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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 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.

Home Page, Journalism News, JTM News, Member News, Projects

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.

Journalism News, JTM News, Member News, Seattle

Seattle: A New Media Case Study

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism recently released its “State of the News Media 2011” report. It includes “Seattle: A New Media Case Study,” an essay Pew asked me to write about Seattle’s changing news landscape.

I was reluctant to take on the task because anything short of an extensive study would be inherently flawed. But I decided to do the report to stimulate conversation in the “Seattle Journalism Commons,” soon to be launched by Journalism That Matters Pacific Northwest.

More about the Commons another day, but for now this blog will launch the conversation.

Here are the opening paragraphs of my essay for Pew:

Seattle, perhaps more than any other American city, epitomizes the promise and challenges of American journalism at the local level.

In the last few years, it has experienced both a sharp loss of traditional news resources and an exciting rise in new journalistic enterprises and inventive collaborations between traditional and emerging media. A New America Foundation case study of Seattle’s news ecosystem describes it as ‘a digital community still in transition.’ A new, vibrant media scene is emerging. But it also may not take hold.

I listed several factors that have created positive energy in Seattle’s media landscape. They include lots of experimentation and collaboration, an abundance of hyper-local news sites, and public acceptance of and engagement with emerging media.

I also listed what I regard as unmet or under-met news and information needs. They include voids created by the erosion of traditional media that are not yet being filled by emerging media. Among these are state capital coverage, arts and culture coverage, and public insight or networked journalism. In terms of needs, I also mentioned foundation support, mapping and metrics for assessing information opportunities, and challenges in finding sustainable business models for emerging media.

The report included an annotated list of “noteworthy outlets that illustrate what is happening in digital journalism in Seattle.” It began with a caveat that any such list would be incomplete and immediately out of date.

Boy, was I right. Between the time I sent the final version of the list to my editors at Pew and the time it was posted, John Cook and Todd Bishop left TechFlash and launched Geek Wire.

My hope is that people will build on my list with their own links and observations. You can post them here, and we’ll build a longer list as we go.

Initial reaction to my Pew piece is encouraging, which is to say it is getting some praise and healthy push back from various corners.

A specific criticism that surprised me is that arts coverage is more robust than my assessment. I would love to hear more views on that. In the meantime, the first addition to my annotated list of noteworthy websites needs to be Encore Media Group’s CityArtsonline.com and City Arts Blog.

Also on the list of concerns is that my perspective is an old media view of new media. I plead guilty. This blog is open for other perspectives from the people who are shaping the regional news and information ecosystem.

Please read my Pew essay and offer your thoughts. Here are some specific questions to kick around:

  • What’s the current state of Seattle’s regional news and information ecosystem?
  • What trends are you noticing?  What’s working?
  • What does a healthy regional news and information ecosystem look like?
  • How can we stimulate more dialogue and idea sharing about news and information innovation?
  • How can we create more public engagement with journalism?
  • How can we increase the diversity of voices participating in conversations about journalism?
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WA News Council Holds Gridiron Dinner

The Washington News Council’s annual Gridiron West Dinner will be held on Friday, Nov. 12, at The Conference Center, Convention Place, Seattle.

This year’s gala is a “Toast/Roast” of five former Seattle Mayors: Wes Uhlman, Charles Royer, Norm Rice, Paul Schell and Greg Nickels. Current Mayor Mike McGinn will be there to introduce his predecessors.  “Toasters” will include Joni Balter, Suzie Burke, John Carlson, Jan Drago, Jane Hague, Anne Levinson, Bill Stafford, Don Stark, and others.

The WNC’s event is always a fun-filled evening of tweaks and tributes, comedy and song, videos and old photos, plus a mini-auction and some great raffle items. Attendees who sign up for the WNC’s online community at check-in will get a free raffle ticket ($5 value).

This year’s theme is “Wizard of Oz” and “The Emerald City,” and will include music from the Cabaret Productions singers. Mike Egan of Microsoft will Emcee the event again, and may appear as Dorothy and/or Toto.

More details are at http://wanewscouncil.org/2010-gridiron-dinner/. WNC President John Hamer is offering JTM participants a special discount on tickets. If you want to go, call him directly at 206.262.9793. You must buy tickets in advance by check, Visa or MasterCard.

This event is a fund-raiser for the WNC, and every dollar raised will be matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through a “challenge grant” — but only IF the Council reaches its target of $100,000 in 2010. The WNC is a 501c3 non-profit organization, so all contributions are tax-deductible (minus the $50 cost of the dinner/wine).

Home Page, JTM News, Member News, Miscellaneous

Newswire21.org plans DC bureau, as JTM alum ramps up

Submitted by Tom Murphy on Wed, 06/16/2010 – 1:06pm

Newswire21.org, a new nonprofit startup that aims to reinvent the wire service from the ground up, is looking for writers and editors in the DC area to help start our Washington bureau. If you’ve ever wanted to help start a cool, new news service, this is your chance. Those who volunteer to help get N21 started will earn preference in hiring when we receive funds to offer jobs.

We’re looking for experienced journalists who recognize the media world is changing and want to swim with the tide instead of against it. Newswire21’s mission is to blend the passion of community-based citizen reporting with the best practices of traditional journalism, creating a complete local, national and world report that can be offered to web sites at minimal cost. Think of it as a wikipedia of news that is run as a cooperative led by experienced journalists. Your participation could be full-time or as little as one day a week.

We’re currently seeking seed grants that would allow us to offer salaries, and we hope to be financing our own growth after just two years. Newswire21 was a finalist for the Knight News Challenge competition, but has not yet received funding. Even so, we’ve already conducted a promising pilot project in the San Francisco Bay Area in collaboration with the San Francisco State Journalism Department, the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, the SF Neighborhood Empowerment Network, Spot.Us and others.

Based on that success, we plan to expand nationally by fall, blending a professional news report — world, national and local — tailored to the 21st century needs of new media (hence our name – Newswire21).  Existing wire services employ a 19th century business model designed to help newspapers reduce staffing costs. That model makes little sense today and leaves thousands of web sites with few affordable options to bring world and national news to their readers.

Founder/EIC Tom Murphy will be in DC to interview participants on Jun 21-22.  Murphy has more than 30 years experience at news companies like The AP, Bloomberg, RedHerring.com and MarketWatch, where he was the founding managing editor. If you’d like to set up a meeting, or just want more info, please contact Murphy atInfo@Newswire21.org.