Bringing JTM to MGP Amherst

Proposal: Create a session or track at MGP that will bring Journalism that Matters to MGP conference.

Potential collaborators:

Chris Peck interested.
A little bandwidth from Jim Shaffer
Peggy Kuhr – might help
Peggy Holman – maybe a little planning help
Martin Reynolds – work MNG connection –
Paul Grabowicz should be part of the multimedia track –
Jane Ellen Stevens teaches multimedia reporting at Berkeley – invite her
Talk to Ralph Gage about coming to Amherst.
Nora Paul is a possibility.


Chris says what is needed is a framework for helping journalists get ready for change in the industry and either commit to being part of the change or getting out of the industry. Newspapers are like factories; they are a big, complicated business. Introducing change is hard and really disruptive to people who are used to years of doing things the same old way.

What we are going to do is create an informal network of journalists who say: “I want to be part of the change, and carry forth the idea that journalism is central to democracy.” We would challenge each participant to find one more person in their newsroom who will commit to a path of embracing change rather than resisting it. Then those two people, or three, or four, will come up with a little experiment they can do themselves, with little effort on the part of management. A different way of doing things. Think about it as a movement, not as an organization – with cells all around the country. Then come together at a “Journalism that Matters Greenhouse” once a year to share knowledge about many little experiments.

At the MGP conference, how about starting out with three or four people who are in the throes of dealing with change. Put them in four seats in a circle. Have them talk about the change and what it is doing to them and to their organization. Then have them relinquish the seats, gradually to others in the audience who will tell similar stories.

Then you ask, well what are you going to do about these changes? To prepare for the change? Talk about how we stop resisting the change and what tools we need to embrace the change. Where do you feel the pressure points and how do you deal with them? Find some examples of people who are in the process of changing – career change or changing operations.


n Rolling out Public Insight Journalism at MPR
n Implementing the web-print integrated newsroom
n Reaching out to underserved communities (West Side Soup)

(seek funding from Fetzer)

Helping journalists young and old say I want to be part of the change coming – how do I prepare myself. How do I function. There is a huge need for that. There are a lot of journalists who feel that and don’t know what to do. Committed to help journalism change and carry forward the values of journalism in a democratic wherever I am.

Peck is taken by the idea of people trying to internally get their emotions and their intellect around what they can do to deal with the pressures and changes rather than have it be overwhelming and getting out of the business. We have to help journalists define why journalism matters, and get in touch with that passion. Too many people in the industry have a sense of not being able to take it anymore, being overworked and stressed out. How do you manage the process of change so it is not catastrophic for you.

If we were able to loosely organize an affiliation of the change agents as a movement, have them come back under a Journalism that Matters project. We wouldn’t have to even think up the project, just deal with the people and give them a safe place to go.

Give people an emotional toolset to go out and change the world. Because they fell part of “Journalism that Matters.”

(see funding from Kellogg Foundation – finding new economic models)

Village Soup Common – if the MGP could be an incubator for the VS common to get established. Village Soup Commons – that is a way to connected west Oakland, and Atwater.

The other piece is we’re going to create this real live kit that includes the content management software, the consulting of how you do it and network if you want to be an entrepreneur. A toolkit for you to be a new media entrepreneur.


Bill Densmore talks about the demand-side problem of teaching citizens skills to find and identify journalism which helps them to be better citizens. Recognizing “news that matters” requires intellectual muscle and that muscle needs to be exercised. There’s a need to reach out to the education system to give educators the tools the need to teach smart media consumption and creation. That’s the demand-side task.

Peggy Kuhr sees a supply-side problem. How do you get students who want to change the world to come into journalism today – see it as a career option, and build excitement about journalism as a happening thing? There are some student ambassadors needed.

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How have we each changed as a result of gathering?

These notes were taken by Bill Densmore


As a concluding session to the “Journalism that Matters” gathering in St. Louis, Peggy Holman and Steven Silha asked participants arrayed in a circle to describe how they have been changed by three days together.

PARTICIPANTS: Brian Beveridge, Azalea Blalock, Scott Hall, Cecily Burt, Bill Densmore, Christine Saed, Matlho Kjosi, Stephen Silha, Jim Shaffer, Martin Reynolds, Peggy Holman, Mike Skoler, Dave Johnson, Peggy Kuhr, Chris Peck, Linda Jue.

Bill Densmore – Feels like he’s come in out of the cold after years of wondering who else cares about the future of journalism.

Scott Hall—Going back with clear sense of purpose of his work as a journalist. He is going to initiative some discussions with key staff people around the ideas discussed. Going to make something of some ideas at the station.

Dave Johnson – Feels much more optimistic about the future of journalism. And feels empowered to go home and do something at the local level.

Linda Jue— Great to feel supported. Impressive that there are people in MSM are actually working on these problems. That we are not marginalizing each other on either sides of MSM vs. new media.

Mike Skoler – I’m feeling much more light hearted in general. So focused on Public insight Journalism and in a week are going to be announcing a Center for the Innovation in Journalism. It looks like he will be running that center. After three years of being ground down, he feels like he has a new community to start sharing with. It feels “sustainable”!

Cecily Burt – More hopeful about the future of journalism, feels like she has taken the first step out of her rut.

Chris Peck – Has come to some clarity about how to move a gigantic and important institution. It comes down to changing the people and helping people recognize that things have to change – individually in their own lives and in their role in journalism and how the go about changing the institutions where they are. He has spent a lot of time inside the fortress where it is very hard to organize change. But it isn’t so difficult to change the people, and he feels focused on organizing that path.

Azalea Blalock – It has been a huge dream to get with a bunch of people who care about change. She has had a dream about that and it has been a big surprise that it was journalists that would bring that revaation.

Peggy Kuhr – I am struck with so much worry we all came here with. She works with students but she worries about sending them out there. The industry is a monolith is not an inviting, encouraging place. I feel guilty at times. I don’t feel that way right now. By nature an optimist. Feels much more part of something bigger.

Jim Shaffer – He is about to be a dean of a business school. He can do both.

