Journalism in the New News Ecology, March 1-4, 2009

Here are resources generated at the March 1-4, 2009 Journalism that Matters convening at The Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla.
It was organized by the Journalism That Matters collaborative and The Poynter Institute.




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Pre-conference interview by Tom Honig

Conversationalist 1: Peggy Holman

Conversationalist 2: Tom Honig

My conversation with Peggy Holman was particularly fascinating for each of us because we come from two different worlds — she from community activism, I from mainstream journalism, working for one smalltown newspaper for 35 years. Peggy came to the world of journalism through her concern that arose out of media coverage. In her case, the incident was a shooting at a Jewish Community Center in 1999. Her concern arose out of coverage that was overly simplified and didn’t serve the greater needs of either those involved or the community in general. She felt that the stories coming out of the violence did not really serve the needs of the community. She asked: “What in my world could serve the journalist?”

She was lucky enough to meet Steven Silha and Chris Peck, who were both smart enough to realize that her background in organizational behavior and the process of appreciative inquiry could add a lot to the discussion of the future of journalism. As her involvement grew, including at a presentation at APME in 2001, Peggy learned that many journalists care deeply about the craft and about its importance. She says in this age of upheaval, that she is reaching out to people like me — mainstream journalists who are seeking new ways to bring traditional values to the public.

1. My takeaway from Peggy is that the new form of journalism will be engagement. No longer will consuming news be a passive activity. Rather, the consumers are part of the process and are engaged with stories. They’re part of the storytelling process because there are so many questions that the so-called “expert” journalist can’t answer. It’s about community engagement. However, what form will that take? Going along with community engagement is a more nuanced dialogue. People are becoming frustrated with mainstream journalism for a number of reasons, but one of important reasons is the tendency toward oversimplification. Instead of covering “flame-throwers” from each side of a dialogue, the future of community-engaged journalism ought to present news and information in a more complex — and truthful — way. In her words: It’s harder (today) to do a good story. Things can’t be reduced to A versus B; There are more voices of color present in our reality than even 20 years ago. To tell a story only with the ‘usual suspects’  isn’t sufficient. More than the technology is a consciousness that says it’s really important to get at least three sides to a story. We need a way of telling stories that look more into inter-relationships. It’s possible to tell a story that doesn’t shirk the truth, but frames it in a way to find a handle in a way to check in (with the community.)”

And: “An old story is dying and a new one is being born. It can be likened to the early days of the country. Bloggers are the new pampheteers and new reporters; they are rekindling civic engagement by what they’re doing. It’s the seeds of a new media explosion; how do professional journalists and citizen journalists mix.

Also: Peggy says the big question in the future of journalism revolves around the art of engagement. How do we engage in a civil dialogue? People have skills to do that. The journalism of the future may be in the community hosting role creating spaces where there are agreements. Too often the norm has became “keep your mouth shut.” And it’s killing us. In reality, and in her work, distinct points of view can bring you together. It’s what is at heart of art of engagement: have a conversation with people different from yourself and stay connected. People are doing that online.

2. Standout quote: Newspapers cover stories; citizens share stories.

3. The conversation with Peggy Holman was an example of two people from different worlds having a dialogue about the best in journalism and the best in community engagement. It’s my feeling that the future of journalism will be necessity include the news consumers, and yet the best of journalism will have bring to the party what it does best: provide information and perhaps even knowledge that is fact-tested. In an increasingly complex world, news reportage will have to feature clarity even when it comes to the most complex of scientific, technical and financial information. Journalism is about way more than opinion. We must carry forward informed dialogues. Yes, journalism must engage with the community. But there comes a point where those in position of more technical knowledge are provided a forum to explain the world to those who may not be informed.

Finally: the biggest unanswered question, to me, is this: who is going to pay for journalism? How will those who specialize in covering the news in a responsible way do it in a way where they get  paid a living wage?

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Pre-conference interview with Mark Briggs

Conversationalist 1: Mark Briggs

Conversationalist 2: Liz Monteiro

Mark Briggs is an entrepreneurial journalist who along with others recently started Serra Media. He is the sole journalist on the team and the others include web and software developers and business development.  The company is developing platforms for local newspaper publishers to allow them to do “better and sustainable journalism.’’ Mark spoke of a specific product called news garden which is social mapping for news where information is loaded onto a map and presented online. In one case, a reader posted information on an issue, specifically a stench in his community coming from a local wood company when he couldn’t get a reporter to do a story. The newspaper did the story after the posted information appeared.

