fact checkers, reporters, commentators and campaign strategists have been discussing online and elsewhere specific allegations that campaign or independent advertisements or platform statements are either lies or conflations of the truth so simplistic that they appear to become lies.

“Mass media mechanics in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign drive strategists to reduce messages to a few words, and sometimes the truth about a complex issue doesn’t fit perfectly,” says Bill Densmore, JTM board member and a consulting fellow to the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.  “Journalists aren’t sure how to respond. We’ll explore some ideas.”

What makes this teleconference unique is that in addition to hearing from people who are steeped in the topic, the Maestro Conference technology enables participants to move in and out of small group conversations — on the phone.  It extends JTM’s signature unconferencing capabilities to engage geographically dispersed participants. The session will be recorded and excerpted in transcript form.

“Rewarding the Truth”  will open with “conversation catalysts” who will set the stage for conversation, explains Peggy Holman, executive director of Journalism That Matters and principal facilitator of JTM’s in-person gatherings. She adds: “Following their remarks, we’ll break into groups to discuss ideas for innovations in covering politics. When reconvened as a whole group, the conversation continues with participants sharing ideas that none of us could have thought of on our own.”

As always, JTM extends this invitation to diverse collaborators who will bring their experience and insights to the call including traditional and emerging journalists, people and their communities, politicians and others who contribute to civic discourse, such as educators, information technologists and librarians.  “Rewarding the Truth” is planned as the first in a series of topical audio gatherings leading up to JTM’s 2013 gathering in Denver on April 3-5, entitled: “Journalism is Dead; Long Live Journalism.”


JTM is inviting those with ideas for solutions to be part of the Tues., Sept. 25 virtual roundtable, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.  The call-in number will be provided with registration at: Each person gets a unique identity code for the discussion, so registration is required to participate in the free discussion.

“Typically a topic this important might be the subject of an invitation-only, thought-leaders gathering, or a speaking event scheduled well in advance,” says Densmore. “Not everyone is invited or can afford travel. We want to test the possibility for a moderated, diverse public meeting by phone and web, produced while the topic is germane and solutions can have impact.”

Among confirmed participants:

  • Justin Peters, managing editor/web, Columbia Journalism Review, who writes and edits daily criticism and analysis of the political press. He has worked at Washington Monthly and has written for Slate, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times.As managing Web editor for the Columbia Journalism Review, Peters writesand edits daily criticism and analysis of the political press. He hasworked at Washington Monthly and has written for Slate, the Boston Globe,and the New York Times.
  • Marla Crockett, chair of the National Coalition for Dialog and Deliberation, works largely with the  Kettering Foundation of Dayton, Ohio on projects designed to enhance the public’s credibility with government officials.  She was a news anchor, producer and news manager from 1985-2006 at public radio KERA in Dallas.
  • Les Ihara Jr. is a Hawaii State Senator, who has served as Senate Majority Policy Leader since 2006. A 26-year veteran of the Hawaii Legislature, Les has held leadership positions of Senate Majority Leader, Majority Floor Leader in the House and Senate, and chair of the House Committee on International and Intergovernmental Affairs. Les is co-chair of the Legislative Effectiveness Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures and a member of the Kettering Foundation board of directors. His main focus is on government transparency, citizen engagement, public integrity, environmental and consumer protection, civil rights, and aging issues.
  • Amy Lenzo,  an experienced manager of Maestro audio conferences and director of communications for the Seattle-based World Cafe Community Foundation.
  • Dan Conover, a longtime South Carolina newspaper political reporter who has an idea for using web-based technology that would allow smart crowds to reward truth tellers.
  • Michelle Ferrier, an Elon University communications professor and former newspaper columnist, JTM board member and a researcher on online communities and digital media technologies.


The types of questions that we’ll discuss:

  • What defines quality political reporting? What examples have you seen of it?
  • How can we best help the electorate discern truth in politics?
  • What would it take to increase the rewards for telling the truth in politics, or penalize those who are seen as lying?
  • How is the truthfulness (or lack of it) in campaign statements best handled? What is the role of fact-checking websites?
  • How integral is fact checking to accountable political reporting?
  • How might we use online tools to check on “sound bite” campaign assertions? For example, encyclopedias of facts about contested policy issues with links to background information. Who might operate these tools?
  • As voters juggle limited time for learning about policy issues, what possibilities exist for improving the veracity of political communication?
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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, a hyperlocal community news site now in its second year. She is also an associate professor in the School of Communications at Elon University.

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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.

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What support do journalists need? *Survey now closed, stay tuned for results*

[UPDATE] The survey is now closed. Thanks for all who participated! Results coming soon.
As part of the Journalism That Matters Pacific Northwest community, we’d like to hear from you!

What do you think our region needs, or is doing well?

In partnership with Lisa Skube, Fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, we’re reaching out to learn more about the tools you use to get your work done, questions on your mind, and areas you’d like to know more about.

