Category Archives: Session Notes

Create a Convening of ALL Independent News Media

Saturday morning, May 16

Host: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, The Media Consortium


Chris Faraone, Dig Publishing, Boston

Juana Ponce de Leon, NYC Council Speaker’s Office, formerly NY Independent Press Association

Richard Logan, The David and Reva Logan Foundation

We didn’t take detailed notes because we were too busy taking action steps. However, we did write out ideas on paper, and I will include those images here.


On Thursday, when we mapped the landscape of the Independent News Sector, almost every group put independent news outlets at the center. Yet, by Friday morning, we all realized that we really believe community is at the center.

On Thursday, we put “ethnic media” on the landscape map. Yet by Friday morning we realized that a key problem with the sector is that foreign language, black and other media by and for people of color is put in silos away from “independent media,” which mainly is produced by (if not for) white people.


One way to break down these silos is to put everyone in the same room. To expand what we did at Pocantico, which would mean a large conference to which ALL independent media are invited.

We envision a conference that would principally invite editors and publishers of foreign language, black, Hispanic, and other outlets by and for people of color along with editors and publishers who belong to The Media Consortium, the Association of Alternative Newspapers, the Investigative News Network, ACM, NFCB, and LION members.

Conference Goal:

Open up the landscape, connecting “independent” and “community” news outlets in order to facilitate disruptive and explosive collaborations that will transform what people believe is news.

Conference Outcomes:

-Strengthen the flow of information between different members of the sector

-Create explosive collaborations

-Create a peer-to-peer network for sharing business ideas and failures

-Create concrete ways for community media to expand their voices

-Create concrete ways for community media to step up to another level in their business practices

Funding. To make this conference happen we will need 3 different types of funding:

1) Funding to Organize the Conference (foundation dollars). This includes travel money so that Jo Ellen and another organizer can visit at least 3-4 communities and speak directly to ethnic outlets about what would inspire them to attend such a conference and get their input on programming.

2) Funding to Make the Conference Happen (foundation dollars + sponsorships).  We will need travel money for community media outlets (including some foreign language and black outlets but also community radio and community media centers) that will probably have to come from foundations. We may need to have space donated for the conference itself. We will seek corporate sponsorships to cover the cost of food, etc. at the conference so that we can keep the actual registration cost low (but we will charge registration fees on a sliding scale).

3) Funding for Post-Conference Activities, esp Editorial Collaborations (foundation dollars).  Too often people “kumbaya” at a conference and then go back to business as usual. To prevent that, we have to have dollars lined up in advance to incentivize these groups to work with each other, including dollars for project management to support these activities.

Timeline and Commitments:

May 2015:     Identify hosts for the conference (talk esp to CUNY and NAM) and potential stage 1 funders—Jo Ellen and Juana

June 2015      Grow Committee to represent all stakeholders—Jo Ellen, Juana, Chris

June 2015    Separately, Jo Ellen to set up quarterly meeting of heads of independent news organizations: June, Sept, Dec, March

June 2015      Write proposal for Stage 1 funding –Jo Ellen, Chris, Richard to review

July-Oct 2015   Travel to different communities to talk to local community media about what would bring them to a national conference—Jo Ellen plus organizer (hopefully from foreign language media)

Aug 2015      Set conference date; Set conference location; Create conference website; Identify venue—Jo Ellen with input from committee.

Sept-Dec 2015    Sell sponsorships and exhibit areas for conference—tbd; Plan program—Committee to be formed; Write proposal to funders for travel money and for post-conference work.

Dec-Feb 2016     Marketing campaign to bring as many individuals as possible to conference; Continue to sell sponsorships, etc.; Plan strategy for post-conference projects.

Feb-Apr 2016     Conference

May 2016     Follow-up tbd by what happens during pre-conference planning and conference itself.

How Do We Get Past the Blind Spots? How Do We Strengthen the Gatekeepers?

Friday afternoon, May 15

Host: Tracie Powell, ALL DIGITOCRACY


Julie Schwietert Collazo, Freelance journalist

Jay Harris, Public Intelligence, Inc., formerly Mother Jones

Michelle Garcia, Independent Journalist/Filmmaker

Juana Ponce de Leon, NYC Council Speaker’s Office, formerly NY Independent Press Association

Stephen Silha, Frisky Divinity Productions, Journalism That Matters

Chris Faraone, Dig Publishing, Boston (Served as note taker)


  • Self-Awareness — Where do each of us fit into the media ecosystem? What is our role in helping to shape and mold that ecosystem?
  • Participation — How can we strengthen operations and build relationships in communities where they may not be strong enough?
  • Difficulty — How do we recognize unconscious biases and initiate open and honest discussions about these subjects?
  • Amplification — How do we bring some of these issues into the mainstream? Also, how to we tear down walls between ethnic media and larger outlets?
  • Results — How do we get editors and hiring managers to buy into a genuine ideal of diversity? 

MAJOR THEME: What if the model for what we consider “independent media” was the ethnic media?

There was considerable discussion about the blanket term “ethnic media” and how it promotes a conceptual and functional “separation” of thousands of publications across the country, basically community news outlets, from the larger media landscape. Are we ghettoizing these journalists? Who is ethnic? Or better still, who is not ethnic? Could these publications that inform immigrant communities and communities of color, and which are mostly independent, be an integral yet unrecognized part of independent media, or are both independent media and foreign- and English-language local publications all “community” media? Was this a blind spot? Furthermore, are there lessons to be learned from the close relationship of these community publications and their audiences, from whence they derived financial sustainability?

The discussion predictably focused on diversity, which was seen as an underlying question of how we see/define independent media. This prompted the questions: How do we define our work and ourselves? How does that self-awareness influence the flow of information?