Mark is the former assistant managing editor for Interactive News at The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington. Mark is also currently working on updating his book, Journalism 2.0.

Mark is attending the conference because he wants to continue to have the discussion on the future of journalism and how to use technology to make better journalism with other like-minded individuals.

As a participant at this conference, Mark will bring his entrepreneurial mindset, his idea of sustainability to the table. Just as journalists often ask “what does it mean to the reader?” Mark said his perspective includes “what does it mean to the end user, the customer?’’

Mark suggests that journalism has worked in a vacuum for too long. It’s time to “get rid of the wall” between journalism and the business side of the operation. In this new reality, they must work hand-in-hand, he says. Newspapers had a monopoly on distribution and journalists didn’t have to care about the business side of things; now, a more holistical approach is needed.

Mark says readers have a low level of trust for traditional media. Social and digital media allows journalists to “come out from behind our bylines” and connect with readers. This is a move towards transparency and interacting with the reader, contributing to the community, rather than preaching to it, he says.


Since 2000, Mark has been trying to make sense of social and digital media and trying to use it to create better journalism. I admire Mark’s courage to go forward into an area that still has many unknowns. Here, in Canada, I think newspapers, and other media, have been slow to embrace new technologies, compared to our counterparts in the States. I also admire Mark and his pursuit of innovation in journalism by leaving the News Tribune and starting Serra Media.

Stand-out quote: Social and digital media allows journalists to “come out from behind our bylines” and connect with readers. Mark admits he’s just repeating a quote from a colleague that grabbed him. I still like it.

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Change in Challenging Times

Submitted by PeggyHolman on Mon, 03/30/2009 – 4:05pm

Session Convenor: Peggy Holman

Session Reporter: Lyn Bazell

Discussion Participants: Peter Block Anne Anderson Lori Rosolowsky Lisa Loving Lyn Bazzell

Note from Peggy:  Because these ideas became clearer for me after the session, I have recast these notes based on my best current expression of them.  My thanks to the people who came; this session helped me take a next step in how to share this information with others in a book.


Given the upheaval of our times, understanding how to work creatively with uncertainty and change seems particularly important right now.  Naming something makes it visible so that we can consciously work with it. It no longer owns us.  I seek to name and share what I am learning about how emergent change works so that people can choose how they work with the uncertainty and angst that are part of the experience.

This framework came from the intersection of:

  • Whole System Change work (about 20 years of experience)
  • the science of emergence, and
  • a pattern language, as inspired by architect Christopher Alexander’s work.

Some observations about how we deal with change

When we don’t understand what is going on (when there is chaos that is uncomfortable or change that confuses us) our tendency as human beings is to hunker down and withdraw from others. When we do understand and have faith in the experience we join hands and allow higher-level order to emerge.

  • We have a choice in how we respond when faced with uncertainty.
  • By engaging with an eye toward what is possible, it mitigates some of the hesitation and fear that often accompanies change, and make the anxiety useful instead of debilitating
  • Emergence, by definition, occurs when something novel forms out of disparate elements.
  • Emergence involves both individuals and the collective, integrating what is most meaningful to individuals into a larger, coherent whole.
  • Emergence provides an alternative to planning the future (which is rather futile at the moment since it doesn’t look much like the past).  It offers a way to deal with anxiety creatively.

Some context

There are two natural forces always operating that create change:

  • A drive towards coherence (or oneness, unity, community, wholeness; a coming together)
    examples: atoms to molecules, people to tribes to nations)
  • A drive towards differentiation (or individuality, distinction, a coming apart)
    (example:  teenagers separating themselves from parents to find their identity)

Much of the angst we face today is because the assumptions of how things work – our coherent cultural narrative – are no longer playing out as expected.  An increasing number of people no longer feel well served by the current cultural narrative. For example, there are growing number of people in the U.S. who no longer believe the American Dream is possible for them or their children.  And they are finding strategies that disrupt the existing order.

