29 Journalism Sessions Worth Voting for at SXSW

The deadline for voting on SXSW sessions is September 4th. Below I’ve rounded up a few session ideas that caught my attention. Go forth, vote, comment and share.

Community Engagement and Public Powered Journalism

I’m most interested in sessions that look at the role of media and technology on the lives of people and communities and that explore how communities and journalists can work more closeing to co-create the future of news.

Building Journalism and Civic Tech With Community

If civic tech and journalism are about creating a more just and equitable democracy, we need to reorient our work towards building with communities, not just for them. The future of civic work is not about investing in technology, it is about investing in community. This interactive panel is designed to address this gap, demonstrating through play and dialogue how journalism and technology practices can be reconfigured to work collaboratively with diverse publics. We’ll present case studies and community-driven strategies from sectors like public art, social justice organizing and design thinking. Attendees will leave with models they can put to use and iterate on in their work. (Disclosure: I submitted this one)

Let the People In: How to Democratize Local News

We believe everyone has a stake in the future of journalism. That’s why Free Press is applying the tools of community organizing to local news engagement. Our News Voices pilot project in New Jersey brings community leaders and residents together with media makers to explore the role journalism can and must play in helping communities shape their own futures. By treating residents as active partners, we’re building a model where newsrooms respond to local needs and residents advocate for quality sustainable journalism in their hometowns. Our panel can speak from different perspectives — as journalists and community organizers — about how and why this approach works. (Disclosure: we at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation fund this project)

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The Art of the Commons

(This essay was originally published in Orion Magazine’s spring 2015 issue)

There is a growing recognition that the solutions to some of our greatest struggles are rooted in our relationships to one another. They are built by hand, often slowly, and begin in our communities. From the environment to the economy, conservation to culture, people are developing creative networks to tackle wicked problems at a human scale. New digital tools have helped catalyze many of these efforts, but this tendency towards cooperative, participatory, and equitable problem-solving has a long and rich history.

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What Do Kids’ Books Teach Us About the Future of Journalism?

I may read most of my news online, but I still get a print newspaper delivered to my doorstep everyday. I have lots of reasons for doing this but mostly I do it support local journalists and to have journalism be a visible presence for my kids.

At any given point we have a few days’ newspapers lying around the house, along with a few magazines we still subscribe to. The kids see an interesting picture or headline that captures their attention. It sparks conversation, makes them curious about their community and the world around us. We’ll often go from discussing an article in the paper, to looking up something on YouTube and reading more about it online. So I’m not opposed to screens in any way, but I do appreciate the serendipity and spontaneity the physical paper provides.

It is also a way for my kids to understand first-hand the work I do every day on press freedom and media policy.

I’m lucky that my kids are voracious readers and are drawn to anything that has words on it. In the piles of children’s books around our house I began noticing that a lot of them depicted newspapers. I decided to document representations of newspapers and journalism in kids’ books we owned.

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Strengthening the Civic Core of Journalism and Technology

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.

turningoutwardJournalists 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. Continue reading

What’s Next for AOL’s Patch?

Kira Goldenberg at the Columbia Journalism Review reports on some potential changes that are coming down the line at AOL’s hyperlocal network of websites, Patch. On AOL’s second-quarter earnings call, Goldenberg reports, CEO Tim Amstrong hinted that the new Patch platform would feature deeply integrated tools for local commerce and expanded civic engagement, in addition to local news and journalism.

Goldenberg couldn’t get anyone at Patch to talk on the record about the changes but as soon as I saw the news I had a guess regarding what part of the new Patch might look like. Continue reading

On Not Resisting the Kindle

Or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the screen.”

In the March 2nd edition of The Atlantic Sven Birkerts laments the way that the Kindle and other new technologies are eroding “a certain kind of cultural understanding.” This is not the first time Birkerts has made this appeal. His best known book, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, is an expanded version of this argument. The Kindle is just a convenient and timely vehicle for his longstanding critique of literacy in our digital age.

Birkerts’ reference to Gutenberg in the title of his book is fitting. As I read his article, I couldn’t help but thinking of a story Clay Shirky tells in his book Here Comes Everybody. Shirky writes about the scribes – an elite group of literate monks – whose job it was, for many centuries, to hand-copy books. That is, until the 1400’s when Gutenberg came along. “Suddenly,” writes Josh Benton, describing the scene, “scribes were no longer a necessary link between knowledge and learner.” And as the printing press spread across Europe, the scribes sounded remarkably like Birkerts, warning of all that we will lose if we allow technology to reshape reading. Continue reading