Matlho Kjosi – She had checked out at home. She had lost respect for the profession. But she realizes now she has a responsibility for making it different. “So I’m not checked out anymore.

Brian Beveridge – Came here not as a journalist, but as a communicator. But he understands the power of communications to create social movements. But what kind of movements are we creating. He goes away with a better sense there are still reigns on that process and it can be managed – it doesn’t have to be a runaway horse. He likes seeing concrete projects coming out that can be put on the ground. Funders will fund some of these projects. Communications can be a unifying thing within communities. The same tools used to sell people stuff can be used to empower them to make change in their own lives.

Martin Reynolds – I have a new appreciate for the Midwest, Minnesotans and all. Californians are a little snobby. A new respect for my people in the prairie. I also feel inspired by the people that I met, invigorated to go back; also focused on looking at changing the focus of newsrooms; bring more faces into the collective of why decides what news is and who plays and why it is played. He’s excited about the specifics of the plan that the West Oakland posse has put into the cauldron. He plans on asking let Dean Singleton to let Martin shadow him for a little while. I am going to ask him to let me walk in his shoes for a little while.

Peggy Holman – Sixteen people sitting here right now and there are 10 projects on the sheet of paper. I feel like I’m holding a very precious gift. I’ve worked with collectives and I know that collectives support individual sin making a difference and individuals help collectives. And I feel that is what I am holding here. These are good, rich seeds and may they grow.

Stephen Silha – I feel different and it has a lot to do with the very specific individuals who are in this room. I want to invite everybody not to be afraid to ask for help. I have two simple rules: Keep it simple and DBATA – Don’t be afraid to ask. He gives Peggy Holman a Triskale belt and helps.

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Action commitments by participants

These notes were taken by Bill Densmore

On Saturday morning, participants in “Journalism that Matters” convened and after some introductions, Peggy Holman asked that we go around the circle and describe the projects that each of us was willing to take on.

PARTICIPANTS: Brian Beveridge, Azalea Blalock, Scott Hall, Cecily Burt, Bill Densmore, Christine Saed, Matlho Kjosi, Stephen Silha, Jim Shaffer, Martin Reynolds, Peggy Holman, Mike Skoler, Dave Johnson, Peggy Kuhr, Chris Peck, Linda Jue.

These project commitments stem from a larger list of ideas developed on Friday afternoon (which are listed below these commitments):

Stephen Silha—To initiate action toward a proposal to the Kellogg Foundation to fund the Village Commons concept as proposed by Richard Anderson.

Chris Peck—A proposal to the Fetzer Foundation to fund an “inner-journalist” process of helping mainstream media folks move beyond anger-denial-grieving about the future of journalism and start working as individuals within their organizations on projects that will move journalism into the future.

Jim Shaffer: Will write a handbook with advice and tools for helping news-industry workers to adapt to change.

Cecily Burt – A proposal for “West Side Soup,” serving West Oakland, which will include a website and eventually a weekly newspaper. The proposal will include a satellite office, mobile unit, staffed with professional interns. Also an ecological space, a center for a satellite newsroom newsroom and for community members young and old to meet. Outreach resources will including posting with kiosks and message boards to the community. Other forms of media funding for interns, partners, professional journalists and students.

Dave Johnson – In Atwater, Minn., convene board of directors of the Sunfish Gazette to give information about sustainability pathways through a request to the Blandon Foundation which would get them going with the Village Soup platform.

Peggy Kuhr— A pilot class in the fall called “Citizen Journalism and Community” at the University of Kansas, with the idea of developing it into a proposal to seek funding for a broader curriculum project.

Bill Densmore – Will include a media-that-matters afternoon as part of the MGP summit, organized with help from Chris, Mike, Steve Silha and others.

Brian Beveridge – A youth video exchange with Oakland and Atwater, Minn., focusing on global subjects. (Aside: Densmore suggests connecting with Rob Williams at ACME-Vermont regarding Jordan exchange; Peck suggests connecting with Jim Boyd at Bridges in Memphis).

These were the bullet-point ideas developed on Friday:

· Media Giraffe Project website
· Mobile newsroom
· Create the Village Soup commons/nodes around the country
· Village Soup classroom
· Atwater Soup
· Independent Press Association as home for greenhousing around venture capital and new media ecologies.
· Continue JTM at Media Giraffe Project June 28-July 1
· Community Journalism Centers
· Teaching course: “Hard News with an Appreciative Eye”
· Grow radio into community network (KAXE Soup)
· Magazines as community media
· “Inner Journalist” retreat
· Look into transforming news organizations from within – Ghandian
· Journalist-citizen retreats
· Youth mentors for journalists
· Journalist as social servant classes

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Learning so far and specific project ideas

These are Bill Densmore’s notes of a Friday 4 p.m.-5:15 p.m. session in St. Louis at which we listed specific project ideas and summarized (after four, four-person breakout groups) what we have learned so far.

PARTICIPANTS: Chris Peck, Cecily Burt, Richard Anderson, Bill Densmore, Scott Hall, Christine Saed, Jim Shaffer, Mike Van Buren, Matlho Kjosi, Dave Johnson, Martin Reynolds, Linda Jue, Peggy Kuhr, Brian Beveridge, Stephen Silha.

Richard Anderson, who has to catch a plane, apologizes about going back to Maine to chair a Saturday meeting of a board that he heads which has had the meeting scheduled for more than a year. He says:

“If this group wanted to promote the idea of some experiments. I would like to explore how the VS platform could be made available to the ‘commons’ here and if somebody wants to try an experiment in Minnesota or California or whatever, if access to that platform would make getting something going quickly.”

“The idea is that the group would own the software. Treat the software as a membership owned platform that would help facilitate growth of community networks throughout the world.”

“In that same session, he also said if something like that got started, look at the Media Giraffe Project as a group website that has already a wealth of research done in identifying sites as exemplars, and analysis of lots of things, could be a thing within the site which deals with deliberations or discussions. There is already a site there, why invent something new.”

Peggy: The entire focus of tomorrow is what’s next. Imaging doing that in two stages. For starters, let’s see what is already bubbling? What is the learning that we will take back?