Breaking apart stable systems that no longer serve us well is a major source of grief, fear, and anger.  Yet for those who can see the potential in the collapse, it is a source of excitement.  We saw this dynamic during the JTM session.  Those coming from mainstream media, where existing assumptions about how news is gathered and shared, not to mention what constitutes news, are failing, expressed fear and grief.  Those experimenting with new forms had a sense of possibility.  Either way, it is clear that as things fall apart, there is increasing uncertainty about what the future of journalism holds.  And there is a choice of how to relate to that.

And so the dynamics of coming together and breaking apart play out:  experiments with new forms take shape, even as old forms come apart.  This messy mix allows us to revisit the different aspects of the system:

What are the essential intentions and values at the heart of journalism? How do they hold up?  What constitutes news?  How are stories chosen?  How are they sourced?  Distributed?  How is it all financed?

Journalism, as well as other systems – health care, education, economics, politics – is in a period much like the “Cambrian Explosion” of evolution, in which a myriad of diverse forms are appearing.  Over the next few years, as experiments fail and succeed, we will collectively determine what is meaningful, what to conserve and what to release from the past and what to embrace that wasn’t possible before.  As those choices become clear, a renaissance of journalism and other sectors, with vibrant and unexpected new forms, is likely.  During the session, we saw glimpses of what is coming for journalism:  it is still about the public good and it is becoming entrepreneurial.

Handling uncertainty

Uncertainty shows up as a natural by-product of the forces of change – coming together and breaking apart. Three questions help in working with the natural tensions between coherence and differentiation:

  • How do we disrupt coherence compassionately?
  • How do we work with disruption creatively?
  • How do we integrate difference wisely?

Patterns I have found through my work in whole systems change offer some insights into these questions.

How do we disrupt coherence compassionately?

One powerful way to disrupt is to ask ambitious, appreciative questions.  For example:

What is our work in the new news ecology?

Such questions create a boundary, a safe-haven in the midst of upheaval.  They focus attention in a productive direction.  They attract those who care and invite them to join in.   They make room to explore the different aspects of a system, welcoming diverse voices.  They create the conditions for broad and deep inquiry and listening.  In other words, they prepare us for handing the second question:

How do we work with disruption creatively?

With practice, our capacity to relate to chaos expands.   The chaos doesn’t go away.  Think about driving in another part of the world, say India.  It requires very different assumptions about how traffic works than exist in the U.S.  It takes 360º vision.  It requires taking a deep breath, letting go of what you know about traffic flow and trusting intuition.

If you find yourself overwhelmed or uncertain, a good place to begin is to step back and breathe.  If you can’t see the patterns that guide the flow, seek a great question to help make sense of what seems like noise.  With a question expressed, the most useful guidance I have uncovered for creatively working with disruption is to take responsibility for what you love as an act of service.  This phrase is packed with implications!  It invites people to look within themselves for what they care about most deeply.  Doing so reaches underneath ego and takes people to a place of deeper meaning, inevitably connecting them to something universal.  To act responsibly from a personal place of caring is to discover that it is possible for both the good of the individual and the good of the collective to be served.  In fact, this is a measure that higher-order coherence is emerging.

For example, during the JTM-Poynter gathering, I understood that an important aspect of the fear and grief from mainstream journalists was that enduring values of journalism, such as accuracy and transparency would be swept away.  What, in fact, became clear during the session, is that such values are something to be conserved, as so much else changes.

As different perspectives rub against each other, a burnishing occurs.  Taking responsibility for what we love turns on its ear an unspoken assumption that to belong, we must conform.  It becomes clear that just the opposite is true: to belong, it is essential that we express our unique perspectives. Where we can be fully ourselves, making space for each of us to show up warts and all, what is most meaningful shines through over and over. People begin to discover what is most personally meaningful is also universal.  And more, they begin to discover they are not alone but part of some larger whole. Our hearts open to each other and we know we are connected.  In truth, even when we can’t feel it and our hearts are closed, we are still connected.  Just as head, heart, and hands are essential parts of one body, so our unique gifts connect us as parts of a larger social system.  As we begin to experience this first hand, something shifts and “I” begin to see myself as part of a larger “we”. This marriage of “I” and “we” is a pathway to making sense of our differences.

