Journalism That Matters — the DC Sessions:
“What will happen when only the journalism is left?”

August 7-8, 2007
HOST: The George Washington University,
School of Media & Public Affairs

The Journalism that Matters action-oriented discussions now come to Washington, D.C. Journalists, academics, and public advocates will critique and build upon a 21st-century newsroom prototype and help develop an economic model that supports it. Together we will begin to answer these crucial questions: If advertising and journalism continue to decouple, how can we ensure that quality journalism will have its own intrinsic value? How will our newsrooms and classrooms adapt to the new news ecology in which credentialed bloggers cover federal-court proceedings, vloggers go to prison in defense of First Amendment principles and crowdsourcing blossoms?


  • Charting new economic models
  • Engaging the next generation
  • Defining the citizen/media connection


  • How will it be supported?
  • How will it be taught?
  • How will citizens be involved?


An August 7-8, 2007 convening in Washington, D.C. by the “Journalism That Matters Collaborative” will bring exciting dialogues and futuristic strategic planning to The George Washington University as a pre-event adjunct to the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).”

Initial planners:

  • Geneva Overholser, professor, University of Missouri
  • Chris Peck, editor, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
  • Len Witt, professor, Kennesaw State University
  • Bill Densmore, director, Media Giraffe Project at UMass Amherst
  • Jim Shaffer, dean, Univ. of Southern Maine School of Business
  • Peggy Holman, author, “The Change Handbook” and JTM facilitator
  • Stephen Silha, member, Washington News Council and JTM facilitator

Agenda outline

  • 1 p.m.: “The State of Citizen Media: 2007.” A audience-involved discussion in the Jack Morton Auditorium. (FREE/PUBLIC)


  • 3 p.m. Tues. — Opening session Tuesday afternoon/Introductions and intentions
  • Social event in the evening then dinner organized as “world cafe” (possible in lobby area on second level by Jack Morton auditorium) rotating tables of four. You quickly surface key themes or ideas. Variations of the same conversation at different tables. Surfacing what is central to the issue and build a sense of community.
  • 7 p.m. — talks/panel, but extremely interactive, not sure of venue.
  • 8:30 a.m. Wed.– Reconvening with continental breakfast and a day of “open-space” sessions in the JTM format, including a box lunch. End at 6 p.m.

Possible outcomes

  • Interesting research agendas and curriculum designs.
  • New relationships/collaborations among players from multiple silos.
  • Action agendas in various areas: e.g., business plans and templates for “Next Newsroom” models.

Some questions to consider

  • What if the ad model becomes disconnected from supporting journalism? Will it go away entirely? How do we deal with that as a democracy? How does journalism stand alone.
  • Will anybody, in fact, pay for journalism when it stands alone? How can you produce enough value from journalism that it is something people will pay for? Or, who will pay for journalism that matters?
  • Will there be journalistic institutions sufficiently independent and secure to be able to be an effective, fearless counter to big government and big corporations? We can’t just go back to pamphleteers, can we?
  • Are we talking about remaking the marketing of journalism?
  • What is journalism in the public interest? What is it worth?

What will happen when only the journalism is left?

  • What will the economic models look like?
  • What will journalism education look like?
  • What will the professional/amateur, citizen journalism, independent media piece look like?
  • What will the audience to news relationship look like?
  • What will its relation to democracy and civic engagement look like?
  • What role will research have in what journalism might look like?

Folks who are participating

  • Brian Murley, Innovative College Media (tentative)
  • Jay Rosen, New York University
  • Dan Gillmor, Citizen Media Center, Berkeley
  • Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State
  • Peggy Kuhr, University of Kansas
  • Bill Densmore, Media Giraffe Project at UMass
  • Esther Thorsen, University of Missouri
  • Sharon Iorio, Wichita State (tentative)
  • Geneva Overholser, University of Missouri
  • Jim Shaffer, Southern Maine University
  • Robert Picard, Journalism, Value Creation and the Future of News Organizations (tentative)
  • Tom Stites, UUA/Center for Public Integrity

What is Journalism that Matters?
See: https://journalismthatmatters.org/

In Michigan, Missouri, Massachusetts and Tennessee, we’ve convened career mainstream journalists with new-media pioneers, innovators and so-called reformers to develop ideas for action that might help our democracy navigate through a period of experimentation and turmoil in the conduct and financing of journalism.

