Archive for the ‘Community’ Category
I was at a digital journalism conference when Apple released iOS6 and set off a firestorm of criticism over their custom built mapping application, so perhaps it was inevitable that I would connect these things. In fact, I have written before about how journalists can be the “information cartographers” of the digital age, mapping the ecosystem of news and helping us find our way. However, as I have been reading up on how Apple built its maps I think there are some important lessons for journalists who are thinking about data and community in important new ways. Read the rest of this entry »
Who produces the local news you read, see and hear? Has it been outsourced to people in another state, or maybe even another country? How can you tell?
On this week’s episode of This American Life, Ira Glass and the team explore what happens when U.S. media corporations outsource local journalism to workers around the world. Most troubling, perhaps, is the way these companies are trying to hide what they are doing. Can someone sitting at a computer in the Philippines really cover the South Side of Chicago, and do Chicago residents have a right to know who is writing these stories?
Similarly Free Press has tracked and revealed how more than 100 local TV stations have outsourced their local journalism to their competitors, so that in some cities only one newsroom is producing the news for three stations. And just last week Steve Myers at Poynter reflected on what makes a paper local in light of cuts backs and consolidation at Advance Publications papers in Alabama and New Orleans.
We are at a moment where these companies are radically changing how the news is made. However, we are also seeing new hyperlocal and nonprofit news organizations emerging, public radio and TV are investing in local journalism and some newspapers are remaining fiercely local and committed to public service journalism.
The question is, how do you tell the difference between something that’s produced locally and something that’s been outsourced? Here are 10 resources that will help you identify and support truly local journalism. Read the rest of this entry »
I saw a tweet last night that went something like: “People must love biased news because CNN is doing so poorly while the other networks are doing great.” This was inspired by new reports of CNN’s second quarter ratings, which New York Times reports, “plunged by 40 percent from a year ago,” for its prime-time shows. We can all debate about definitions of doing well and doing poorly, but in general I think a lot of people agree with this sentiment that bias drives views.
CNN isn’t plummeting in the rankings because people love “biased news.” However, what MSNBC and FOX News understand, that I think CNN doesn’t, is that people want to see themselves in the stories they consume. This is as true of novels they choose as it is of the news they decide to watch.
This aspect of the debate over objectivity has received too little attention, but it is fundamental to how stories function. For a long time objectivity was a source of trust – (i.e. “You can trust me because I don’t have a dog in this race”) – but it also had a cost. The cost was journalists’ relationship with their audience and their communities. Read the rest of this entry »
The recent history of journalism in America is full of tectonic shifts, brought on by changes in technology and society. For too long, many of those changes happened outside of newsrooms, but increasingly we are seeing fundamental cultural shifts in news organizations that are changing how, and to sometimes why, journalism is done.
One of those shifts has been the emphasis on community engagement. The media landscape is shifting and becoming more participatory, and our communities want to do more than just read the news. They want to be co-creators, collaborators, distributors and they want to put the news to work, to improve their lives and communities. At the same time, financial challenges have forced news organizations to build new networks of support with their audience and community.
While newsrooms have invested in various forms of community engagement – from mobilizing local bloggers into coordinated networks, to robust social media strategies and community events – there is still a lot we don’t know about how to assess and measure the impact of community engagement. Read the rest of this entry »
The annual Pew State of the News Media report is like a yearly physical exam for journalism in America. This year the prognosis is mixed, at best. Newspapers are still raking in double-digit operating margins, but after years of consolidation they are over-leveraged with debt that is cutting into their profits. There are more hours of news on local TV, but much of it consists of rebroadcasts, meaning there is actually less original reporting. Tablets and mobile devices are driving significant new traffic to news sites, but monetizing that traffic is still difficult.
A Stress Test for Civic Health
Underneath all the numbers is a troubling narrative that has spanned the last few Pew reports and continues through this year’s study. Everyone agrees that we are in a tumultuous time for journalism in America, with both enormous opportunity and profound challenges — the numbers confirm that. But what is harder to quantify is the impact this unevenness and uncertainty is having on local communities. The authors of the Pew report provide some hints.
“The civic implications of the decline in newspapers are … becoming clearer,” the authors write. “[M]ore evidence emerged that newspapers (whether accessed in print or digitally) are the primary source people turn to for news about government and civic affairs. If these operations continue to shrivel or disappear, it is unclear where, or whether, that information would be reported.”
While a growing cadre of reporting projects and journalism sites is contributing in critical ways to expanding news in many communities, most still come nowhere near the size of traditional newsrooms, and many are struggling to transition from startup to sustainability. Some of those startups are being developed by committed journalists who have left newspapers. Pew estimates that 1,000 newsgathering jobs were lost in 2010, which is a small number compared to the years prior, but still significant. Read the rest of this entry »
I came to journalism through community organizing, so for me, news and information has always been important in the context of our communities. That’s perhaps why I was so struck by the way Melanie Sill, executive in residence at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, puts community at the center of her new report “The Case for Open Journalism Now.”
Like many journalism reports released in the last five years, her report begins by asserting that journalism is a “public good.” However, where other authors have used that frame to explore business models or argue for new funding streams (including my own 2009 report), Sill is more interested in how the journalism itself needs to change.