How do we integrate difference wisely?

As we create stories that make sense of how our different perspectives fit together, we find a macroscopic view.  Just as microscopes opened our world in the industrial age, I believe that macroscopes – experiences, maps, stories, and media that help us see ourselves in context – will be instrumental in helping us make sense of difference.

Seeing ourselves in context is an essential ingredient for emerging into a novel, higher-order coherence.  What was outside is now part of a new, more expansive whole.  The Associated Press research was striking to me because the desire for back story speaks to this need for context.  When we see ourselves in context, recognize our connections to each other, how we treat each other shifts.

See the AP study, A New Model for News,

Further, the act of naming calls new patterns into being, creating a sense of shared context and intention.  The conditions for more trust and courage emerge.  People take action knowing something about the collective assumptions guiding them.  They are clearer about their own work, connected to others, discover new insights, partners, and initiatives.  And a new cultural narrative begins to hold them.

Making it stick

Working with these three orienting inquiries – disrupting compassionately, muddling through creatively, integrating difference wisely – can be a huge act of faith.  It takes asking these questions over and over for new patterns to really take root.  Each time through strengthens the growth, which helps to internalize the shifts.  There is a saying about change.  It is a lot like growing bamboo.  You water it every day for four years and nothing happens.  Then suddenly, it grows sixty feet in ninety days.

Journalism that Matters has been doing its work for nine years, including a three-year gap between the first three iterations and when we really took off.  Now the demand is accelerating.

Leadership in uncertainty

It takes clear intention, courage, and tenacity to stay with something as it ripens into its fullness.  I believe leadership in such times is about stewarding shared intention and tending to the social fabric.  This brings the relational much more into the foreground and invites others into the work of providing direction.  I have observed some principles that support this type of leadership.


There are always holes in wholeness. Some aspect or group is always outside the current story, mostly unseen. Disruption to the current state is often a result of those outside looking for a way in.  By recognizing disruption as an indicator that an aspect of the system wants to be integrated into the whole, it becomes easier to get curious about what gifts it brings to the system.


At any time, we have a choice in how to relate to what is happening. Geneva Overholser, Director, School of Journalism at USC Annenberg School for Communication, introduced herself at a 2006 JtM session saying:

“I had been depressed. A couple of years ago, I resolved to find hope. When you open yourself to possibility you are willing to experience stuff you haven’t experienced before.”


Christopher Alexander speaks of a “quality without a name”. It is where there is energy, curiosity.  For some, it has a spiritual quality.  I believe it lives at the intersection of what we know and don’t know.  And that is why it matters when we are seeking to make sense of the unknown.  Tuning into the energy of aliveness guides us on our way, helping to find a place of calm in the storm and to source powerful, appreciative questions.

When we are guided by these principles, what patterns show up?

Centering supports us to tune in to silence and sense aliveness.

Inquiring appreciatively expresses itself at the intersection between incompleteness and possibility – a home-run combination.

And at the heart of these principles, find out what you love.  Engage with and take responsibility for it.  It is an act of service.

These ideas provide a framework.  Next installment: putting this framework into action…

A poem offered by Anne Anderson

Two Tramps in Mud Time (last stanza)
Robert Frost
But yield who will
to their separation,
My object in living is
to unite
My vocation and my
As my two eyes make
one in sight.
For only where love and
need are one
And the work is play
for mortal stakes
Is the work ever
really done
For heaven’s and the
future’s sakes.

Comments/Suggestions from attendees:

Look at patterns through history. Anne mentioned a source that offers patterns up to 20th century.

Want to see specific pictures – examples – speeches, bios, mirrors from history.

Voices – reading pieces of speeches that talk about this.

Bill Cosby Pound Cake Speech.

Help me explain this to my kids.

Quote from Manson in Bowling for Columbine (about listening to the students rather than telling them anything)

“All kids are home schooled, even when they go to school”.

Living with not knowing – provide people with tools and structures.  Name the structures and what they represent.

Let go of the idea that you want this book to be complete.

“Take out what people aren’t going to read anyway”. Robert Parker

If you weren’t allowed to use any words and used pictures instead, what 3 pictures would you use?

