My Next Adventure: Journalism’s Wicked Problems and Democracy’s Complex Systems

After two amazing years working with local journalists across New Jersey and New York City on creative experiments in revenue models and community engagement this is my last week at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

For the past two years I’ve had the good fortune to work with Molly de Aguiar and Chris Daggett at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation where they have been pioneering an “ecosystem model” for supporting and strengthening local news. Through the Local News Lab project, which was funded by the Knight Foundation, we have built a more connected, inclusive and responsive news ecosystem in New Jersey. We’ve experimented with new revenue ideas, community engagement efforts, philanthropy models and groundbreaking collaborations. We didn’t just fund good ideas, we looked for people and projects that could help make structural change in local news.

We have learned a lot (check out our lessons learned here). All of that work is going to continue – stay tuned for big things to come from Molly and the Local News Lab.

In 2011 I wrote a blog post calling for a “systems approach to remaking journalism.” In New Jersey the Dodge Foundation is showing that this approach has promise. Their ecosystem approach is rooted in the idea that the challenges facing journalism are not individual problems but rather complex systems of economics, technology, policy, culture and more. Jay Rosen has called these “wicked problems,” and they are just the sort of problems I love to work on.

One of our partners in the work of the Local News Lab has been the Democracy Fund,  a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that the American people come first in our democracy. Democracy Fund focuses on engaged citizens and vibrant media, supporting innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process.

Starting in June I’ll be joining the Democracy Fund as Associate Director for the Informed Participation program, helping lead their local journalism work and investments around the country.

I’ll be building on our lessons from the work in New Jersey and exploring new ways we can intervene in the complex systems that shape journalism and the public square today. This is a natural evolution of the work I’ve been doing because systems thinking is at the core of how the Democracy Fund approaches its work. To get a sense for what that means, check out this local news and civic participation map that Democracy Fund recently published. It will serve as a starting point for the work ahead. And because the Democracy Fund is supporting the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s innovative work, I get to continue to work with them as an ally and partner.

At Democracy Fund we’ll be doing this work in partnership with local communities who want to think big about new ways to support vigorous local news and a robust public square. I’m thrilled to be joining the Democracy Fund at this critical moment for our politics and our press.

New Adventures

Today is my last day at Free Press.

After seven years fighting for more diverse, independent media, quality journalism and all people’s rights to connect and communicate, I’m moving on to a new adventure.

It’s a tough time to leave. The work Free Press does is profoundly important right now.

I started at Free Press the same month the first iPhone was released. In the seven years since, media has become interwoven into our lives in ways we couldn’t have predicted. Our computers have moved from our desktops to our pockets, and technology is far more personal and intimate today than ever before. Our movements, our politics, our news and our communities are being transformed by creative people and unexpected technology. And through these tools, people are creating, collaborating and participating in media and journalism every day in ways few of us imagined seven years ago.

However, at the same time we also face a range of new threats to freedom of expression and the open Internet. From net neutrality to mass surveillance and media diversity to mega mergers, Free Press has been fighting these fights for a decade. And I know the organization has big plans for the next decade, especially at the intersection of press freedom and Internet freedom.

The team at Free Press is second to none. They are some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable people I’ve ever worked with. I’ll miss the work, but I’ll miss the team more than anything.

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