As one outgrowth of last January’s Journalism That Matters conference in the Pacific Northwest, a small group of us are working with Lisa.  We’re in the early stages of creating a “Seattle Journalism Commons” to connect people and ideas in person and online in order to catalyze journalists and the public in creating, disseminating, and engaging with news and information of, by and for people in our region.  We hope it becomes an example for other communities.

The idea for the commons began with Mike Fancher, retired executive editor of the Seattle Times and author of the just released Seattle: A New Media Case Study which is part of the Pew State of the News Media 2011 report.

The survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Click here to participate
Individual responses to the questionnaire are confidential.
We will share what we learn in a summary that will be posted for your review here on JTM’s site.
Thanks for your support!
JTM News, Projects, Seattle

JTM Pacific Northwest Latest Initiative Updates

Since their initial conference in New York City in October 2001, JTM has been bringing together journalists and increasingly, others interested in the growing and changing public information ecosphere. The aim has been to puzzle through epic changes in the news and information landscape and creatively develop new approaches, alliances and projects that strengthen bonds of community and democracy through constructive engagement. The JTM Pacific Northwest (JTM-PNW) conference at the University of Washington in Seattle drew a diverse group of current and former legacy media journalists, specialty media, new media and social media practitioners, representatives of non-profits including civic and advocacy groups, some very talented and capable students, and others. Ten initiatives have come forward as a direct result of the conference. They are at varying stages.

Two provide detailed recent reports and plans at JTM-PNW’s site. One is the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative. More here from the UW School of Communications, which is providing funding and a home for the project for two years. This is an impressive development which reflects the valuable role JTM-PNW plays as an instigator and enabler for innovation. Another recent update is from JTM-PNW’s Building On Transparency effort, which I am helping to advance as part of my work for Countywide Community Forums (CCF), a public engagement program in King County which is underwritten by private donors, most notably the Spady family of Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants in Seattle.


Another of the 10 JTM-PNW initiatives is the News Collaboratory, which meets monthly. It helps chart JTM-PNW’s overall direction, serves as a resource and connector for the initiatives. Monday July 26, the JTM-PNW News Collaboratory organized a potluck gathering at the Filipino Community Center in Southeast Seattle so a broader group of initiative leaders and interested others could connect, share news and lay plans for future face-to-face gatherings and further development of the initiatives. We were pleased to be joined by several distinguished guests who came to listen. They were Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR Inc., a public affairs and community engagement firm based in Seattle; new media maven Monica Guzman, now of Intersect; online guru Jason Preston of Parnassus Group and Eat Sleep Publish; and communicator Carrie Shaw, also a CCF colleague of mine.Unknown Object


Opening the reporting session, ex-Seattle Times Executive Editor Michael Fancher emphasized his Abundant Journalism initiative is envisioned as an information clearinghouse that would grow into a role of finding funding to help start-up enterprises in the news and public information space. He is looking to get a few more core members to help him guide the initiative. Most of Fancher’s time has been focused on nationally-recognized research and report-writing work for the Knight Foundation and Aspen Institute on the future of journalism and news information. He has also maintained and updated JTM-PNW’s web site, and served as a member of JTM-PNW’s News Collaboratory.


Michael Bradbury of RealScience, Inc. reported on a new JTM-PNW initiative that he said could fold nicely into Abundant Journalism: business training and micro-finance for aspiring journalism entrepreneurs. As a 501c3, JTM-PNW could become a micro-lending program, especially if paired with business skills development for emerging small business enterprises in the regional news ecosphere, Bradbury told the group. This possibility arose after Bradbury reached out to the Washington Community Alliance For Self-Help (CASH), which provides business training for immigrant populations and individuals subsisting at up to 200 percent of the poverty level, who are seeking to establish small retail businesses. Washington CASH wants to expand to include other business sectors that have been affected by economic changes, specifically including journalism, Bradbury learned. Washington CASH has offered one free training slot to an applicant recommended by JTM-PNW, and we are exploring whether that number might be able to be increased. Several applicants have already expressed interest. Additionally, JTM-PNW is discussing how it would work with journalists who complete Washington CASH training to share lessons learned and help begin raising money for micro-lending to qualified news and information business endeavors.


Daniel Hannah, and later Jonathan Lawson of Reclaim The Media reported on the considerable success of the Seattle Digital Literacy Initiative, which was born at and after the January JTM-PNW conference. SDLI has secured two years of funding through the University of Washington Department of Communications to work with youth in community settings to help develop their critical media analysis and consumer skills as well as their media production capabilities. Project leader Sarah Stuteville, of The Common Language Project, was Back East attending a conference.


Jacob Caggiano reported that the mapping initiative funded by the Washington News Council and its Executive Director John Hamer is shaping up. This alliance also developed as a direct result of the January conference. The Google Map-based project is part of WNC’s Washington News Lab and Directory and now includes contact and Web information on 451 different entities from among legacy media, the blogosphere, and civic groups. The News Council has invested considerable capital in developing the project and so for now, will be making it available only to dues-paying members. JTM-PNW Collaboratory leaders later expressed their support for the project but also indicated they may explore facilitating the development of a similar tool that is free and open.