Producing a work of art:
Critical temperature
Critical mass
Flash point that produces change of state.

Simple stories that help us recognize we’ve experienced this in our lives and have seen the benefit of emergence.

Moving from a declarative culture to a culture of inquiry and curiosity.

Book on Kendall – add audio and video for this version.

Journalism could be a storyline that runs throughout the book.

Use journalism as the thread? Various opinions about this.

Potential for devastation (of life/humans) is greater now than ever before.

History reveals that the overall pattern is that oppressed people rise up and then become the oppressors.

Once we name the pattern so we understand that it is always incomplete it no longer owns us.

Questions teach us that something larger is going on.

The purpose of projects is to give us an excuse to be together.

Live into it instead of writing it.

Importance of faith.

At this conference, the exercises have been a visual demonstration, a canvas so that we can reconstruct our occupation.

We see a shift of the context for journalism.

Assumptions on which the story of journalism has grown are proving false/unsustainable.

“You can be explicit”

“What do I do tomorrow?” isn’t a useful question. This question is a doubt.

Some interesting phrases:

  • Collision of incompleteness and possibility produces inquiry.
  • Engage by taking responsibility for what you love
  • Marriage of the I and the We.  The marriage is consummated in community
  • Opening is inquiry to not know
  • Reflection is the means of seeking patterns.
  • All that is left is insight of the obvious truth
  • Questions teach us that something larger is going on
  • When the heart is closed, we are connected but don’t know it
  • Process is: to get clearer about our own work: find partners: a new project shows up: create a new story, faith surfaces
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THE CHALLENGE: Consider new ownership, funding ideas for local news outfits

Submitted by Bill Densmore on Fri, 03/27/2009 – 1:50pm

Session Convenor: Michelle Ferrier and Bill Densmore

Session Reporter: Bill Densmore

Discussion Participants: Participants quoted in these notes include: Lisa Loving, news editor of the Skanner News Group, in Portland, Oregon; Tom Honig, a Santa Cruz, Calif.-based free-lance writer; Michelle Ferrier, jouranlism professor; Tom Stites, of the Banyan Project; Jim Kennedy, svp-strategy at The Associated Press; Leigh Montgomery, newsroom librarian at The Christian Science Monitor; Anne Anderson a Safety Harbor, Fla.-based free-lance writer; Tracy Ward Durkin, publisher of the Urbanist in Baltimore, Md.; Cary French, professor, Humber College, Toronto; Ken Carpenter, professor, Valencia Community College; and Mark Briggs of Serra Media/Journalism2.0 in Tacoma, Wash.

These are notes taken by Bill Densmore of discussion during a breakout session on March 2, 2009, at the Poynter Institute convening: “Journalism That Matters — Adapting Journalism to the New News Ecology.” This was one of multiple breakouts called by the 85 participants in the four-day event. The title for this session: “Democracy now: Envisioning a model for franchising news.”  Session participants included Warner N. Sabio, Liz Monteiro, Jim bowey, Jannet Walsh,  Anne Anderson, Bill Densmore, Leigh Montgomery, Jeff Vander clute, Tom Honig, Lisa Loving, Neil Budde, Michelle Ferrier, Jim Kennedy, Lyn Bazzell, Tracy Ward Durkin, Keith Woods, Tim Stites, Michele McLellan and Susan Moeller.

Historically U.S. news organizations have been independently owned by local owners, or have been aggregated into large groups, or “chains” with centralized handling of some administration and business functions, including financial reporting. Other forms of ownership — such as a franchising or co-operatives — are relatively rare in the U.S. news environment. This session briefly examined these and other ideas for ownership and sustainability. These notes are **not** verbatim and specific comments attributed to a speaker should be verified with that speaker (See: PARTICIPANT LIST.)

Lisa Loving of KBOO in Portland, Oregon, observes that institutions that have the most success are those that build community around themselves. The Willamette Week newspaper in Oregon builds community through an active blog-comment area, she says. She notes that the Pacifica Foundation is a listener-supported nonprofit radio network that has had a successful run as a Bay Area-based owner of politically progressive radio stations nationwide but is now undergoing organizational stress.   Tom Hornig asks what a franchise model would look like. There is discussion.

