Discussion summary: Civic Engagement and Public Deliberation

The Group: David M, Judy, Len, Sue , Steve, Neal

This discussion focused on how good journalism supports civic engagement and the process of public deliberation. This deliberation is routed in Daniel Yankelovitche’s ideas in “Coming to Public Judgement” where he defines a public as informed when they understand the consequences of various policy choices. The process of public judgement is more than finding consensus about a common vision. It is an informed choice, made with an understanding of tradeoffs that result from a particular course of action.

Len suggested this resources at the top: the blog —

Public judgment is a challenge in a siloed society where there is little opportunity to share visions or negotiate a process for reaching democratic decisions.

(Steve) “Newspapers (with a few exceptions) haven’t used the internet for a social purpose.”

The challenge is making public conversations (in person and online) meaningful for participants. Making them effective is the second challenge.

“Commercial media can’t do this because of conflict of interest over independent journalism.”

Is there a place? Space? Fpr a civic engagement beat? How do you carve the space?

“This can create a conflict of priorities.”

(Len) Public did change the conversation. It is the foundation for Citizen Journalism.
Public Journalism now has thumbs. You can reach out with it.


“New opportunities possible”

(Steve) You have the tool now to create scale, and an identity more than just the place north of …

( Steve) [The North Carolina experience is a new model—] Free home delivery. Very high readership. And creating something like ann Old newspaper war. Online is the tool for listening to the community, creating lists of story ideas. It is better than sitting in office and guessing.

Bluffton Today is heavily feature driven from those ideas.

It has actually empowered groups. Its reports helped surface a group of political activists. That challenged the local school board over funding issues.

The reporting on Highway 278 construction created massive traffic jam, it literally stopped all traffic.

The public conversation launched by Bluffton Today saw people raised hell online. State officials people flew in from Columbia and the construction plan was changed.

The paper was a resource to self-organize. It was a conversation space.

(Len) Public journalism can enable people to work on something collectively.

Len described how he connected with to be active. He didn’t think he could have an impact in the Marietta, GA, area. He want to make calls for the election. set him up to make calls outside his local area. “I helped elect Tester [in Montana]. Meet-up model is an obvious extension for journalists.

It can kick journalism out of the newsroom. And journalists can go out into the community. There was discussion of They report once a week…..and report back…..

The New Press worked to organize distribution in local communities. “For this reporter to go back out he/she needs a new camera. The people at the meeting took up a collection” to buy a camera.

The Meet-up model creates house meeting that tend to defy expectations. They can be small—5/6 people—but they are the human face to the online network. We had a house people……5/6 people showed up……

There was a discussion of the problem with “Winner Take All” elections. Online discussions and debates can happen under the radar of news organizations. In them communities wrestle with the realities of trying to make democratic decision-making operational and fair.

(Len) Media has a caricature of the bloggers.

“Jessie Ventura, I helped get him elected by accident. It was a civic journalism project.” Once Ventura was in the debates, he was taken seriously as a candidate.

(Sue) Big stories missed , coverage of the Iraq war, for example.

(Len ) “Or what it is like “If you are a black man in Minnesota”

(Neal) “I have been a prison activist for years.” The war in Bogata continues with fallout here. Privatization is a big issue for both prison communities and families with someone in prison. How is that story going to get on the web?

(Sue) We empower people. “We’ll train you to use video. We have half hour show and 5 hours of video.” The links are passed around. “I don’t know if it will create any change.”

Where did civic journlism go? [It was important for so many topics]

Discussions of race

Public subsidies of private projects. See Good Jobs First for documentation of public funds to corporations

“We tell them [local groups] that they have to do media. [And the media outreach]

“A large part of PSTD is not dealt with. There’s no response from tradition media”

(Farley) “I’m go back to my lobbying days. You had to build relationships.”

Newspapers ought to do more open houses. They should go out and talk with people. Do more relationship building. And offer more explanations of how they work.

“I don’t think we need a newsroom. The Kevin Sites sp? Examble. Hang out for a month and cover the story.”

“There should be an information beat cop”

(Sue) “I would go into communities and find people and pair them with stringers. You find ambassadors.”

“You have to find way to engage the wide rage of the community, not just the white and comfortable.”

NewspaperNext forget about your core audience………

Do community maps…….

(Neal) “You need reporters that have skills to deal with the comprehensive coverage.
Real data mapping guys.”

(Steve)“You have your code geek, code monkey”

That person is a community resource for looking at the outlines of a community in the future.

This kind of mapping is a Smart growth tactic. People need to see it.

( Steve) “You need an editor who knows this is possible

(Len) This is like a “google model” reporter who links tech people to community needs. Imagine a more sophisticated real estate section

“What is Yahoo jobs? — Nine newspapers companies aligning for hot jobs?

Why – because 50% of advertising… employment related.

An opportunity?

The discussion was wide-ranging. And it loses a lot of meaning given this delayed post. Hopefully some of the participates can flesh out their ideas.

David M.