Archive for the ‘Community’ Category
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 »
In my last post, which itself was inspired by Ethan Zuckerman’s post on overcoming polarization, I pondered whether stories could help bridge contentious cultural and political divides, and if so, how. I was interested in how storytelling actually functions.
Just after publishing that I came home to my most recent edition of Orion Magazine, and to an article on listening to the music of water by Ginger Strand. In her article, Strand explores some of the differences between sight and sound. The discussion is a useful complement to my own thinking about facts versus narrative. Here is a piece of that article:
“Sound connects us to things in a way that looking doesn’t: it’s more immersive, more corporeal. [...] And listening generally takes longer that looking, because sound unfolds over time, rather than being there all at once. we can take in a landscape at a glance; we can even reproduce it in a snapshot. But a sound can never be captured in a n instant. To hear something, we have to hear it out.”
While she is talking about listening to water, it’s easy to see how her observation is relevant to thinking about stories and political polarization. Facts are often snapshots, whereas stories are something we have to “hear out.”
“Our narratives transcend fact, for they are formed from the delicious emotional nuances of sensation: sound, smell, moods, sensuality, taste, color, shadow, texture, rhythm, cadence, tears, laughter, warmth, and coolness all experienced here, at a place on this earth.” – Robert Archibald
The Inadequacy of Facts
Ethan Zuckerman has a fantastic post up this week mulling over how we might address and overcome our increasingly polarized politics and culture. The post hinges on the inability of facts to bridge and mend the polarization that is increasingly driving an insurmountable wedge into the most important debates of our time.
In end, he says “the path that leads from polarization towards common ground is rooted in understanding values as well as facts.” Building on that idea he zeros in on Bill Moyers’ recent interview with David Simon (a former journalist and creator of HBO’s The Wire). In the interview Moyers asks Simon “Can fiction tell us something about inequality that journalism can’t?” and Simon replies, “[As a journalist] I would think, ‘Man, it’s just such an uphill struggle to do this with facts.’ When you tell a story with characters, people jump out of their seats.”
“Is America on the wrong track? Are things getting better or worse? Has our political culture become so toxic that compromise is no longer possible?” asks Zuckerman. “These aren’t questions we can answer through marshaling collections of facts. They’re questions that force us to tell stories about our values, to listen to the stories our fellow citizens are telling, and to seek the elusive common ground that allows us to have a functional society.” Be sure to read his post in its entirety – it is far richer than I can summarize here.
How Do Stories Work?
From 2004 to 2007 I studied the question of how storytelling can help communities catalyze change. One of the people whose work was vital to this project was Peter Forbes of the Center for Whole Communities. Peter has spent the last decade arguing that land conservationists, environmentalists, and activists across a range of issues need become better storytellers and better listeners. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2004 I helped start a new coalition to lobby for federal funding for service-learning funding, which helps faculty and students connect their coursework to meaningful community work. I just found out that the budget deal struck last week and voted on yesterday eliminates Learn and Serve America (AmeriCorps funding was also cut, but not eliminated). Congratulations members of Congress, you just shaved a whopping $40 million off our budget, and made it dramatically more difficult for schools and colleges to support programs that build civic engagement and support social justice.
As I read about these cuts I was reminded about the last major Congressional attack on AmeriCorps funding, almost ten years ago. At the time, a small group of organizers put together 100 consecutive hours of testimony on Capitol Hill where lawmakers and press could hear the voices of people whose lives and communities had been impacted by national service programs like Learn and Serve and AmeriCorps.
This post was auto-generated by the WordPress statistics machine, but I liked it, so I thought I would share it here. Jump down for a list of my most popular posts this year.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 192 posts.
The busiest day of the year was September 7th with 280 views. The most popular post that day was What the Arcade Fire’s Wilderness Downtown Experiment Can Teach Journalism.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, facebook.com, reddit.com, shirky.com, and pearltrees.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for arcade fire wilderness, arcade fire wilderness downtown, kids hip hop songs, what is the wilderness downtown, and tina fey.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s become trendy to compare Facebook – with its 500 million users – to a nation. This is a telling metaphor that I think suggests more about our relationship to our media than it says about Facebook itself. We are increasingly understanding our media as a place we inhabit. Think, for example, of the rise of the term “media ecosystem” or even the older idea of a “homepage.”
If we are living in a media nation, then Dan Gillmor’s new book, Mediactive, is a handbook for engaged media citizenship. We might summarize the premise behind Gillmor’s book as: Ask not what your media can do for you, ask what you can do for your media. The book was just released this week, but I have been reviewing it for the past few weeks (Disclosure: Dan is a friend and gave me a copy to review).
At its most basic Mediactive is a clear eyed examination of our rights and responsibilities in this new media nation. This is not another book about the future of media, it is a book about us. As Clay Shirky writes in the forward, “Dan doesn’t make upgrading the sources, or the gatekeepers, or the filters – or any other ‘them’ in the media ecosystem – his only or even primary goal. Dan wants to upgrade us, so we can do our own part. He wants us to encourage media to supply better information by helping us learn to demand better information. And he wants us to participate as creators.” Read the rest of this entry »