Michelle Ferrier talks about the idea of a national brand for local online news communities. The brand manager, however organized, might handle technical, legal, marketing, sales and training on behalf of affiliates or franchisees. She said the brand manager might also be able to provide interim staffing for independent operators enabling them to take periodic vacations. Ferrier observed that “burnout” is a big source of casualties among small community new sorganizations. And she said having a national infrastructure to call on would “reduce the startup fear factor,” of individuals fearing the unknown.

Ferrier said she was considering a startup in Daytona Beach, Fla., where she formerly ran an online news community for the incumbent legacy daily newspaper. Ferrier now teaches college-level journalism.

Tom Stites said an advantage of a franchse approach is that “you get a network of people who can learn from each other.” A challenge he observed was who was going to pay for what. People will pay to support trustworthy institutions that meet their needs, he said. “To say they will pay for information missses the point.”

Jim Kennedy said that on the web, no one has really done more yet than institute levels of free. “Will you pay for news is too simplistic a question to ask,” he says.

Loving: People pay for cable. But they are paying for choice and convenience, she feels, not content per se. An analogy is that people pay for the service of getting their news delivered via a print product to their doorstep. And for knowing about their kids’ schools.

Leigh Montgomery suggests talking to Ali Savino, citizen journalism expert, co-founder of and until recently from, the Center for Independent Media: (UPDATE: Leigh talked to Savino and notes of her conversation are HERE.

She says a national brand could help establish the opportunity to teach “Journalism 101” in libraries and other community venues.

Anne Anderson talked about the experience of her husband in working in the construction industry. At one time construction companies were indepently owned. Then big-box stories like Home Depot sprang up to offer materials for do-it-yourselfers. Now Home Depot retails the services of contractors to its customers. Her point seemed to be that the national brand — Home Depot — can help to gather customers and funnel them to independents.

Loving talks about the notion of a community information aggregator, such as Blogspot or CafePress. “A Craig’s List for news — that’s where I think it would be at.”

Tracy Ward Durkin talks about as a possible example of a franchisable model.

Ferrier suggests making a list of requirements.

Loving observes that “all kids have smart phones” and get most timely information from them, such as what they are going to do tonight. You could produce a whole newspaper’s worth of material advising kids about what to do. The challenge: How to get kids who are on the streetcorner to care about civic news.

Ward Drukin: Her experience with a Baltimore, Md.-based magazine is that younger folks do care.

Hornig: You have to sugar-coat important stories, says Tom.

Carey French: YOu can’t just give people what they want, it also has to be what they need.

One franchise example cited

Anderson: References C&N Publications Inc. in the Tampa, Fla., area. She says this is a franchise operation which sells a template and technical support. The information in each local-oriented publication (print) is all user generated.

Bill Densmore asks: What will people pay for? Discussion mentiones Angie’s List, which has 750,000 subscribers who pay $7.50 a month for ratings and advice about local service providers; and, which has three million online paying subscribers; the Wall Street Journal and Cooks Illustrated. What do these have in common, the group asks? Answer: Saving time, money, convenience. Densmore mentions, a non-profit site helping people to find and rate quality news. It does not charge, however.

Kennedy suggests starting with a set of solutions that demonstrably work:

  • A cost structure that permis you to operate at some sustainable price poitn
  • Able to be set up right away
  • Can be taken into a community
  • A defined price structure

The challenge is how to deliver content in an exciting way. Kennedy says tha tsomeone started a successful weekly papers from scratch in his town north of New York City. The back page is a full-color photo and profile of a prep athlete in action, sponsored by an advertiser. The publisher started with an untested formula that turned out to work. The news industry how has to figure out what works. “Times up,” he said. “We have to started figuring out what works and do it.”

Loving: It has to be a service that users “can’t live without.”

Ken Carpenter talks about whether “free” can sustain the news industry. He says Exit133 in Tacoma, Wash., is sustained by listing advertising.

Mark Briggs of Serra Media cites NewsGarden, a social newsblogging platform he’s developing. Gazette Communications of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a client and user of the platform.

