Pre-conference interview responses, Leigh Montgomery / Librarian

Conversationalist 1: Leigh Montgomery

Conversationalist 2: Sent to Jacob Kaplan-Moss via email

1. What is the story of your work and how did it lead to saying “yes” to this gathering?

As a librarian I assist our staff with any information needs they might have.  My career has been digital and working with information – over time that has become about showing people how I got the information.  This is inherently sharing knowledge, which needs to happen in all industries, but particularly this one.  We so rarely get a chance to step back and consider all of these issues on why newspaper-type journalism needs to endure.  I look forward to sharing my experience and thoughts and bring some back to our colleagues.

I attended a Poynter seminar a few years ago that was so enlightening and career changing in how I thought and approached my work.  I think about it regularly and came back with some great ideas still in place(a collaborative News Calendar of events for planning).

2. We’re well beyond the debate that journalism is changing. Tell me about an experience had with these new realities — roles, tools, relationships, economics — in which the emerging news ecology actually made a difference in telling a story that mattered. What did that experience teach you about the gifts of both new ways of working and the traditional roots of journalism?

I’m an advocate of journalism ‘entrepreneurship.’  We don’t have time to sit in meetings and decide What will Our Strategy Be in Social Media etc.  The tools are in everyone’s hands now.  Let’s experiment and really dig in and maybe take the chance of some mistakes and see what works / what doesn’t and let’s enlist those who really care – readers, fellow citizens, help us.  We went ahead and did a ‘citizen journalism’ project.  This within two weeks.  I can talk more about it later, but – I suggested it and with the resources we had we did it.

3.Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself? What do you see yourself bringing to this meeting?

I have ten years of experience working in information sources of all kinds for an international publication with extremely high standards, a very small staff, the tightest deadlines and the very worst there are(morning).   I’ve always been very creative and innovative and this year I’ve surprised even myself at what I’ve had to do under some of the most pressing demands in any industry.  I’m one of several hundred very innovative professionals in the news business that are dedicated to making their stories better, adept at change, technically savvy, sharing their knowledge – this is the kind of thing that is so needed in this climate and in an era where all employees will have to be more knowledgeable and productive.

4.What is it about journalism without which it would cease to be journalism; what is its essential core? What are you ready to let go of?

Journalism’s nobility; caring for others, putting attention on problems that need correcting and highlighting the best of the human spirit.  Making sense of the complex, through reams of datasets and charts and documents and things that no one has time or inclination to care about.

I received a call recently requesting an electronic copy of an article. The caller said ‘I am calling from the public defender’s office in _ state, and my client is facing execution.’  They were requesting this as the person had been detained at a facility in which brutalities had occurred and conditions were poor which was the subject of this article. This article was one of a series that had won journalism’s highest honor.  I could not help but think to myself – what would happen if no one took the time to expose these kinds of things? I know there are new ways to do that – but those who are there need to be guided in the craft, ethics, qualities and values of journalism – and get this to the audience that needs to know.

5.The year is 2014 and the new news ecology is a vibrant media landscape. What is journalism bringing to communities and democracy that matters most? What steps did we take back in 2009 to begin to bring this about?

We acknowledged that the world would be more informed and safer if there were more contributors to the media ecology.

We recognized that citizen journalism has tremedous potential but has been beset with poor quality and that it will take time and coaching to bring in more journalists, and we took a role in that.

We saw every reader as a potential contributor, that this would lead to great diversity of story ideas, more reader involvement with the site and the news, help “close the gap” between what journalists and readers consider news.  If this were to succeed, it could lead to a better informed and safer society.

We recognized the potential for technology to aid us in this – since those users already know how to use the tools, it is the values and importance that need to be conveyed.

About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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