Spotlighting individuals making innovative, sustainable use of media to foster participatory democracy and community is the work of the Media Giraffe Project. Our mission is to understand Internet technology's impact on journalism and public policy and and to help educators guide the emerging role of citizens in creating and consuming media.
Using the web, a book, a planned documentary film and workshops, we provide role models and ideas for students, traditional and citizen journalists, and for political and educational leaders. We do so during a period of rapid technological and financial change in the U.S. media business -- and disturbing declines in the resources and effectiveness of "watchdog" reporting.
Because of their "above the crowd" work, we call these individuals .media giraffes.. They are developing tools for consumers to find, evaluate, consume or create objective, fact-based media responsive to democratic values. We spotlight and publicize these innovators as role models. This stimulates greater participation by citizens and independent vigilance by established media.
We see to regularly convene these leaders as role models.
The Media Giraffe Project is a non-partisan, interdisciplinary research initiative housed with the Journalism program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
We draw on scholars from business, education, political science, public policy, journalism and communications studies. We are assisted by students, and draw up the insights and experience of both media insiders and citizen activists. To keep the effort manageable, we are focused on media located in, or serving the United States.
Project researchers are tracking what's working at the local and national level via this website, "how-to" videos, a book, one-hour documentary film, workshop training and curriculum development. The project takes a "cookbook" approach -- presenting dozens of profiles of "giraffes" and their recipees for innovation.
For example, potential giraffes exist among larger and smaller local news and local blog websites, Internet infrastructure, archiving or collaboration and new technology, in the daily newspaper world, in broadcast and multimedia, academia, and among e-democracy, political blogging and policy-advocacy groups.
The Media Giraffe Project was launched with the collaboration of The Giraffe Heroes Project (www.giraffe.org), a separate organization that since 1982 has been moving people to "stick their necks out for the common good."
For more information on the project, or to nominate media "giraffes" worthy of profiling, please contact:
Media Giraffe Project 108 Bartlett Hall Univ. of Massachusetts-Amherst Amherst MA 01003 (413) 577-4370 mediagiraffe (at) journ.umass.edu