Hamer reported on the News Council’s ongoing T.A.O. of Journalism initiative to encourage practitioners to sign a pledge and post a badge of compliance on their sites to the principles of transparency, openness and accountability. The council – which focuses on journalistic best practices and ethics – has also unveiled a new Web site developed by Brian Glanz and Charlie Hamilton, and continues its own blogging initiative, assisted by writer Heidi Dietrich.


Charlie Hamilton of the Technology Initiative reported the new JTM-PNW Web site is nearly ready. It is expected to go live in August. JTM-PNW has contracted with Cate Montana of The Global Intelligencer to curate material for the Web site and assist in informational outreach to initiative leaders and conference attendees. As the site develops, community features will be unveiled and promoted.


Peggy Holman, a JTM national co-founder and co-convenor of the January conference in Seattle reported on the Collaboratory initiative, which she leads. She said, “We’re supporting the pioneers who are shaping the news and information ecosystem, being eyes and ears, noticing what’s possible.” Holman’s new book, “Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity” is due out soon.


Sanjay Bhatt, a reporter at the Seattle Times, and Pamela Kilborn-Miller of the Dalai Lama Center spoke about the Global Health Reporting Initiative which emerged out of the deep philanthropic support in the Seattle area for global health initiatives, and the presence of many talented health writers and reporters here. The initiative is doing a cross-sector stakeholder survey to help shape future efforts. Another initiative member present was Michael McCarthy, founder of Seattle/Local Health Guide, now a partner site with the Seattle Times. Bradbury also reported on the Seattle Happiness Index Initiative, which will seek to provide objective indices of community well-being. It isn’t really off the ground yet, he said, but will get there eventually.


I reported on Building On Transparency, which seeks to develop community capacity for using open government and especially online government data and documents to help improve quality of life, dialog and governance. A report and detailed plan is here. I also discussed a core project in the initiative, Public Data Ferret. It is a database of blogged synopses of important public documents and databases which might otherwise go overlooked. They are indexed and searchable by topic and jurisdiction at the Ferret Hub. There is also an archive of weekly Public Data Ferret radio segments on KOMO-AM 1000 in Seattle. I expressed appreciation to JTM-PNW Collaboratory member Andrew Hart for his work as Contributing Editor at Public Data Ferret, and other work on behalf of JTM-PNW. Hart, a recent grad of the UW Communications School, was a participant in the January conference.


The group then heard from Rita Hibbard, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor who is now Executive Editor of Investigate West, an investigative reporting project that works in partnership with major media outlets. Investigate West is not a JTM-PNW initiative per se, but Hibbard was an active participant in the January conference, leading a vigorous discussion in the Open Space setting. The assembled group last week welcomed the chance to hear Hibbard report on IW’s impressive debut. Investigate West, Hibbard said, is doing original investigative reporting work, with articles running in major media such as MSNBC, the Seattle Times, Seattle and the Spokane Spokesman-Review. The project draws financial support from foundations, membership fees and payments from media partners for content. IW is interested in finding ways to work with news consumers, Hibbard added.


Rick Vanderknyff, Managing Editor of Microsoft Local, reported on the Civic Communications Commons Initiative, which has an active and broad steering committee – including Anne Stadler, a longtime dialog facilitator, Seattle media figure and community activist. Work to date includes a completed concept and planning document, regular planning meetings and extensive outreach to potential partners. CCC has 501c3 aims. Vanderknyff told the group that the initiative will include an online commons, a publicly-held place where people can meet; and in-person conversations around the county. The focus will be on dialog around important issues; and serving as a hub on news and information resources. A number of partnerships are expected to be explored with major players in the civic, corporate and communications sectors. Undecided yet are geographical scope (King County versus greater Puget Sound), and exactly what would be at the Web hub.


An open discussion by the initiative leaders of JTM-PNW followed. We agreed to meet quarterly in person, and to begin scheduling monthly events around each initiative. We also discussed different types of events we could hold to promote the initiatives. Sanjay Bhatt had an inspired suggestion for Flash Mobs around mobile food carts (“hook up in Ballard for burritos and talk on transparency.”) He also shared the model used at Asian-American Journalists Association “Innovation Salons”: 30-45 minutes of meet and greet, a 60-minute program, and 45 minutes more of socializing and directed networking. Other possibilities raised were mini-conferences of up to three hours, or convening a public conversation around a cross-cutting topic.

Additional suggestions to help the initiatives gain momentum included: provide “how-to” mini-seminars with initiative leaders (or others) sharing success stories; conduct concept-vetting sessions where one initiative is critiqued by other initiative leaders; share tools such as the survey approach being used by the Global Health Initiative; form a steering committee; reach out beyond the usual suspects: and give presentations to civic, professional and community groups.

Thanks everybody for a great, productive gathering!