Seattle Journalism Commons:

An Overview

How can we advance quality, skilled journalism that contributes to healthy information ecologies in local communities?


To create a space for those who are shaping the Puget Sound region’s news and information landscape in order to connect, share information, ideas, and resources so that we are individually and collectively better equipped to meet the journalistic needs of our community.



What’s our Value Add?

The Journalism Commons is skilled at convening and connecting the whole system of journalism, with an eye to:

  • Diversity of perspectives, roles, gender, age, ethnicity, and other factors
  • Bringing an appreciative eye to notice what is already working and cultivating possibilities that build on our region’s strengths
  • Employing collaborative approaches that use our differences creatively
  • Providing a nonpartisan, neutral, trusted convener and host

Intended Outcome

Public trust grows through public engagement.  The ultimate objective of the initiative is to be a catalyst for:

  • Public engagement in the purposes and functions of journalism.
  • Encouraging experimentation and collaboration between private, non-profit and public media.
  • Supporting exploration and development of new business models to evolve journalism.
  • Increasing the role of higher education, community and nonprofit institutions as hubs of journalistic activity for local communities.
  • Helping to find and nurture funding sources for new journalistic endeavors.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion in local news.
  • Creating a model for other communities.

These endeavors increase public trust by sparking initiatives that increase:

  • Community vitality through increased civic literacy that grows participation in decisions that affect individual lives and the well-being of our region.
  • Meaningful aggregation of content that make the networks of relationships among people visible and actionable.


The concept of the Journalism Commons grew out of the idea of “cultivating abundant journalism” from the report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. The Knight Commission asked a profound question and proposed a counter-intuitive answer:

Question: “How can we advance quality, skilled journalism that contributes to healthy information ecologies in local communities?”

Answer: “Journalistic institutions do not need saving so much as they need creating.”

The Commission said informed communities need journalism that is “abundant in many forms and accessible through many convenient platforms.”

The Pacific Northwest, notably the Greater Seattle area, has seen dramatic erosion in traditional journalistic resources in recent years, including the loss of two daily newspapers. It also has witnessed the creation of many new media endeavors, most of which struggle to be sustainable.

The Journalism Commons is an approach to not only address this challenge but to look beyond it to cultivate a healthy regional information ecosystem.


Our fundamental strategy rests not in doing the work, but in identifying needs, putting them to the Journalism Commons community, and inviting people to engage in meeting those needs.

On February 17, 2011, twenty-two people who care about the vitality of news and information in the Puget Sound region met for an evening to consider how to accomplish this work.  The discussion helped to identify activities that can serve this purpose.  Many of these activities are already in development, principally supported by volunteers.  The current state of the work follows.

  • Face to face meetings
    A core competency of Journalism Commons stewards, we continue convening conversations for the people who care about news and information in the region on a regular basis.
  • Online connections
  • Sharing resources, requests and offers, questions and answers
    • In partnership with Lise Skube, we are piloting a tool, the Journalism Accelerator, for making requests and offers and answering questions.  In part, it creates a space where people can act as connectors for each other.
    • A natural outgrowth of the connections among people in the Journalism Commons, we are a clearing house for identifying and connecting needs and opportunities.  Examples of initiatives that have benefitted from the existence of the Commons (also known as the Journalism That Matters Pacific Northwest Collaboratory):
      • Online Media Guide: The Washington News Council is mapping media news and information outlets across the state.
      • Digital Literacy Initiative: The Common Language Project leads this initiative aimed towards teaching students how to become more informed media consumers and  participants.
      • Public Eye Northwest: This project is developing a public document database called “Public Data Ferret” and is working to enhance civic knowledge through the use of public information.
      • Global Health Reporting: This initiative has surveyed the health sector for future reporting.
      • Recently named needs include:
        • Instigating training for the public in telling stories
        • Doing collaborative journalism (Collaborative News Network)
  • Curating stories and case studies
    • As part of the partnership with RJI, the conversation hosts are seeding a shared blog space with stories behind the stories of collaboration in providing news and information.
  • Curating a calendar
    • We wish to staff a calendar to make visible:
      • Journalism Commons events
      • Puget Sound area events on innovations in news and information and related topics (in partnership with area journalism and civic organizations)
      • Deadlines for contests and grants from organizations funding news and information activities

Areas for growth

Other activities identified at the February 17th meeting that provide opportunities for future growth include:

  • Creating a physical meeting space for collaborative work.
  • Developing indicators of community vitality, to make visible the influence of quality news and information.