This change in perspective could include:

-Studying lessons in how these outlets connect with readers as donors, community members, and financial supporters.

-Notably, many of these enterprises have ways of engaging their audiences IRL, through everything from public appearances to concerts. For example, The Haitian Times supports itself from proceeds of an annual festival that today draws thousands of people.

-A lot of sustainable community publications have a strong presence online that amplify their local print editions, nationally and internationally, and can do so because they have “a captive audience” defined by culture and language. What is community and culture for “independent” media?

-An analysis is warranted of how some foreign- and English-language community news outlets have unique relationships with the communities they cover as far as creating dialogue with readers. Editors and journalists who work to inform communities of color and immigrant communities are trusted community leaders and are considered advocates as well as informers.

-Advocacy vs. Activism in journalism? Although advocacy is a common characteristic of many community news outlets, it warrants discussion on how independent media works; is there advocacy there? There was consensus that activism had no part to play in balanced journalistic practice.

-There are some answers here in the way of how certain niche media organizations already network with each other to exert influence and gain access.

-Overall, there may already be a lot of answers in this realm that can be studied and adopted, as opposed to looking elsewhere for new solutions.


-White men need to recognize / be reminded of the importance of being more than just passive participants in conversations about diversity

-Editors can sometimes cultivate ideas through their own subjective lenses and seek a journalist and story to fulfill their vision

-A lot of editors have the tendency to put reporters in silos (i.e. – the “Latino journalist,” the “Asian”, etc.)

-Michelle spoke of the need for journalists to examine how they conduct their personal lives, and make shifts at that level in order to begin the work of arriving at diversity. She also commented that journalists of color often perform the double duty of educating editors on diversity, and suggested the formulation of strategies to address “blind spots” within institutional structures.

-In many of the above scenarios, editors and outlets can tend to miss or overlook important nuances between peoples and cultures that are indistinguishable to outside observers.

-Unconscious biases across the board.

-Lack of honest exchange

-Between stakeholders and editors

-Between reporters and the communities with which they should be in close contact

-There appears to be a general failure across the board to train young and high school reporters.

-The actual word “diversity” can sometimes trigger conflict.


  • Showing young people that journalists come in all shapes, types, and sizes.
  • Educating not just reporters and editors, but media relations people and flacks as well.
  • This helps to show those in power that smaller independent outlets have a seat at the table, and can organize to amplify their voices.
  • Leverage our strengths. Couple on-the-ground perspectives of foreign-language and minority editors with the journalistic prowess of independent journalists, and establish collaboration across “ethnicities” to produce coverage that resonates with a broader audience and is more reflective of the true diversity of our people.
  • Shift the paradigm and level the editorial playing field by giving equal ownership to independent and community editors in collaborative journalism projects. All are at the table from the start.
  • People are talking about white privilege in the open, this was not the case a decade ago, and is a reflection of a societal demand that is both a challenge and an opportunity for change.

* An additional reflection from Juana Ponce de Leon:

Gail Ablow shared an excellent and grounding speech by Bill Moyers on supporting independent journalism, which I am sure you all read.  One tidbit stood out.  He mentions that the hair salon abuse of workers was unearthed because there had been money to pay people to read the foreign-language press for a year to follow the story.  What stood out for me was the fact that the abuse had been going on for a long while, but due to a lack of “connective tissue” between our foreign-language editors and legacy and independent English-language editors, legislators were uninformed and action to address the situation was delayed. Wouldn’t it be great if the foreign-language journalists were part of the team?

Who/What is Community Media?

Friday morning, May 15

Host: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, The Medium Consortium



Juana Ponce de Leon, NYC Council Speaker’s Office, formerly NY Independent Press Association

Jennifer Preston, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Iván Román, Communications Consultant, formerly NAHJ

Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, The Media Consortium

Note takers: Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, Tracie Powell

Community Media

====> Foreign language, dailies, radio, web, podcasts, hyperlocal, community and neighborhood newspapers, youth media, black (non-corporate) media

We got into a long conversation about advocacy and whether journalists do advocacy. Tracie, Juana, and Ivan noted that community journalism is based on the premise that the journalists are advocates for that particular community. We all agreed that what journalists do not do is push for a particular program, candidate, or way of thinking–that that is the realm of activism. We agreed that journalists are advocates but are not activists.

How to support community media?

  1. Peer-to-peer training
  2. Bring people inside newsrooms that are like theirs (e.g. the audience ethnic publications have), but bigger/better.
  3. Develop the audience to support the media

To connect ethnic/community/independent media you need:

  1. People who travel between worlds
  2. Institutions to come into the world of a specific paper/community
  3. Invest in individuals
  4. Provide information/access to community media
  5. Conference calls
  6. Connect radio broadcasters together

Action List

  • Peer-to-peer connections between white independent media and black and foreign language media (Jo Ellen will start this work via TMC)
  • We need to assess financial health of black and foreign language media
  • Convene editors from different places to talk deeply about differences in issues
  • Equip individuals with resources who have feet in both worlds.

NNPA (black press) – They represent black newspapers across the country.

Peer-to-peer training resources:

Ivan Roman – J students who are bilingual

Juana – News literacy for bilingual students to then work with local papers

Jo Ellen mentioned Oakland Local example – Train local youth in digital and then have them help community

Re-think the way the question is framed: Who is community media?

  • The image of independent media is YES! Magazine; it is not the “ethnic media.”
  • Influencers vs. engagement in community media. Who is community media and how can we strengthen? Allow for groups clustering around certain issues, age of people in the room.
  • Find out where there are similarities to make a difference.  Rather than provoke conflict, facilitate introspection. Value both groups as equal partners. For example, why aren’t we talking about how “ethnic publications” can help “independent media?” Is it our (ethnic media’s) role to educate independent media?