“We need a new orienting idea for journalism,” she writes. If journalism is a public good, she asks, how must it change and adapt to the new digital public sphere and the demands of newly connected (and disconnected) communities. “To bring real change,” Sill argues, “we must reorder the fundamental processes of journalism toward the goal of serving communities.”
“Open journalism’s core principles are transparency, responsiveness, participation, collaboration and connection. … It’s an idea for making quality journalism a collective endeavor and transforming it from a product driven by factory processes to a service driven by audience needs.”
In this way, open journalism brings together the democratic needs of communities with the increasingly networked technological shifts in media and information. Part argument, part case study, and part handbook for newsrooms, her paper offers a wide range of concrete examples drawn from a diverse set of journalism organizations across the country. As such the paper reads as a study of an emerging movement, one which is gaining steam but still facing very real challenges.
Last week I was invited to spend a day at Skidmore College, speaking to a number of classes and giving a campus lecture on the intersection of civic engagement, media reform and sustainability. For me, the common thread that weaves these issues together is storytelling. If our culture is a function of the stories we tell each other, then real change demands that we begin telling a new story. I believe that is starting to happen, but debates about the future of journalism and media reform also have to account for whose stories are being told and who is being edited out.
What follows are snippets of my lecture, woven together with a few quotes, organized around some key themes. This may be best described as some of the raw materials I was mulling over when I planned my talk. Read the rest of this entry »
In a recent radio interview I was asked about my optimism regarding the local media movement – an umbrella under which I have been including vibrant local community TV and radio outlets and emerging nonprofit journalism websites and blogs as well as media literacy projects, digital justice coalitions and media reform groups. The interviewer pressed me to offer concrete examples of the impact these outlets were having (how were they shaping the national debate, moving key issues forward, changing the lives of local people and communities).
I had a few examples to offer, but in general, I noted that what we are seeing is the seeds of change – seeds, I argue, that need to be tended and nurtured. Our current media system did not emerge overnight, and while it seems like the media landscape is changing dramatically almost every day, the truth is that these changes have been happening for quite some time. I like to say that we are climbing mountains not turning corners. We have to be in it for the long haul, but it is better to be creating, participating, experimenting now, than to be simply standing still as the media landscape shifts around us. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night, Orion Magazine invited me to speak to their monthly “Green Drinks” event in Great Barrington, MA. This summer Orion published a piece by me on grassroots media and democracy and in my talk I wanted to explore one key theme, that I was only able to touch on briefly in the article itself. Recently I have been mulling over the ways in which technology has put more and more media in the hands of the people, while the media policies that shape everything we watch, read, and hear are putting more and more media control in the hands of corporations. What are the implications of this tension?
Here is what I said last night, but it just scratches the service or this much larger question: Read the rest of this entry »
Ever since first hearing about the New York City’s newest park, the High Line, I have been transfixed by it, pouring over photos, reading articles, studying the plans. At first I thought it was the juxtaposition of this long ribbon of green amongst the skyscrapers that sparked my imagination, but it’s more than that. It intersects every one of my key interests – urban planning, community organizing, conservation, parks, and media. Read the rest of this entry »
This week began with news that Borders would not be restructured and will be closing all of its stores. This has sparked a fascinating discussion about the role of bookstores, both chains and local independent stores, and to some extent the role of physical space and physical texts. It just so happened that I read an essay this weekend by Clay Shirky which touches on just some of these topics.
Right now, Clay Shirky has a popular post circulating around twitter arguing that we need a news ecosystem that is “chaotic” and full of diverse models and experiments. Shirky has been expert at making this point, and shows over and over again why it’s true. He has been less consistent in actually laying out possible models. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve argued in the past that our stories are the atomic elements of our relationship to one another. In this fabulous post Craig Mod uses that central metaphor to examine how everything we know about writing, publishing and reading is changing, and why that’s a good thing.
There is a compulsion to believe the magic of a book lies in its surface. In reality, the book worth considering consists only of relationships.
I appreciated this quote, on the expansiveness of our land and our democracy, from an old NYT blog post:
The immensity often gets lost in the superlatives stirred up by the most outrageously scenic sites. But in the aggregate, this is what every citizen owns: 530 million acres, of which 193 million are run by the Forest Service, 253 million by the Bureau of Land Management and 84 million by the National Park Service. The public land endowment is more than three times the size of France.
“Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst.” That was the encomium for the parks by Wallace Stegner, the Best Westerner. It’s worth noting, at a time when a loud fringe of political life fits the Stegner description of us at our worst, how this miracle of public land came to be.
Changes in media and technology are rippling through our society, shifting the power structures that have traditionally shaped the public square of news and information in America. The old dynamic might be described as a clash of titans – the institutions of news and journalism working to monitor and hold accountable the institutions of government, commerce, and civic life. In this construction, like spectators at a colosseum, consumers of news were little more than an audience.
However, one of the key findings of the Federal Communications Commission’s new report on the “Information Needs of Communities” was that “Citizens can now play a much greater role in holding institutions accountable.” This, in and of itself, is nothing really new. The notion of the “people formerly known as the audience,” and the increase in participatory, citizen driven journalism have been well documented and discussed in-depth.
The report’s optimism about citizen engagement is tempered, however, by another important fact. “While digital technology has empowered people in many ways, the concurrent decline in local reporting has, in other cases, shifted power away from citizens to government and other powerful institutions, which can more often set the news agenda.” The gap between these two ideas animates the entire report. Read the rest of this entry »