A whiteboard list of practical project ideas:

Have you come up with values that underpin what the next newsroom ecology will be. What is going to make these things fly?

· Media Giraffe Project website
· Mobile newsroom
· Create the Village Soup commons/nodes around the country
· Village Soup classroom
· Atwater Soup
· Independent Press Association as home for greenhousing around venture capital and new media ecologies.
· Continue JTM at Media Giraffe Project June 28-July 1
· Community Journalism Centers
· Teaching course: “Hard News with an Appreciative Eye”
· Grow radio into community network (KAXE Soup)
· Magazines as community media
· “Inner Journalist” retreat
· Look into transforming news organizations from within – Ghandian
· Journalist-citizen retreats
· Youth mentors for journalists
· Journalist as social servant classes

Moving around into groups. We are looking for the underlying drivers of why the idea has occurred. What about transferring our thinking from the idea of a newsroom to the idea of a news ecology.

Conductor, weaver, navigator, facilitator, etc.

Scott Hall: We talked about what makes an event news and why should people care and zeroing in on the process of how it is presented.

Cecily Burt: One group started on the question of how the community gets news and the insight that the website is not enough and it has got to be much more and it creates a vast amount of outreach on the front end. From that it evolved into needing to have a transparency project and bringing members of the community in to critique coverage and have a dialog. Go out into the community and knock on doors and have reporters write an interesting story based on that. Find out what news matters to the community.

Christine Saed: In West Oakland, many people do not have a website, and a lot who can’t read. They haven’t learned that decoding yet. Talked about having town criers. Considered use of low-power radio.

Linda Jue: Group discussed about what it means to get back to that inner journalist – who we were when we started out in the business – passion, open-mindedness, desire to change the world which has been corrupted by being in the business. And there is a need to develop a renewed relationship with our audience. How does what we do inspire our audience and given them the tools they need to act. Her break-out talked about the buzz around “citizen journalist” is just another stage in the process where alternative media came out started by ordinary citizens who didn’t see what they cared about being reflected in MSM. That was corrupted and was replaced by Zines and now by new media. This process is not a new phenomenon but a normal evolution of a response people are having – a continue sense that the media is not serving them.

Steve Silha: Thinking about co-creating the next forms of media with young people. They are the audience, they are the people bringing fresh ideas. It is happening online, but maybe we are not paying attention to it.

Cecily Burt: We are now trying to make a bridge to invite youth and others into our house.

Peggy Holman: Used to manage software projects. The trend in software has been more and more for people to be empowered to do it themselves. It is evolutionary, we grew into a model where everyone was a specialist and had their niche, but now we are coming back to a community village model where everybody has the capacity to do it themselves, but at a higher level of sophistication and in a more differentiated way. There is a passionate commitment to this.

Mike Skoler: All of these citizen efforts have grown to the point of being institutionalized. People start to think they want to do it more of their time, and have an ecnomomic basis for doing it. OhmyNews started out 90% citizen generated; now they are about 50% citizen generated? Why? Because the stars were getting really good and Ohmy didn’t want to lose them and started to bring them on staff.

Peggy Holman: That’s a great example. They may be able to sustain a “both/and.”

Brian Beveredge: It feels like a proper balance is to not completely turn it upside down into something else, but to expand it on some side with tools that allow more voices. That doesn’t shove what is done now off the table, but expands it more to open an arena for public input which could then inform the professional side of the paper in a whole new way.

Peggy Kuhr: You could say what Peggy Holman was talking about was a “both/and” journalism.

Mike Skoler: Need to have open sharing.

Mike Van Buren: Need to have education around citizenship.

Jim Shaffer: The education challenge is two fold. First is creating smart education consumers and creators. But also finding models of how to teacher future journalists. Seeing the demonstration of theUniversity of Missouri websites, he was impressed how they took ownership of operating websites, it was experiential, relevant and service oriented, adaptive.

Bill Densmore describes the hourglass vs. the cylinder metaphor:

Jim Shaffer: We need a new set of words and metaphors. Our language doesn’t really adequately describe what we are talking about.

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Random Notes on discussions of revenue sources, affinity groups

Here are a few random notes from our Thursday sessions, just the things I (Bill Densmore) thought worthy of highlight in my own mind:

We talked a little bit about funding models. Bill Densmore threw out the idea of the “public-radio” model as a funding mechanism and asked Mike Van Buren of Kellogg if as a foundation what if anything they would expect if they funded a news organization. He said they would expect coverage of the topics which were within their funding mission. My observation was that this was in some ways as problematic as a large advertiser dictating coverage, that the value of having a broad-based advertising and subscription support was that it created a climate of relative editorial independence. How to maintain?

The answer, perhaps, is finding multiple revenue streams:

Sources: Foundations, advertisers, individuals

Types: Subscription, per item, voluntary contributions, sponsorships, standard advertising.

Chris Peck talked a little about the affinity group model. “If you love the environment, I have this bundle of resources.”

Bill Densmore observed that newspapers have traditionally had a franchise in local affinity groups. But not when it comes to topical affinity groups. What if newspapers could partner with an affinity group aggregator—like, for example, in the environmental realm. The local paper would offer Grist as its “environmental service offering; Grist would link to the newspaper’s geographic-specific environmental coverage. Each wins; each might be able to build revenue—either from advertising or subscriptions off the other’s referrals. Is this “sharing network” sort of what the Village Commons might begin to enable?


Mike Skolar of Minnesota Public Radio did a little white-board work:

The assumption we are making is that mainstream journalism is worth savings
The assumption we are making is that MSJ can change.
The assumption we are making is that MSJ must change.

Given those assumptions, our goals are to:

Find out what is being done
Evaluate it
Figure out how to drive/support change.Comments

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West Oakland Break Out Session

Session; West Oakland break out (butterfly? bumblebee? butterbee!)

