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‘Media Seeds’ project in SE Ohio seeks to create dialogue and communication tools in media deserts

The first image (left) represents the characteristics of media innovations built using the Journalism That Matters model. The second image (right) identifies all Ohio newspaper reaches and 2014 and 2015 opioid deaths. / Photos provided

ATHENS, Ohio (Sept. 25, 2017)—Journalism That Matters (JTM) has received a $150,000 grant to work with residents in regions of Southeast Ohio that lack access to daily, local news and information to design systems for inclusive conversations and community-based decision-making. Led by Dr. Michelle Ferrier, an associate professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, the Media Seeds project will help local stakeholders leverage existing community assets and create new, inclusive communication tools.

The Media Seeds: Southeast Ohio Project is funded by the Jefferson Center as part of Your Voice Ohio, a nonpartisan effort to produce more relevant, powerful journalism based on the needs and ambitions of Ohioans and Ohio communities. Your Voice Ohio is supported with grants from the Democracy Fund and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

In addition to working with residents in “media deserts,” JTM will collaborate with Your Voice Ohio to support deep engagement between Ohioans and local news. The media collaboration includes more than two dozen news partners throughout Ohio.

“We’re incredibly excited to be working with Journalism that Matters on this effort to better serve the information needs of more Ohioans,” says Kyle Bozentko, executive director of the Jefferson Center. “JTM’s unique approach will help us learn how communities, especially those lacking a significant traditional media presence, can best access the information they need to thrive.”

Ferrier, the project director, is the former president of JTM and the principal investigator for the Media Deserts Project, a research project that has been mapping media access at the local level in the United States at As part of the project’s growing statewide data, Ferrier mapped opioid deaths to the media desert maps of Ohio. The Media Seeds Project will look at geographies hard hit by the opioid epidemic and media deserts. Ferrier is also the chief instigator of the Create or Die gatherings, an innovation collaboration workshop developed with Journalism That Matters. JTM has hosted Create or Die events in Greensboro, North Carolina and in Detroit.

Ferrier has been an advocate for media entrepreneurship and innovation at the local level. “I am committed to working with my neighbors and Ohioans across Southeast Ohio to connect, to imagine a new narrative for Appalachia and to seed communication experiments that serve our communities to thrive,” said Ferrier.

Journalism That Matters is a nonprofit organization that has been bringing together diverse community stakeholders to re-imagine the local news and information ecosystem and the role of journalism in a democracy. For more than 15 years, JTM has supported journalists, technologists, librarians, city planners, investors, media managers and others to shape new storytelling roles and story creating practices that support communities to thrive.

Following two breakthrough journalism and community engagement gatherings in Portland in 2017 and 2015, Journalism that Matters (JTM) released a framework for how journalism and other forms of civic communications interact to support thriving communities. The framework outlines new skills and knowledge to enhance a journalist’s effectiveness in community engagement as well as highlighting ways in which journalists can bring added value to communities as conveners of conversations.

Ferrier and JTM will be employing these practices in the SE Ohio work. Dr. Laura Black, associate professor in the Ohio University School of Communication Studies, will also be a partner on this project.

“JTM has been at the forefront of imagining new roles, new practices and new ways of fostering engagement. We will be employing those principles as part of our work. and re-imagining what it means to have a civic communications ecosystem that is inclusive,” said Ferrier.

Regional residents interested in the project can get more information at and see upcoming programs and regional events.

For more information, contact Dr. Michelle Ferrier, or 740-593-0899.

Journalism That Matters, a Seattle-based nonprofit, has been hosting breakthrough conversations with community and national stakeholders on the emerging news and information ecology. For more information on JTM, visit

Jefferson Center is a nonprofit organization that partners with citizens, communities, and institutions to design and implement informed, innovative, and democratic solutions to today’s toughest challenges. For more information on our programs and mission, visit

-From staff reports

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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!