In Washington, the overall topic: “What will happen when only the journalism is left?” A key issue is going to be exploration of financing models for journalism, with some particular consideration of alternative ownership to public-stock corporations.


Defining the problem

In the future, not too distant, you will have in your pocket a device into which you can punch or say a query to buy a car or a coat. It will know what TV shows you watch and will be able to define the kind of coat and the place you want to shop, and it will walk you to the shop you want to go to. When that happens, why would anyone who is an advertiser want to put an ad in a local or national paper?

What happens when only the journalism is left? Strip away the platforms, the jobs, the institutions, and what will sustain participatory democracy? Are we advancing to a news ecosystem more like English coffeehouses and pamphleteering than mass media? What happens when the “press” becomes a digital “pipe”?

While the fundamental values and tenets of journalism may be stable, its financial underpinnings are not. New voices and new institutions are practicing journalism, raising questions about the objectives and constituency for journalism education. Bloggers are credentialed to cover crowded federal-court proceedings, and go to prison in defense of First Amendment principles.

In Kalamazoo, St. Louis, Amherst and Memphis, the Journalism that Matters consortium and the Media Giraffe Project convened intimate conversations which foster action about the journalism’s future. Our next gathering will be Aug. 8-9, 2007, in Washington, D.C., tentatively entitled: “What happens when only the journalism is left?” The link above will begin to have program details after March 30, and we will email you at least once more about this gathering. For now, please hold those **firm** dates, and let us know if you’d like to help with session planning. You can also view the thinking from some of our earlier sessions from:

Here are some **tentative*** subtopics:

  • What will the economic models look like?
    “Conversation starters: Geneva Overholser, University of Missouri, Jim Shaffer, Southern Maine University”
  • What will journalism education look like?
    “Conversation starters: TBD”
  • What will the professional/amateur, citizen journalism, independent media piece look like?
    “Jay Rosen, NYU and others”
  • What will the audience to news relationship look like?
    “Dan Gillmor, Citizen Media Center, Berkeley; Leonard Witt, Kennesaw State”
  • What will its relation to democracy and civic engagement look like?
    “Peggy Kuhr, University of Kansas, Bill Densmore, Media Giraffe”
  • What role will research have in what journalism might look like?
    “Esther Thorsten, University of Missouri, Sharon Iorio, Wichita State (tentative)”

One possible scenario

Is it time for a new approach to ownership — and especially the management and outputs — of the “convener” of news in a community? It is not going to be a newspaper — centralized daily printing is going to become a niche product for rich people — it is going to be a 24/7, platform-agnostic nerve center that finds, organizes, shares and makes sense of information from a vast array of paid, volunteer, independent and partisan sources — and then serves it how you want it, when you want it.

It will be a service organization — like a law or accounting firm — and it will be paid accordingly. At first, it will be extremely difficult to convince people to pay for such a service. But as the years go by, it will be seen as an absolutely indispensible way to get through the day. People will become as reliant on their “newshare” as on their car, doctor, parent or colleague. Larger cities will have competing “newshares” offering the inforamtion valet service.

They will compete largely on technical grounds — who does the better sort, who finds the real gems, and who provides premium information at the right price bundle. Advertising will be part of all this, but it will be an option — if you are willing to receive advertising, the cost of your “newshare” will be less.

You will actually be PAID for you attention when you look at an ad, and that payment will be a credit to an account which you can then use to purchase premium information. An ebb and flow of info-currency, depending upon whether it is information you ***want*** or information someone ****wants you to have.****