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The Changing News and Information Ecosystem: What Can You Do?

How can you contribute to a healthy journalism ecosystem?


Picture a news and information ecosystem that not only informs, but also engages, inspires, and activates.  Imagine journalism that helps us navigate through uncertainty, contextualizing conflict and struggle within aspirations and hope.

Envision telling stories of possibility, highlighting diverse voices, using diverse forms, and engaging with each other around them.

How do we do it?

Journalism is no longer a spectator sport. Whether you are a journalist, an educator, a technologist, or a member of the public, get involved in creating a news and information ecosystem that meets the needs of communities and democracy.

The dominant narrative of how we organize to get stuff done is shifting from hierarchies to networks. No longer just from the top, change happens when people take responsibility for what they love. So join a hub of activity, as many are already doing.  Or link people and organizations to each other. Journalism That Matters (JTM) aspires to be a learning hub for connecting journalism innovators.  So tell JTM about what you’re doing by commenting below and join the conversation.

If you’re not sure where to begin, I offer some ideas:

Learn about change.  We live in interesting times.  Disruption is a normal part of the landscape.  The more each of us understands change, the better equipped we are to work with it. Resources abound! My book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity is one roadmap.

Seek possibilities.  Turn deficit into possibility by asking questions that uncover hopes and aspirations.  Questions like: given what’s happening, what’s possible now?  Or what’s the best possible outcome from this situation?

Many people focus on what they can’t do, what the problems are, what isn’t possible. When someone says, “The problem is x,” ask, “What would it look like if it were working?” If someone says, “I can’t do that,” ask, “What would you like to do?”

Invite others to join you.  You can have more fun and help each other grow into the habit of asking possibility-oriented questions. Over time it will change the nature and quality of our discourse.

Engage. There’s something for everyone in the emerging media landscape. Take a course in media literacy.  Or teach one.

If you are a journalist, remember: engagement is essential for journalism to be relevant and trusted in the digital world. Take the TAO of journalism pledge to be Transparent, Accountable, and Open. Check out resources on engagement at J-Lab, including the 2012 Report on Engaging Audiences.  The Poynter Institute has a variety of articles about engagement.  Or take a look at the ideas in my earlier post on engagement.

If you are not a journalist and you have a story to tell, do so.  Whether text, audio, video, or other media, provide content for a news outlet, your own blog, or social media.  If writing isn’t for you, find media that cover places and issues that matter to you and jump in. Point family, friends, and groups that you are part of to stories that you think make a difference.

Use social media, like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook, to discuss stories with friends and strangers. Or to share what you learn about using social media.  Comment on stories that move you. Organize around them.  If fact, learn about hosting conversations. The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation is a great resource for practices and people.

In other words, whatever your roles in the ecosystem, make media, share it, and use it.

Invite diversity.  We spend so much of our time with people like ourselves!  Whenever you engage with media, notice who else needs to be involved and speak up. Reach out. Support media makers who tell stories that incorporate diverse perspectives. And remember, if you wish to engage with people from a different age, race, culture, etc., go to them. Be humble. Listen. Learn. They are more likely to join with you if they see that you are interested in a respectful partnership.

Ultimately, these actions are not just about the quality of our news and information. They are about cultivating societies that are compassionate, creative, and wise. Able to deal with whatever complexities come our way. Each of us has a role to play. So step in.


Got something to contribute?

A tip? An article? A comment? Journalism That Matters is gathering resources. You can add by:

Unless you explicitly request otherwise, I will post comments received from all media in the comment space below.


Read the other posts in this series:

The Possibility Principle

The Engagement Principle

The Diversity Principle

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Journalism for Navigating Uncertainty: The Diversity Principle

Innovation demands diversity, using our differences creatively.

I was speaking with an African-American colleague about the news. Growing up in an economically disadvantaged part of Los Angeles, the stories never reflected his reality. So he never developed a news habit.


His story points to a key aspect of diversity — diversity of voice. The Maynard Institute’s Fault Lines consider race, class, gender, generation and geography. Religion and political persuasion, the roles we play and our different world views are also dimensions of diverse voice.

In the context of news and information that serves communities and democracy, diversity of form and funding also play a role.  More on them shortly.

Why Diversity of Voice?

If you want innovation, engage the diversity of people in a system. The usual suspects tend to have the same conversation and reach the same conclusions.  In the U.S., traditional media has never reflected the public’s diversity. The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) 2013 census showed 12% of newsroom employees are of color when, according to Wikipedia, the minority population is 28%. Emerging media is creating a similar demographic mix. J-Lab’s 2009 database of new media makers identified about 10% of foundation money – a principle funding source for new ventures – went to those focused on communities of color. That funding mix merits changing!

