- 1 From Mainstream to New Media: Finding Common Ground to Grow Participatory Democracy
- 2 Aldon Hynes posts link to his interview answers
- 3 Jonathan Lawson, interview by Geneva Overholser
- 4 Karen Magnuson and Leonard Witt Interviews:
- 5 David Messerschmidt: Interview by Ken Schreiner
- 6 Ken Schreiner: Interview by David Messerschmidt
- 7 Pam McAllister-Johnson: Interview by Ilona Meagher
- 8 Ilona Meagher: Interview by Pam McAllister-Johnson
- 9 Steve Anderson answered the questions in writing
- 10 Neil Ralston interviewed by Dave Zeeck
- 11 Beth Lawton, e-interviewed by Katherine McDaniel
- 12 Eddan Katz, interviewed by Michael Caputo
- 13 Katherine McDaniel, interviewed by Beth Lawton
- 14 David Zeeck, interviewed by Neil Ralston
- 15 Sue Salinger, interviewed by Michael Fancher
From Mainstream to New Media: Finding Common Ground to Grow Participatory Democracy
This is the pre-meeting interviews workspace for participants in the Jan. 11-12, 2006, gathering of Journalism that Matters in Memphis, Tenn.
FORGET YOUR "PARTNER" TO INTERVIEW? Find the name/contact info by clicking HERE.
The pre-meeting interview
Each participant has been paired with a fellow participant in an interviewer or interviewee role. Before we all arrive in Memphis, each of these pairs should have a phone conversation, and the designated interviewer should write a short narrative (story is too formal, clean running notes could be fine), of the conversation which addresses questions posed. You might also review and consider in your discussion some of the topics proposed by fellow participants as they registered and prepare to come to Memphis.
How to do this -- posting your notes
You should then cut and paste your notes to this page. To do this, click on the "edit" tab on the top of this page. An editing box will appear. Scroll to the bottom, place your cursor underneath the last text, and "paste" your notes in. Don't worry about formatting. We'll clean up the formatting as we go along. IMPORTANT: Don't forget to click on the "SAVE PAGE" tab after you are finished your cut-and-paste.
Aldon Hynes has written a blog entry about his responses to the interview questions which can be found here.
Jonathan Lawson, interview by Geneva Overholser
OK, Densmore and company, the interview was a fine idea. Talking to Jonathan was a kick, and I’m eager to meet face to face. I’d say the two of us pretty well embodied the goal of finding common ground between journalists and reformers. As an old Sixties semi-activist, I thrilled to Jonathan’s stories of the powerful work that he and like-minded folks did in 1999 in Seattle during the WTO talks. I found heartening his energy and optimism in the face of strong challenge. Here was this huge treaty being negotiated in Seattle, he said, “yet all the news coverage was either sort of window-dressing about how wonderful it was to have the conference – an international triumph for the city – or about how it was going to lift all boats. It was very one-sided in terms of the economic impacts of this thing.” Jonathan and his colleagues found “a way to pierce through this veiled silence. I was very impressed with how a group of basically volunteer and nonprofessional journalists were able to decide, OK, we’re going to have a newsroom…a system for getting video and audio and text on the Web… and we really did succeed in getting news and analysis out there.” The city’s notoriety at the time, given all that was happening in the streets, he said, attracted a lot of attention, making it “impossible for even the conventional media to not be exposed to the critiques on the site.”
“That experience overall radicalized me politically,” said Jonathan. And, in turn, hearing about it gave me new energy and hope for change.
Our overlaps ranged from 1) each of us seeing ourselves as BOTH journalist and reformer to some degree (“The reason I’m involved in media reform is because I have an ongoing relationship with journalism – my intended career,” he noted), to 2) sharing an early admiration for the University of North Carolina’s famed Walter Spearman, to 3) agreeing that nonprofit support for media is an important key to the future.
A final noteworthy point is Jonathan’s feeling that two elements (which some might find contradictory) are both essential as we move forward: “To reform the media, it’s crucial to have marginal media -- to keep certain topics or issues or voices from being silenced – and also important to have a critique of the overall media system,” including relationships with those in mainstream media. “It’s been an amazing time for seeing a movement of journalists and citizens and everybody, working together and seeing that, hmm, there is something wrong with the media…and pairing that up with effective organizing.” One of the things Lawson can bring to Memphis, he said, is “to let the journalists know that the folks who are working on media reform are not the enemy.” Amen to that.
