BEYOND THE NUMBERS: MEDIA DIVERSITY AND LOCAL NEWS

Creating more diverse journalism can’t just be about slotting people of color into the newsrooms we have, it has to be about transforming our institutions, our culture, and our storytelling.

I’ve written before about the need for newsrooms to better reflect the diversity of their communities. This work isn’t tangential to creating more sustainable, impactful and engaged journalism, it is central to it.

You may have seen the headline this week over at the Columbia Journalism Review: “At many local newspapers, there are no reporters of color.” The piece is a follow-up to an earlier article where Alex William examined how unequal hiring practices, not the number of qualified candidates, contribute to lack of diversity in America’s newsrooms. While the Columbia Journalism Review piece focuses on local newsrooms, the International Business Times reported on the percentage of people of color working at the biggest new digital media outlets, concluding that most lag behind legacy media.

Chart by Alex William and the Columbia Journalism Review.

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Can Old School Low-Power Radio Help Digital Newsrooms Thrive?

August 20, WAs National Radio Day. In this post I explore why radio remains relevant and how local newsrooms are partnering with community radio stations to reach new audiences.

Across the country new Low Power FM community radio stations are taking to the airwaves. This new burgeoning of local media was made possible by ten years of advocacy and organizing that culminated in the passage of the Local Community Radio Act in 2010. The Act made hundreds of new radio licenses available to nonprofits across the nation.

I’ve long been interested in the potential for low power radio stations to collaborate with other local media and news operations to better serve community information needs. In 2012 I published a report with Craig Aaron and Candace Clement of Free Press exploring the potential of a more connected and collaborative local media ecosystem. In that report we wrote, “Changes in technology, the economy and the needs of communities make it increasingly important for community and public media stakeholders to come together and find common ground in their concern for the health of local media.”

As this new generation of LPFM radio stations emerge there is a unique opportunity to build a more networked and collaborative local media. Two recent articles explore how nonprofit newsrooms, arts organizations and community radio can join forces.

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John Oliver on Journalism and Comedy

John Oliver was on Fresh Air with Terry Gross this week, and it was a terrific interview. The first twenty minutes or so focused on the way Oliver uses satire to draw attention to complex, under-reported issues. Gross used Oliver’s amazing Net Neutrality clip as fodder, discussing how his call to action brought down the Federal Communication’s Commission website.

During that clip he takes a dig at Sting, to which Gross asks, what if Oliver and Sting find themselves at the same party some day? Oliver’s response became the headline for NPR’s coverage of the interview (“John Oliver Is No One’s Friend On His New HBO Show“), but what I found fascinating was how he shifts from talking about the role of comedians to discussing the role of journalists. Here is the roughly 60 seconds of audio:

Here is the transcript:

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Ira Glass on Storytelling and Surprise

A few weeks ago I saw Ira Glass speak about This American Life and how he and his team think about storytelling. Looking back through my notes today, I discovered this little sextet of quotes that all seemed to flow together nicely. This is a bit like playing refrigerator poetry with Glass’s words since each of these lines had a lot of other context around them, but nonetheless, here they are:

Surprise is a remarkable weapon when telling a story.
Surprise brings hope.
Journalists need to be cunning.
Storytelling is highly inefficient.
We harness luck as an industrial tactic.
It is like wandering in the rain hoping lighting will strike.

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The Best Online Storytelling and Journalism of 2013

In 2012 I posted a round-up of the best online journalism of the year, which grew as others added their favorites. My list focused on journalism that could only be done online, the kind of storytelling that take advantage of the unique opportunities the Internet provides. This tended to be deeply visual reporting that wove together text, audio, images and videos.

As I created my 2013 list however, I saw much more data journalism and an increasing use of tools that engaged readers or rethought the basic flow of storytelling for a more participatory audience.

The ghosts of the New York Time’s “Snow Fall” article from 2012 haunted debates about online journalism in 2013 – it even became a verb. Joe Pompeo, the media reporter at Capital New York, defined “snowfalling” this way: “To execute the type of expensive, time-consuming, longform narrative multimedia storytelling that earned the Times’ ambitious ‘Snow Fall’ feature a Pulitzer last month.”

But 2013 also saw innovative journalists and newsroom developers taking interactive, multimedia storytelling in new directions too. And while I don’t cover them in-depth below, there were

Be sure to also check out the Online Journalism Award winners, which includes a number of amazing projects not listed here. And, in terms of a meta look at the field, I think Eric Newton’s “Searchlights and Sunglasses” is both a critical tool for rethinking journalism education and a model of online storytelling itself.

As in 2012, consider this list a provocation, a challenge to you to fill in the blanks and tell me what I missed. This list is by its nature biased around topics and people I followed this year, I don’t suggest it is comprehensive, so please take advantage of the comments section to add your favorites (or send me a note on Twitter). Continue reading

Unconstitutional Searches and an Unaccountable Government

The U.S. border may be the next battleground for press freedom.

Last week, actor, filmmaker and press freedom advocate John Cusack called on Attorney General Eric Holder to “guarantee the safe return and safe passage of journalists who have exercised their rights under the First Amendment.” The detainment and intimidation of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at London’s Heathrow Airport prompted Cusack’s question.

Miranda was held for nine hours, without access to a lawyer, and without any explanation. This incident is part of a growing trend at international borders: no answers, no accountability.

Miranda had returned from a visit to documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras in Berlin. Earlier this year, Poitras traveled with Greenwald to meet with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong and has since been at the center of the reporting on the NSA’s surveillance programs.

Poitras herself has been detained, interrogated and searched more than 40 times at the U.S. border. Now she and Greenwald do most of their reporting abroad — in part, they say, because they don’t think they will be free to do this kind of work in the U.S. Continue reading

Three Media Issues We Can’t Ignore in 2013

I’m not one to make predictions about the future of our media. I’m much more interested in prescriptions. Rather than talking about what we think might happen, let’s discuss what we agree needs to happen and how we might get there. The media isn’t just something that happens to us — it is something we can and must be part of creating and reshaping ourselves. Here are three critical issues we must tackle in the coming year. Continue reading