Every year my dear friend, Andrew asks his friends for one thing for his birthday – that they write a poem and send it to him. Roberts is an accomplished poet himself and you should check out some of his work (try here, here or here). Below is the poem I sent him in 2012, and you can see the poem I sent him in 2010 here and 2011 here.
The Sound of Words Colliding
by Josh Stearns
My son sees every bookcase as a ladder and climbs with fists full of pages. The books – just pulp for chewing – old limbs to gnaw on. Sharp teeth and quick arms remind me he is more an animal than I, still close to something I have lost. Some beating, some rhythm, some heat.
He snaps the bindings, strings and glue bending as he twists the covers, and the signatures come tumbling out on the floor like broken wings. He tests them carefully with outstretched fingers, their newly white shapes overlapping, stacked and spilled there. They belong here, he’s sure of it.
The surfaces buckle as he flexes his fingers, full of pages crackling. I imagine this is the sound of all those words colliding. Letters, those atomic elements of language, crashing into each other. It’s the sound he’s been looking for, and it fills his eyes with wonder.
Thirty years ago, Mother Jones was in a fight for its life with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS granted the magazine nonprofit status in 1980, but a few years later it reversed course and tried to rescind that status. Doing so would have cost the magazine roughly $400,000 in back taxes and would have undermined the fledgling newsroom just as it was getting traction. Mother Jonesfought the IRS and won the case. Last month, the magazine won a prestigious George Polk Award for its 2012 election reporting.
Now, three decades later, a range of nonprofit journalism organizations are facing a similar threat from the IRS. A new report out this week from the Council on Foundations highlights the many challenges nonprofit newsrooms face at the IRS and suggests a possible way forward. Read the rest of this entry »
Drones have been in the news a lot this month, but that coverage hasn’t always been easy given the incredible secrecy around the drone program. While hearings on Capitol Hill and leaked memos shed some much needed light on the program, there is still a lot more we don’t know.
Over at the Huffington Post, Michael Calderone has a good piece on where journalists are turning for details and in-depth information on drones. Calderone’s article focuses on the work of Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal and his work tracking drone statistics, but the story is part of a larger trend of individuals bearing witness and becoming sources for newsrooms that increasingly have less capacity for the long, sustained work of tracking these kinds of details:
“While the use of drones is perhaps the most controversial foreign policy issue of President Obama’s second term, major media outlets have been outsourcing the collection of strike data to three lesser-known news-gathering entities. The covert U.S. drone war in Pakistan and Yemen has been notoriously difficult to track over the years, making The Long War Journal’s statistics -– along with those compiled by theNew America Foundation and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism -– essential for news organizations that haven’t been independently tracking each strike or number of suspected militants and civilians killed.”
In October of 2011 I began tracking journalist arrests at Occupy Wall Street protests when New York Times journalist, Natasha Leonard, was arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. By the end of the month ten journalists had been arrested, and a month later that number was over thirty. Police interference with press around the US became a major story for much of 2011 and the first half of 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
Three new funding opportunities for journalists and media makers shine a spotlight on the role of media in community engagement and civic health. This comes at a critical moment when, across the journalism landscape we are finally seeing deep reciprocal collaborations between journalists and technologists. Journalism schools are combining forces with computer science programs, the Knight Mozilla fellows just placed their third round of developers in newsrooms and every week there seems to be another hack-a-thon for journalists.
Journalists and technologists working together is a good thing for journalism, but also for local communities. It is notable that this era of collaboration is coming as trends are pushing both professions deeper into the public. Borrowing a phrase from Rich Harwood, they are “turning outward,” a process that emphasizes “making the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.”
In journalism this is embodied by the rise of community engagement efforts within newsrooms. It is part of a growing recognition that journalism will rise and fall with its community. Whether it is a paywalled newspaper that depends on subscriptions or a public broadcaster who depends on memberships, building community around the news on and offline is one of the critical challenges facing journalists today.
At the same time in technology we’ve seen incredible and inventive projects that focus on how technology can be brought to bear on community issues. This civic innovation takes many forms, from public health hack-a-thons to crisis mapping. Pair this with a rise in Gov 2.0 and transparency efforts and we see people working inside and outside government to better connect technology to civic life. Read the rest of this entry »
Those in the fundraising world understand that donors want to give to an idea, not an organization. They want to understand how their funding will support values that they hold dear, and work that helps achieve those values.
We witnessed that in force over the past six weeks, since the Freedom of the Press Foundation launched. Instead of raising money for one organizations, we set out to raise money for a set of ideas, ideas who we think are critical and threatened right now: Press Freedom and Transparency Journalism.
And the response has been huge. In six weeks we’ve raised almost $200,000 in crowd-funded donations from 1,909 donors. That funding will go to support four organizations working at the intersection of press freedom and transparency journalism: The National Security Archive, MuckRock News, The UpTake, and WikiLeaks.
In addition, the Sunlight Foundation has provided a $10,000 seed grant to help the Foundation strengthen and expand its mission in its first year.
As incredible as the financial contributions have been, the outpouring of support from around the world has been even more astounding. As media shifts and adapts to the digital age, people around the world are watching new threats emerge to journalists and the freedom to communicate. People are hungry for ways to make an impact.
Today, the Freedom of the Press Foundation launches its second bundle of organizations: Read the rest of this entry »
The Federal Communications Commission is pushing a plan to gut its 30-year-old newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban. This proposal would allow one company to own a local paper, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in a single market. Advocates of more media consolidation argue that allowing TV stations and newspapers to merge is critical to cutting costs and saving local journalism.
This is the same argument the Bush FCC used to try to push through the same bad rules in 2007. Back then, the Senate voted the rules down and the courts later threw them out. It’s time to put this argument to bed for good: More media consolidation won’t save journalism. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday night, the Atlantic presented a Church of Scientology addressed up as a news article. The response from journalists and readers was immediate and bruising and within hours the piece had been removed and replaced with a note from the editors promising to “review their sponsored content guidelines.”
The episode shines a spotlight on a longstanding trend of embedded advertising and sponsored content that has been picking up steam in recent years. As advertising dollars have migrated away from news organizations, the search for new business models has also meant pushing the boundaries between the newsroom and ad sales. There are some compelling arguments about why journalists need to understand the business side of things, but the Atlantic episode illustrates that the business side also needs to understand the newsroom. Read the rest of this entry »