Convener: Martin Reynolds, scribe: Cecily Burt
Participants: Martin, Cecily, Azalea Blaylock, Christine Saed, Brian Beveridge. Floating in and out: Peggy Kuhr, Peggy Holman, Matlho Kjosi

Discussion: Martin is looking for clarification on the West Oakland project; in other words, what the heck do we tell the editors back at the paper?

Well, we’ve learned a lot that will shape our next steps, among them:

Journalism is a conversation, no fences anymore. Paper is shifting from gatekeeper to navigator, facilitator for residents to create and share news and information without the Tribune as a go between or gatekeeper.

The original idea of a West Oakland website needs to be clarified and expanded to include other forms of media because many residents ( even those who are community activists) will never be hooked up to computers or the internet. They don’t have email, they don’t have computer skills.

Have to put yourself in the mind of a 90-year-old who says they will never use a computer. You have to put yourself in the young person’s mind – those who are hanging on the corner – and find a way to make them want to go to the library or want to share information with their community.

Journalism is a conversation, no fences anymore. Paper is shifting from gatekeeper to navigator, facilitator for residents to create and share news and information without the Tribune as a go between..

One thing missing in West Oakland is a unifying space, or document or tool. Need a local place and a website (using Village Soup as model?) to disseminate information. Need a place to post items, about community organizations, master calendars. Can provide link to newsletters of different organizations.

An eco village could unite everyone in the community. If you start with an eco village from the ground up… could be a meeting place… could be a news bureau, could be a place for community joining and healing, one space to merge with difference spaces.
But eco village doesn’t solve the core issue. People are disconnected.

West Oakland is in a state of emergency from the toxics in the environment…There are two societies in West Oakland: one upward, one crumbling and beset by violence, murders. There is a profound lack of respect for oneself and others.

When UC Berkeley students worked with McClymonds High School students on the Y-PLAN (Youth, Plan, Learn, Action, Now) to come up with proposals for a McClymonds mini park and community reuse of the historic Southern Pacific Train Depot, the younger students said it was the first time they every felt good about their neighborhood, because they learned about the history of West Oakland. The new news ecology should provide many more opportunities for such an exchange.

What do we want to be? The real challenge is building unity., a base, a community is unified to understand what their needs and problems and how to address them.

Who is it we want to empower? Once we decide that, we can establish the tools.

Can’t push content on the community. Have to have forum for people to create content that will work on the website. How else can residents create and share information and stories with their neighbors?

What we can do:

Building an eco village is good, building a bureau in the library is good, but not the complete answer. Have to go door to door (to reach people), some older residents will not go outside at night. There is no penetration from person to person, group to group, organization to organization. Have to connect people. Have to talk about how to reach people who have never been empowered.

Important to establish a baseline, ask people: Are you connected? Do you get information and how do you get it? Tribune does have way to disseminate information, could include fliers in newspapers.

Ideas and stories have to come from people. We could post bulletin boards around town with stories. Show video and audio played to help people who can’t read. People wait for hours at the West Oakland Health Center. Have a video replayed, information kiosks, story tellers.

Possible community locations for computers, news bureaus, kiosks, etc (not a complete list: West Oakland Library, Eco Village/yurt, Acorn, Poplar Rec Center, de Fremery Park, McClymonds High School, Prescott Joseph Center.

West Oakland Library has a corner that would be perfect for a satellite news bureau. Have grad students on-site to help people dictate their stories. Grad students and high school students could gain public service credits or maybe stipend if they work as on-site techs.

Have to remind people of their history, get them invested in their community. People mobilize around issues, ie, environmental issues, asthma etc. Maybe we could put out a negative challenge, ie, “Is your community making you sick?’’

Tribune could sponsor festivals, etc. teen talent show, poetry slam, dance. What about mobile news vans in the community? Use the bookmobile or something similar. Would be a fat mobile, with spinners (spinning wheel rims) to grab people’s attention, rap music playing. Oak Trib logo. Side would come up and inside would be a mobile news gathering operation.

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What does the role of the professional journalist look like?

These are Bill Densmore’s notes of the session: “What does the Role of the Professional Journalist Look Like?” which was convened on Friday afternoon by Dave Johnson.

PARTICIPANTS: Chris Peck, Cecily Burt, Bill Densmore, Scott Hall, Christine Saed, Jim Shaffer, Mike Van Buren, Matlho Kjosi, Dave Johnson, Linda Jue, Peggy Kuhr, Brian Beveridge, Stephen Silha, Azalea Blalock.

We considered:


—Fact checking and facts – a process
—Context – accumulated wisdom
—Story telling
—A definition(s) of the news


—Helps with filter criteria but doesn’t do the filtering
—Like an air traffic controller
—Not a solo act
—A place to dialog
—A facilitator of conversations
—an aggregator
—Possible synonyms: information valet, reference librarian, convener, surgeon, conductor, weaver, navigators.


Peggy Kuhr mentioned that the Online News Association is working on a recommended-curriculum guide for new media for college-level journalism education.

We talked about the definition of news:

Old-style definition: “If no grumble or rumble, no story.” Based on conflict, and based on statements by those perceived to be in authority.

Jim Shaffer: Test out this idea – does the journalist of the future have to become a marketer? Can you live with that notion?

Peggy Kuhr: John Lavine at the Medill School of Journalism is working on a new curriculum which teachers journalists to be customer centered:

Mike Skoler: Worries that marketing implies manipulation. But the the notion of the audience being at the center of the process certainly implies needing to have a relationship with the audience and that’s good. The classic journalist is a lone wolf.

Bill Densmore: Some journalists have liked having control of the news and of the public agenda. But that control is slipping away. They traded that control leverage by giving up the right to “be involved” and to make a difference in a really direct, personal, one-on-one way. The new journalist has to be content – happy – with being more of a facilitator, convener, organizer. How does that change the type of person who choose journalism, and the skills the need? And does it mean the old role of distance, avoidance of involvement, has to change. Talks about his career as a journalist avoiding “joining” and involvements. Now helps with schools and with chamber of commerce and public issues and non-profits. It’s a very different role. Can I still be a journalist on the side?

What about the role of journalist as synthesizer of the truth. We talked about whether there is absolute truth and whether something is lost if the journalist doesn’t continue to accept a role as seeker and arbiter of the truth.

Mike Skoler: Likes the idea of the journalist as a surgeon, “taking a cut at the truth.” The “audience” is the patient. The surgeon’s role has to be respected. He makes the cut – identifies the truth – and the audience – the patient – has to be willing to accept that judgment. Somebody has to be the cutter of the truth – the giver of a sense of the importance of facts.

Azalea Blalock – It’s a two way street – just as the journalist has to respect the customer/reader/user in a marketing sense, so to the “customer” has to have respect for the integrity and competence of the journalist-surgeon.

Jim Shaffer drew a four-quadrant chart to illustrate types of stories. We discussed the “sweet spot” as being a circle at the center of the ofur corners of the quadrants the place where, as Mike Skoler put it “the radio stays on when you stop the car in the driveway” because the story is so compelling the listener can’t stop listening. The very best stories touch all quadrants:

Individual interior | individual exterior |

Collective interior | collective exterior |

Mike Skoler: The facilitator role is going to become increasingly important and requires a journalist who isn’t a lone wolf. At Minnesota Public Radio, they have created a new role called “analyst” in the newsroom. Initially it was thought of as being co-equal with a reporter editor but Skoler is now thinking of it as possibly an excellent entry-level position for beginning journalists because it forces them to learn how to be in touch with the audience.

Peggy Kuhr: Says a similar position former existed at the Spokane Spokesman-Review when she was there.

We talked a bit more about the potential role of journalist as educator – is that a required role?

Bill Densmore: Always thought of myself as a teacher during years as a reporter editor. The skills and objective seem similar. But teacher in the sense of facilitating learning, not in the sense of lecturing.

Mike Skoler: Not sure if it is right to expect journalists to be responsible for engaging citizens in a teacher-learner role. Journalists are a piece of democracy and that may not be part of their piece.

Bill Densmore: But we have a problem now. Citizens are out of practice at “consuming” watchdog journalism. They don’t see it that often, they don’t know always how to recognize it or how to demand it. There is a need for the teaching of smart media consumption and creation? Who has that role? State curriculum frameworks mandate the teaching of “civic education” and our schools claim to be about graduating good citizens, but they really are teaching to tests and the tests are more oriented to job skills. Thomas Jefferson was quoted as saying schools were about providing people sufficiently educated to be effective citizens in democratic process. Don’t journalists have some obligation – out of necessity – to make sure their customers know how to identify and use the product in a civic context?

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How to test new journalism economic models

CONVENER: Jim Shaffer

ATTENDEES: Mike Skoler, Bill Densmore, Linda Ju, Martin Reynolds, Mike Van Buren, Scott Hall, Dave Johnson, Rich Anderson, Staci Kramer, Stephen Silha, Matlho Kjosi, Peggy Kuhr, Brian Beveridge, Christine Saed, Azalea Blalock (Chris Peck joins where indicated)

Jim Shaffer: Why bother to experiment with multiple economic models?

How to test economic models:

1. Discover or generate tests—for example, Rich Anderson’s Village Soup in Camden

2. Document and measure what was learned. When something doesn’t work the temptation is to waive the hand, should have known that. Sometimes it is most important to document the things which don’t work as well as the things that do.

3. Identify and challenge assumptions. Sometimes a success or a failure may be do to reasons we don’t fully understand. B.F. Skinner’s idea of chickens randomly reinforced with feeding at certain times. They behaved the way they were behaving when the food came down.

Part of the clue to testing economic models is to challenge the assumptions about whe we have learned.

4. Then in a position to communicate the results. The result is increased chance of learning and discovery and adaptive change.

5. CRITICAL —Embrace failure as a learning opportunity.

Christine Saed of the successful manager with low turnover: How: “good decisions.” How did you get to good decisions? “Bad decisions.”

Jim Shaffer: At the LATimes, there was plenty of superstition in the circulation department and the newsroom about why things were growing for 30 years. The real reason was just that the market was growing.

Martin Reynolds: Cecily and I had to convince our company tosend us here and I’m beginning to sweat a little bit: What am i going to bring back to my VP of news that is going to be useful here. Saying, “the best thing we can do this is to just make some bad decisions.” That isn’t going to work.

Peggy Holman: What I would say is failure or success are simply a moment in time in a larger scheme of things. The important point is to add reflection into the cycle, whether you are working on a success or a failure. Study successes with the same intensity as failure.

Mike Skoler: Some of it is about being willing to share. When someone happens on a model that is successful, you tend to keep it to yourself, of not wanting to share because you give up what was your own. Sometimes when something fails, you are afraid to share because you might look stupid. We need to create a culture that more knowledge helps us all.

Martin Reynolds: The culture is not sharing, holding onto stories. “But now is a time in our industry where we need to share information to go into adaptive change.”

Jim Shaffer: What would be an effective repository for shared knowledge? Is it a committee of the NAA? An academic function? Maybe some journalism school?

Mike Skoler: What about a speakers bureau? There are people who have experience to share? You pay expenses to bring someone else. The understanding is if someone will pay your expenses you have to be willing to share.

Staci Kramer: An introduction. She lives in St. Louis. She is executive of It covers the economic of digital entertainment and media. It is a 24-7 site. They have an RSS feed. They send out a newsletter five days a week about 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Who reads: They write about everything from nano-publishing to major public companies, from network’s video streaming to user-generated media. Always from the aspect of how are you making money at this, how does it change the economics of what we are doing. In many ways what we are doing is a log of experiments. She comes from mainstream journalism. Sometimes she sees what she is doing as applying traditional journalism to non-traditional methods. She sees things differently because she is looking at them in multiple ways. “Things are shifting, you have to either take control or lose control.”