Discussion: People want depth on the subject they’re interested in; the ultimate model is a combination of free and paid. Would people pay for school coverage?
Retrieved from “

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Tuesday Video

Submitted by Steve Hanson on Sun, 03/22/2009 – 10:43am

Discussion Participants:  All

Free TV : Ustream

Live streaming video by Ustream

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Monday Video

Submitted by Steve Hanson on Sun, 03/22/2009 – 10:41am

Discussion Participants: All

Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV

Free Videos by Ustream.TV

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Wednesday Video

Submitted by Steve Hanson on Sun, 03/22/2009 – 10:40am

Discussion Participants: All

Stream videos at Ustream

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Video Sunday

Submitted by Steve Hanson on Sun, 03/22/2009 – 10:35am

Discussion Participants:


Live stream from Sunday

Streaming Video by Ustream.TV

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Mediagiraffe Wiki Page for Poynter ’09

Submitted by Bill Densmore on Thu, 03/19/2009 – 9:36am

From Media Giraffe

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What is the Value of Journalism to Our Communities

Submitted by PeggyHolman on Wed, 03/11/2009 – 2:46pmin

Session Convenor:  Bill Densmore

Session Reporter:  Hannah Miller

Discussion Participants:  A large group

Question: What is the value of journalism? What does it offer to our communities that isn’t already there?

It has to do with trust.  People need to see the value added.

Telling stories of people.

News as currently done – there’s something wrong. I think we have a content crisis.

Creates new story for the possibility of the community.

Journalism – used to be only gatekeepers – now afraid of losing control.

Provides the police blotter.

If it went away, would we miss it?

Provides identity/local news. The term “information sharing” is demeaning.

If your local park is crappy, you need a newspaper to fix it.

USA today is news from nowhere. The community it refers to is too vast. It’s not a community.

Journalism provides a sense of belonging.

Tells you what’s going on in SF, and what’s going on nationally. Tied up in concept of the citizen.

The newspaper tells you who you are. Cultural cohesion that ties us together. That’s more important than the news.

Corporate consolidation killed grassroots voice.

Corporate consolidation killed radio. Used to be a profound political force. Maybe digital shakeup will get us back to community news.

There are very few national newspapers in this country – we have many of them in the Dominican Republic. TV does that here.

What if the government had a paper? Profoundly disturbing.

Reading the newspaper is a ritual. Read in the morning with coffee.

We were taught to read it. My teachers used it in class. We still have high school papers. There will also be a class of people who want to document history. I don’t know if people want to read it, but they still want to produce it.

Horoscope/advice column/crossword/comics. It’s been an essential experience for a long time.

Movie listings.

Question: What would SF lose if the Chronicle died?


A sense of identity.

Knowing about events and issues.

I value Boston Globe – best sports section in the world.

I value New York Times style section on Thursday/Sunday.

Journalism is context/coherence/sense of history.

I don’t trust random bloggers.

The Cincinnati Inquirer is a terrible paper but it lets Cincinnati know there’s a place called Cincinnati.

In rural areas, they are especially important – community papers give a sense of being embedded in a community.

In one situation in NH, the local paper died and no one ran for office. Librarians had to start a place blog.

Valuable for voting – getting people to come out.

The most medieval and patriarchal organizations I have ever touched are the media.

Journalists psychologically all about control. Like physicians.

Value: attachment to community

Love, engagement with the community

Way to challenge power, outrage, outlet for anger
Counterweight to powerful. Mediator.

Learn about things that are important but don’t have time to directly experience them.

Black radio was once a political force.

Rich people have the Internet, can keep reading. Non-native English speakers underserved.

Value if reporter is reflecting my values and community – ethnicity, gender diversity. Problem now in coverage that doesn’t cover all neighborhoods: “the only time people read about my neighborhood is when someone is shot.” Non-existence of black women. Racism. They show cute white kids in galoshes.

Problem: coverage based on crisis, disaster, conflict.

Value in what Al-Jazeera calls “contextual objectivity”.

Show where national budget is going in a pie chart. A sense that our government belongs to us. Education – this is where your tax dollars are going.

Value in the research and expertise. Scientific expertise – global warming.

Giving the public enough information about policy to engage politicians. Meritocracy of content.

Value in the Daily Show: backstory, fun, perspective, entertainment. Have an opinion but not propaganda. Saturday Night Live coverage of Sarah Palin made TV news more challenging.

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