Journalism that helps us understand multiple perspectives on complex issues helps us navigate through them. Welcoming conditions and possibility-oriented questions set the stage for diversity that sparks creativity. Action is easier because no one needs to be “sold.” Everyone can find themselves in the desired outcomes and works to realize them. For example, the Oakland Tribune is discovering a new relationship with its audience through Oakland Voices, which trains residents as citizen journalists.

In system change, a turning point occurs when we see how we fit together as a whole. We begin to operate as a social body, using differences to discover solutions none could create on their own.

Consider a sports stadium for experiencing many angles. The scoreboard shows the state of play. Cameras spotlight action on the field and in the audience. Television extends reach. Statistics online let professional commentators and ordinary people put activities in perspective. Immersed, we understand the experience from many perspectives.

Imagine journalism that makes the state of the economy, education, or a war that visible. What if we could see how different populations, ages, functions, ethnicities look at it? Shared goals and aspirations emerge along with increased willingness to hear other perspectives. Compassion deepens. We become creative partners to reach wiser answers to the challenges of a complex world.


Why Diversity of Form?

Beyond newspapers, radio, and TV, social media, like Twitter and Facebook, are growing forms of distribution. Smart phones and tablets create new opportunities for how we get news. Less obvious forms for sharing stories include comedy, video games, and hip-hop.

These forms reach people who opt out of traditional news sources. In 2012, Pew Research Center found the Colbert Report and The Daily Show were the most watched news shows for those under 30. As in the days when troubadours brought news to town, Jasiri X raps the news. Using an editor to fact check stories, he reaches an audience most newspapers never will.

American Public Media (APM), content provider to National Public Radio stations, developed an online game, Budget Hero, to balance the federal budget. The game educates players on the consequences of their choices. With participant demographic data, APM can report on perspectives across the spectrum of age, geography, political party, and other dimensions. Isn’t that an exciting basis for a conversation?

Not every form is great for every type of story. Yet each form has something to contribute to the larger discourse. Imagine the role that Twitter would have played had it existed when Watergate was unfolding. To engage a wider diversity of voices, consider emerging forms.


Why Diversity of Funding?

With advertising waning, who will pay for quality content? Numerous experiments, including subscription services, pay walls, co-ops, member donations, and government funding are all being tested.

When journalism provides the news and information we need to be free and self-governing through engagement, a possibility orientation, and a diversity of voices using a diversity of forms, the public will fund journalism in ways that no one has yet envisioned.

So how do we get to such a state? While I have an answer, I know something about the path. Join me next time to explore this question. But first, here are a few tips on working with diversity.


Tips on Diversity

  • Be curious. A desire to know, to learn, to be open to the unknown prepares us to engage with difference.
  • Clarify intention. Why go to the trouble unless there is something you value? Intention—purpose—acts as a compass, setting direction while you travel in the wilderness.
  • Consider who/what makes up the system. What functions, constituencies, or roles are involved? What mix of race, class, gender, geography, and generation is important?
  • Go where people different from you live and work. Be humble. Listen. Learn. Reach out. Show that you are interested in partnership.
  • Invite others. Complex challenges require us all.  Reach out to those who ARE IN — with Authority, Resources, Expertise, Information, and Need. People notice different aspects of a situation. With a shared intention, more eyes and ears, hearts and minds, increase the chances of uncovering the gems.
  • Take a risk.  New outcomes come from new actions.  By definition, that involves the unknown.
  • Say “yes” and welcome what comes. Working with the unexpected increases the likelihood of creative outcomes.
  • Expect messiness. Difference brings disruptions. Use them creatively by working through issues that surface. It prepares you for increasing scale and scope.
  • Develop equanimity. Being calm in a storm increases the likelihood of surviving and bringing others with you.



Got something to contribute?

A tip? An article? A comment? I’ve started gathering resources. We need more diversity resources! So please add by

Unless you explicitly request otherwise, I will post comments received from all media in the comment space below.


Reflections on last week’s post: The Engagement Principle

Mike Fancher, retired Executive Editor, Seattle Times and Journalism That Matters board member, offered a resource: Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers by Jane Singer and others. He said the authors spoke to the idea of “people inside and outside the newsroom communicating not only to, but with, one another.”

Check out the comment from Kevin Fleming, Master’s Student in Mass Public Communications and Technology at Colorado State University, at An Expanded Purpose for Journalism. He writes about the potential for newspaper involvement in deliberative engagement with the public.

I asked people to respond to what makes something newsworthy in a word or phrase.  Via Twitter and LinkedIn, you told me.  In a Wordl, here’s what you said:





Read the other posts in this series: