Media Giraffe Project key points




      PROBLEM: Democracy can't thrive without an informed and engaged public. Technological change is disrupting the business model(s) of mainstream, "watchdog"  journalism.


      OPPORTUNITY: Change is empowering citizens to be journalists (via the Internet). What does this mean for democracy -- and journalism?


      MISSION:  The Media Giraffe Project mission is to foster participatory democracy and community. We do so by discovering and celebrating above-the-crowd individuals making innovative, sustainable use of media (old and new). They use fresh, effective tools and approaches that empower and inform citizens.


      STRUCTURE: Non-partisan, non-profit, affiliated with the journalism program at University of Massachusetts Amherst as fiscal sponsor and source of interdisciplinary academic help and interest.  Eighteen-person advisory board.


      OUTPUTS: Major conferences, including a June 29-July 1, 2006 conference at the UMass Amherst campus:  "Democracy and Independence: Sharing of News and Politics in a Connected World."

Three-year project timeline involving:

o        Research:  building a database of over 300 potential giraffes

o        Communicate:  Telling their stories with website, book, documentary film

o        Educate:  With film, workshops, curriculum, reach high school- and college-age youth with message that one person can affect public policy; teach smart media consumption and creation.

      RESOURCES:  Begun April, 2005; first-year budget about $65,000 raised from private donors and combined cash and in-kind match from UMass.  Journalism Prof. Norm Sims is principal investigator; journalist/entrepreneur/lecturer Bill Densmore is director/editor. Fund-raising underway on three-year budget.