When you think about information as being collected in a repository, you are missing the point of what can be accomplished right now – a dynamic repository. Come up with a list of common tag terms that you might use, to signify what you are writing about. Maybe you could start a tag called “news matters.” How many of you know what tagging is? What does tagging do? One of the biggest issues of the current information structure is unfortunately there’s not someone who sits down and looks at every piece of paper and decides how it should be categorized. It isn’t organized like a library. So people create their own classifications. It is personal-information architecture. You say what you are about to put up is these four things. Someone in an area designated is a word which describes those things. One thing you could do is create a delicious account, now part of Yahoo. You post something to your delicious account. It is free and open to anybody and they will see the headline of that story.


What’s going on in the hyperlocal: A lot of investor money is going into it. It is unneverving. People who follow curves in funding like to see funding going to things that you can see potential results from. There is no proof that everybody who wants to do it can make money from it. As we’ve already seen with Bayosphere, there will be a fair amount of funding that will go down the drain. In a way what’s faddish is that you can make money doing it.

Scott Hall: What is hyperlocal?

Rich Anderson: It is my community, your community, 20,000-40,000. Everybody thinks there is a cheap easy way to do this. They keep funding the cheap local way.

The Tyee: Vancouver, B.C. (union and user funded)

New Have Independent (foundation funded)

Mountain Area Information Network (multi-service)

New West – Jonathan Weber

Jim Shaffer: How could we report on hyperlocal?

Staci Kramer: One way would be to have somebody to take responsibility for following the hyper-local area. How do you measure success? You could set up some RSS feeds with tags and search terms and start to collect some things. What matters of what you are looking at?

Rich Anderson: What about having the Media Giraffe look at it?

Staci Kramer: Also look at Dan Gillmor’s service. Most people think advertising is the key way.

Rich Anderson: You can’t rely totally on advertising. It is relying on business. But it is new ways to get revenue from that traditional base of support.

Staci Kramer: asks you to post photographs and you will get 50% of what they make on it.

Rich Anderson: I say that is folly. The reason local newspapers ore local online services have failed is it wasn’t sustainable. You have to think of a new species. Our idea is the community network idea to replace what was the community newspaper. The reason we are still so dominated by advertising revenue is we still have the newspaper there. That’s not bad. But how you’re going to afford the good quality journalism is to find new revenue to support it. And you find that from the same businesses to whom you provide other services. Advertising is absolutely necessary, to have that advertising base both online and in print, but it is not sufficient.

Jim Shaffer: Go back to tracking? If the University of Missouri were to set up a tracking service would that be competition to your site, Staci?

Staci Kramer: Not at all. Part of the new economy is we all need each other. But who will follow the tracks and what are you doing it for?

Jim Shaffer: Who would want a tracking service? Investors? Entrepreneurs?

Richard Anderson: I came because I thought this group was going to create some ideas and start making them happen. Maybe this group is going to be an entrepreneurial effort to start things and use Media Giraffe as its tracker. To try and answer this question of what is the new community medium.

Staci Kramer: It may be that the need is not a need to create a link to everything going on but to narrow it to just service the people you want to reach. What would be in the manageable chunks and who would they be fore?

Brian Beveridge: Have you established philosophically what you want these entities to achieve? Its more than how do you make money, right? Is that what you want to accomplish? Did you already establish some kind of professional orphilosophical criteria for what journalism should look like? With all the cool experiments, and capital generation, that’s sort of fractile process – you have no idea where it is going. Yesterday there was talk about supporting or establishing a movement.

Mike Skoler: The economic underpinnings for quality journalism are shifting. So much is moving online. The ad model, even if it fully transfers on line, there ar e more players in it, so the actual money that goes to journalism is going to diminish dramatically. As we try to figure out new way to involve citizens, we need to be open to a whole new range of ways of finding revenue. This discussion is about being able to understand what the experiments are only in the sense of we don’t know what the new world is but if we can track experiments, it gives us a leg up.

Brian Beveridge: But what are the indicators of quality journalism? Do you have a golden vision of journalism or is it to go anywhere tha tpursues money?

Linda Ju: We discussed yesterday, and it came down to the question of are we going to be value driven or just pursue the money. Everyone is here because we want to create content that matters, that is value generated. We are all involved in experiments and should talk about how do we support the experiements we are involved in right now. There is no consensus that there is even change necessary. We are not always supported in our own work.

Peggy Holman: Can you talk about what Independent Press Association is doing?

Linda Ju: In 1996 there was a Media Democracy Congress in San Francisco organized by AlterNet. Independent publishers, mostly magazine publishers, came together and were trying to figure out what do about a blocked distribution market. In the 1990s there were hundreds of magazine distribution companies and now there are four. Formed to get smaller enterprises together mostly mission focused. Started building an infrastructure for the ethnic and community press. “We’re drawing in all the people from MSM – like myself— who are fed up.” It involves 500 mission driven publications, alternative publishing, with program-related investments. “It started like this – a bunch of people coming together anymore. It being with not being able to take it anymore, and being willing to fall on our face.” Seed money came from the Knight Foundation and the McArthur Foundation.

Jim Shaffer: Greenhousing involves a sharing of best practices. Maybe we should narrow down the information-gathering projects just in this room.

Pegg Holman: She wants to explore that idea – of this group figuring out a greenhousing resource for sharing information about media projects.

Rich Anderson: One of the problems with the nonprofit model is you can get funding for symposiums, which has nothing to do with your mission.

Linda Ju: We developed relationships with these foundations where we were able to say, now you have to listen to us.

Christine Saed: If you are going to go in the non-profit direction, no profits draw from both private and public for money. Foundations are just one possible piece. There is planned giving.

Staci Kramer: Dropped in without the plot of the play. Apologizes if not completely with the program. She worked for the St. Louis Journalism Review. Are you trying to grow companies that can be self sustaining without foundation support?

Linda Ju: Yes. The foundations push you in that direction.

Staci Kramer: If you look at foundations like angel investors, that can be useful.

Peggy Holman: Would it be useful to some of the experiments represented here to have an organization?

Scott Hall: He is here fo r his boss. She would be extremely interested in Rich Anderson’s service (Village Soup) for example.

Dave Johnson: As a small newspaper, we are looking for sustainability. We have published for six months. There is still enough volunteer passion to keep it going.

