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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 www.mediadeserts.com. 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 http://mediaseeds.wikispaces.com/ and see upcoming programs and regional events.

For more information, contact Dr. Michelle Ferrier, ferrierm@ohio.edu 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 www.journalismthatmatters.org.

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 jefferson-center.org.

-From staff reports

Activities at JTM, Events, Home Page, JTM News, Portland, Spotlight

Elevate Engagement from Afar

Can’t make it out to Portland for Elevate Engagement but still want to plug in from a distance? We’ve lined up a few ways to participate both asynchronously or synchronously.

And there will be two distinct sessions that we’ll broadcast live:

Thursday, May 18 at 6 p.m.

Lessons from the Field: Examples of Engaged Journalism – we’ll see some examples of what’s working. Lightning presenters include:

We’ll be broadcasting this session on Facebook Live and Periscope. Watch this page and #pdxEngage17 Thursday afternoon for more details.

Friday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m.

Rebuilding Trust: Truth to Empower – a conversation among practitioner/scholars from different disciplines. Introduction and moderation by Regina Lawrence, UO-SOJC’s Agora Journalism Center. Conversation catalysts include:

We’ll be using an exciting new engagement tool from the creators of Civil Comments: Civil Live. With this new technology, we’ll be able to solicit questions or thoughts from you in advance and in real time. You can join those in the room to upvote the questions and ideas to bring to the conversation. Keep an eye on this page Friday evening.

JTM News, Miscellaneous, Spotlight

The case for government investment in journalism, a manifesto


Dr. Michelle Ferrier is an associate professor in the School of Communications at Elon University in North Carolina. She is also vice president of Journalism That Matters.

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.

For more on this post, visit: http://wp.me/pgDpt-7C

Home Page, JTM News, Spotlight

Journalism is Dead; Long Live Journalism


April 3 and 4
Denver, CO

What’s great in the emerging news and information ecosystem?

Journalism That Matters comes to Denver for a two-day gathering of  journalists, technologists, educators, students, librarians, and engaged citizens. Come prepared to document what’s working in the new news ecosystem . . . and collaborate to amplify journalism’s values, principles and purposes regardless of form.

For more information,

visit The New Journalism.

JTM News, Spotlight

6 Actionable Ideas for Solving Political Fact-Checking and Rewarding Truth

"Rewarding the Truth" -- Sept. 25

Summary of JTM National Teleconference Sept. 25 on “Facts, Fibs, and Accountability in Political Reporting”
One key to solving the politics/political reporting dilemma of facts and fact-checking may be to engage people as more than voters.

“When politics and political leaders treat the public like consumers more than voters and politics as a product, then the public is disengaged,” said Marla Crockett, chair of the National Coalition for Dialog and Deliberation, “We need to engage them more in the process.”

On Tuesday, September 25th, about 40 intrepid people came together for an experiment in conversing on a topic of civic importance:

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

Here’s the audio.
(1 hour, 8 minutes 63 MB)

The participant mix was about 25% educators, with the other 75% divided relatively evenly among traditional media people, new media people, civic activists and media reformers, community members, students and others.

Using Maestro Conference, a technology for social conferencing, Journalism That Matters brought together voices of politicians, the public, and the press to consider a better way. Journalism That Matters has convened face-to-face conversations on the new news ecology for more than 10 years and hosted two start-up weekend events for media entrepreneurs of color.

The ideas ranged from the simple to the systemic:

  1. Collaborate among news outlets to check the facts. If different organizations take on different elements, the bandwidth for covering a broader range of issues increases.
  2. Focus on trends in accuracy.  In addition to following the economics of campaigns, follow the veracity of their discourse.  Move from episodic reporting of the facts in a speech to the tenor of the campaign.
  3. Use crowd-sourcing for fact-checking through platforms like Twitter. It engages the public directly in making sense of political discourse.
  4. Cite sources in stories. It demonstrates integrity and helps with verification.
  5. Increase training in news/media/civic literacy, particularly in schools.  Are we asking the wrong question? In a world where we’ve got a stark divide, looking for the facts is too small.  We need to provide the public with the skills for discerning the quality of their sources.
  6. Engage in dialogue.  In an environment of entrenched cultural narratives, use skilled civic engagement practices to bring together people with differing views in conversations that move deeper than the usual rhetoric.

In the spirit of Journalism That Matter’s face-to-face convenings, the focus on the call was to look towards possibilities.  JTM chooses this strategy – focusing on what is working – because a wealth of research demonstrates that human systems thrive when people have an image of a desirable future.  Such images inspire people to move towards what they wish to create[1].

Michelle Ferrier, associate professor of communications at Elon University and a Journalism That Matters board member, moderated the call. She framed the solution as one that gives responsibility to politicians, journalists and the public.

“Accurate reporting isn’t just what we do during the election cycle, but what journalists must do everyday,” she said. “While we’ve heard more conversation lately, we have to look at the infrastructure to build something that works consistently.”

She introduced the four conversation catalysts who talked about the issue from their different perspectives:

  • Justin Peters, managing editor/web and and a political writer at the Columbia Journalism Review
  • Les Ihara Jr. Hawaii State Senator, who has served as Senate Majority Policy Leader since 2006
  • Marla Crockett, chair of the National Coalition for Dialog and Deliberation and former news anchor, producer and news manager at public radio KERA in Dallas.
  • Dan Conover, newspaper political reporter.

Justin Peters opened, saying that legacy print and broadcast media don’t see fact-checking as part of basic news reporting. He said it’s kept off to the side, as a second thought after the main story.  That means fact-checking doesn’t happen “on cycle”, which diminishes its impact. The solution: Rethink newsroom priorities, because fact-checking is becoming instantaneous by citizens on social-media platforms.

Senator Ihara spoke of his choice to pursue a politics of integrity, recognizing that it means being willing to lose.  He said, “I don’t believe the ends justify the means.  This is the core value of the prevailing political culture.  When the public values integrity, the political climate will shift.”

Dan Conover built on that theme from the perspective of political reporting, saying that the ultimate answer must go well beyond fact-checking to declaring a perspective, a claim to authority.  When a journalist speaks to what s/he wishes to accomplish, it moves the focus from catching people in lies to setting a context for a productive system of exchange among politicians, the public, and the press.

Marla Crockett closed by offering a view of the public’s role in our political system.  Beyond voting, Crockett said, “The public is the greatest underdeveloped resource that we have in our political system.”  Rather than treating voters as consumers of a political product, it’s time to focus on engaging the public in the political process.

Following these remarks, our technical host, Amy Lenzo, split the group in to discussion groups of four people to discuss the question:

Imagine political reporting at its best. As rare as they’ve been, what are some examples you’ve seen? What could it look like?

When people returned to the plenary call, 20 minutes later, they named the ideas notes above for changing the situation. With some new ideas in hand, the call wrapped up in 1 and a half hours.

[1] Cooperrider, D. L. (2000). Positive Image, Positive Action: The Affirmative Basis of Organizing.  Appreciative Inquiry: Rethinking Human Organization Toward a Positive Theory of Change, 29–53.