Staci Kramer: The model of getting paid is following the initial citizen journalism excitement. Now companies are coming along and are thinking they can make money, with low entry and labor costs. They don’t understand the realities yet.

Mike Skoler: It is seen as a way to get cheap content.

Scott Hall: Where I work, we have 75 volunteers who do 75 percent of the musical program. Everyone once in a while they say they are being used. As Clyde Bentley said yesterday: Journalism is a hard job, you are not going to get a person to sit in a county board meeting for three hours.


Jim Shaffer: So if there were a greenhousing organization that was sharing best practices, all aspects of organizing, would that be a good thing. Summary for Chris Peck. Working on forming a greenhouse for sharing of information about alternative media models.

Rich Anderson: I am hopeful that will come out of this meeting. We have the components here that already exist. For his part, he is interested in exploring ways the VillageSoup plaform “can e shared and made available to other members of this common . . . .we would be interested in making our platform available to others that want to to experiment with community networks.”

Staci Kramer: “That alone has something that is valuable beyond numbers.” Anyone who has created a content management system knows that.

Rich Anderson: The idea is based on creating a system like the Visa model:

There are a lot of variations of what is going on. But what if there were one platform that was based on this community concept?

Staci Kramer: You need to figure out who ought to be in the greenouse?

Linda Ju: How was this group brought together?

Steve Silha: It was brought together by people who are trying to organize change. They tried to get people from all aspects of the system: Wall Street, bloggers, MSM. Really tried to get a diverse approach.

Chris Peck: The people who want to be in the greenhouse would be people who are comfortable with that form of association. What Rich was talking about is the platform could be available to anyone interested in starting a greenouse or community based news organization. What sort of community would likely be open and receptive to that idea. Early, the had a geography in mind and thought of 50 or so communities – urban, or resort or college communities as examples. What about the greenhouse idea? Is that the key to the launches of the alternative magazine you are seeking getting going? How do they acquire staff?

Linda Ju: Yes, basically. Writers who work for IPA magazines get much more feedback. But they are trying to make it sustainable to.

Mike Skoler: An attempt to pull together. Linda, you are beginning to work in broadcast media. Staci and Bill are tracking in different ways and styles a lot of what is going on. There are a number of people here doing experiiments. Linda has learned for how to be a base for doing greenhouse work and working with social-venture capitalists. Rather than moving toward creating something new, could we bring forces together within the work and create a collaboration among pieces of expertise in the room, to get the information needed, the contacts, the investment, without defining necessarily now what projects should be allowed in. It’s always to easier to build when you have the pieces already together rather than go out and create fresh.

Jim Shaffer: As content goes online and things become many to many, what were magazines and newspapers start to look more and more alike.

Mike Skoler: Now the online component is shared across all media now.

Rich Anderson: Do any of your magazines have online components? What about taking the Village Soup, and the learn-share-buy platform and see if some of the magazines would adopt that concept. You are using the same platform, but it just happens to be a magazine.

Linda Ju: I have been thinking a lot about your model.

Mike Skoler: And what a perfect setting for you to make the offer of essentially creating a co-op, for people to are strapped for resources.

Posted in Session Notes | Comments Off on How to test new journalism economic models

How is change possible? — Skoler session

SESSION: How to turn around current journalism/newsrooms and save what is good?

CONVENER: Mike Skoler, Minnesota Public Radio

ATTENDING: Mike Van Buren, Rich Anderson, Staci Kramer, Peggy Holman, Chris Peck, Jim Shaffer, Stephen Silha, Janet Wu, Dave Johnson, Scott Hall and Matlho Kjosi, Linda Ju.

Assumptions: Main stream media is worth saving, it can change and it must change.

Goals: What is being done? How do we evaluate it? How do we drive/support change?

Chris Peck: Right now the MSM has the resources to counterbalance powerful newsmakers and sources. You don’t want to lose that. MSM knows it must change, but

Chris Peck: Chris Peck: Right now the MSM has the resources to counterbalance powerful newsmakers and sources. You don’t want to lose that. MSM knows it must change. But for all of its weaknesses, the MSM is still gigantically hugely profitable. And there are all kinds of careers and structures that are built to replicate that again and again. So if you go into that machinery and stick a wrench in it, you just can’t really very well overcome the fear.

Peggy Holman: What about doing this within a newsroom?

Staci Kramer: Because if you don’t do it right, you’re screwed.

Mike Skoler: New Tyco CEO has replaced most of the senior executives.

Staci Kramer: One way not to introduce change is not trying to undermine everything that is being done. When Cole Campbell was here, he introduced many ideas which would have been good if they succeeded, but they were dragged down by other things.

Chris Peck: You need to be up front about the fact that some people are not going to be able to go over the waterfall. “If you just can’t do that, you have to acknowledge that and say you are going to go do something else with your life.” There is a core in a lot of news organizations that are hardwired to something in the past.

Mike Skoler: Are there any examples where change has been able to take hold.

Staci Kramer: Where people are told to do it instead of being asked to be part of the process from the start, that creates a problem.

Jim Shaffer: There is a terrific book out: “Leadership on the Line,” by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, which deals with principals of adaptive change.

Scott Hall: There is good main stream journalism being done. “I am a big fan of powerful journalistic organizations holding powerful people accountable. If we go to this model of community journalism, we are steping out of the way of powerful people. There is a real serious issue to me of mainstream journalism being powerful enough to hold powerful people accountable . . . They are big enough to hold our entire state government accountable. I can’t do that.”

Jim Shafer: “One of my concerns is that big powerful media is becoming less powerful.”

Chris Peck: “Or co-opted.”

Chris Peck: How can we change and preserve what’s best. We have to be careful to say we are not throwing everything out here. It is the old model of preserve the core. I think what you need are projects, examples that are spanning that. So the traditionalists can say that is preserving the core, and the people who want change can see that something is changing.

Jim Shafer: Have a robust discussion about it among the stakeholders about what the core is that needs to be preserved. … many of us are of the opinion that mainstream journalism will fail and that unless we create models that have to grown from community models, there may be nothing that inspires them to change. I am personally hoping that a few organizations will make the transition and inspire others.”

Are there any organization you look at as making it?

Jim Shafer: He thinks the NYTimes will survive. They have taken a huge hit to earnings, they are under a lot of pressure. They have done a lot to the organization of their newsroom. One day they will print their last print edition and nobody will notice because they are everywhere else. He thinks the WSJ is missing opportunities, but they are making change.

Staci Kramer: Go back and look at WSJ’s re-organized structure. Now the Electronic and WSJ are a brand, economically connected and no longer separate. They have 761,000 pay subscribers and Barons has more. They made sure they have a free new site by acquiring MarketWatch. They wanted to tap into inventory of consumer advertising that MarketWatch has and tap into audience of people who won’t pay for information.

Chris Peck: There are some similarities between the social-economic profiles of the WSJ and NYT readership. Probably the high-end niche markets at the high-end of the social scale may make the transition. But that is NOT the mainstream media as most people think of it. Is their path a lot different? Is there are learnings you could take from either of those models?

Peggy Holman: Yes. Understanding your audience.

Staci Kramer: She personally likes the newspaper model which requires people to subcribe and pay for certain resources. She like that. You have to have a really passionate following to get away with it. It worked in Green Bay but not in Atlanta.

Mike Skoler: More than half of MPR’s audience is from outside the five-state region. Why? The simple reason is that people are finding it through search engines and are coming because they have good stories about subjects that warrant national attention. Dan Zwerdling’s piece at American Radio Works about what would happen if a major hurricane hit New Orleans.

Chris Peck: The question you keep hearing from the MSM is: “Are you monetizing the Internet.” But focusing on monetizing it, it may you take you a place which may be beyond your core mission.

Posted in Session Notes | Comments Off on How is change possible? — Skoler session

How to turn around current journalism/newsrooms and save what is good

Convenor: Michael Skoler

[Note: this conversation veered back into business model discussions.]

Assumptions: Mainstream journalism is worth saving Mainstream journalism can change Mainstream journalism must change

Goals: What is being done? How do we evaluate? How do we drive/support change?

Michael described public insight journalism at Minnesota Public Radio. (See )

Chris P: MSJ still have role as counterbalances to powerful forces/newsmakers in society (e.g. Karl Rove). MSJ knows it must change. I’m not sure MSJ can change.

Jim: System says certain slow deterioration is better than radical change.

Peggy: Why not do what we’re doing here in newsroom?

Staci Kramer: Has to be done right. Risk is high.

Michael S: New Tyco CEO has replaced 290 of 300 executives. That’s one kind of change.

Staci: There are ways to introduce change, and ways not to. Don’t try to undermine whatever is being done. St. Louis Post-Dispatch tried to implement too much change too fast, while still doing what they’re doing.

Peggy: Change doesn’t have to damage.

Staci: What words do you use. “Public journalism” had negative connotations. What do you want to achieve?

Michael: When I came to MPR, I said we can produce stronger journalism. Journalists in newsroom said, “We are producing good journalism.” Took a year.

Scott: I appreciate the power of mainstream journalism. MPR holds state government accountable. This is why there’s a lot worth saving.

Jim: Powerful journalism getting smaller and less effective, or co-opted.

How to change:

1. Don’t undermine people & their daily work
2. Understand human cost
3. Requires different people to do things differently (“If you can’t do it, be prepared to do something else.”)

Examples of change taking hold:
∑ Where people are asked to be part of it, not being directed to do it
∑ Book on adaptive change: Leadership on the Line, by Heifetz and Linsky
∑ Preserve the core—stimulate progress, strengthen journalism as we change
∑ Have a robust discussion among stakeholders

Jim: We need to create models. A few organizations can make transition. New York Times will end print edition someday, but everyone will read it on-line. Anticipating in newsroom organizing. Wall Street Journal, more poorly managed, is doing that too.

Staci: Look at stories about changes in Dow Jones’ organizational structure. Electronic publishing no longer separate. One brand. 761,000 paying subscribers. Barrons has 69, 000. They also have a free news site: MarketWatch. Taps into inventory of consumer advertising (so they have access to those who don’t want to pay for info). They “give away” certain stories each day, sending them to bloggers, using “tiny URL” so bloggers can link to them easily. They’ve increased their relevancy & awareness factor by making news accessible outside the wall.

They also have a free site, OpinionJournal, with political pieces.

NYT did obverse with Times Select. (Made people pay.)

Jim: They have different advertising models.

Staci: WSJ making great use of targeted advertising.

Chris: Those aren’t local media, but niche markets.

Peggy: They know their audience, and are in service to their audience.

Staci: When you create sites with no geographic boundaries, you attract surprise audience. There are newspapers with pay-only audiences on-line. (It didn’t work in Atlanta, it did in Milwaukee/Green Bay, with sports package.)

Chris: You need passionate following.

Michael: More than half of our online audience at MPR is outside our region. (They find it through search engines.) Demands a shift in perspective in what we cover, but we haven’t done much of that.

Scott: What if they want what you’re already doing?
Staci: What if you’re a Midwest paper, and lots of your audience goes to Florida in winter? Advertisers don’t want to pay for that.
… How do you capture search engine visitors? (Trend toward Amazon-style, “If you liked this, you might like this.”)

Chris: Have you monetized the Internet?

Staci: Can you bring in additional income based on ROI (return on investment)?

Michael: Does serving outside online audience attract from or contribute to mission?

Rich: Can you allow that audience to shop in your community online? Support journalism that way. (Hasn’t worked yet, but I think it will.)

Michael: My favorite “what not to do” story is MSNBC citizen journalism page. “Runaway bride” stories. CNN: what readers are doing about high gas prices. (Feels better)

Jim: Newspaper ad people don’t think in terms of targeted audience. Can there be a way to extract targeted audiences from newspaper databases?

Staci: We need to be able to pay for journalism that matters.

Linda: Is this a publisher’s conversation or a journalist’s conversation? We need to have both.

Posted in Session Notes | Comments Off on How to turn around current journalism/newsrooms and save what is good