Karen Magnuson and Leonard Witt Interviews:
Karen Magnuson, editor and vice president/news of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Her key quote: ""If you can do it in a place like Rochester, you can do it in other places around the country."
Rochester has been hit by a declining economy. Kodak, for example, once employed 65,000 people, now it is more like 10,000. Also the disruptions that are hitting newsrooms everywhere are also hitting her paper.
Yet, the paper enjoys 83% readership, one of the highest in the country, and its website page views continue to grow.
Of the future she says: She is "charged about it and excited about it." Now newspapers can produce good journalism on many different platforms. To get there the industry must be sure that editors are trained to be innovators as they continue to embrace the core values of good journalism. Innovation means experimenting with new ideas. Sometimes you tweak an idea, sometimes you improve it and sometimes you drop it…you are constantly reinventing yourself, if you are doing it right.
Gannett is looking for newsroom editors to help lead the charge into the future. So newsrooms are empowered.
Of course, financial efficiencies are necessary as prudent cost cutting continues, for example, in doing away with the stock tables.
Her greatest accomplishments in contributing to good journalism:
Growing other editors, other leaders. She says, "I enjoy coaching…I really enjoy identifying the potential in people and helping them grow that potential…so they can continue the great journalism tradition, but in new and different ways."
To see the direction for the paper see her January 1 editor's column Innovating to better inform http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070101/OPINION0103/701010312/-1/COLUMNS
Leonard Witt has spent about 30 years working with various forms of journalism ranging from freelance and magazine writing to working for newspapers as small as a weekly and as large as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He was editor of the Minnesota Monthly magazine when he developed a civic journalism plan (before civic journalism became popular) called Minnesota Action Plan To End Gun Violence. The plan was launched in 1996 with assistance from Minnesota Public Radio. Witt then became executive director of the Minnesota Public Radio Civic Journalism Initiative, which brought together groups of people to talk about public policy issues both locally and nationally.
In 2002, Witt became the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University outside of Atlanta. He blogs frequently on public, open source and citizen journalism issues at his Public Journalism Network blog, PJNet.org (http://pjnet.org/ ).
Witt's primary goal: to figure out how to get citizens more involved to tell a richer story than journalists were able to tell before. He is interested in expanding the nature of open source journalism, studying the impact of disruptive technologies such as Craig's List, and maximizing Web-based tools that allow more people to share information about their communities.
"We must better understand what works and what doesn't work with citizens. We must figure out what people want to get done and help them get it done," he said. "Getting the right formula is really important. We've got to figure out a way to get them more involved."
Witt is concerned about the state of the newspaper industry and looks forward to talking with JTM conference participants about the future.
"I see the structures falling apart. I see equity companies taking over newspapers like the Minneapolis Star-Tribune... Maybe they are going to practice good journalism, but I don't think so," he said. "I think there is enough of a need for journalism that it isn't going away, but it will be practiced differently."
Witt is particularly worried about the future of long-form journalism and the failure of some newspapers to properly reflect the complexity of their communities through shorter forms delivered on multiple platforms. He believes many journalists tend to believe the official line and don't dig deep enough because they don't have the interest, perspective or the time.
"We have a choice now in journalism: dumb down or smarten up," he said. "Some of the decisions may look like they are smart but we really don't know if they are... because they are experimental.” The big question is: Can newspaper companies make enough money off the web to support excellent journalism?
David Messerschmidt: Interview by Ken Schreiner
David Messerschmidt is a lecturer at the Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington at Seattle. He was a teacher on the south side of Chicago when he became fascinated with using sound to tell stories. That led to his first public radio project and changed the course of his life. “The first series I did was called ‘Inside the School Day.’ It was a five-part examination of a whole set of aspects of the experience of public school from the inside. I remember playing the first seven minutes for the staff… and them bursting into applause because it was what they aspired to. It won awards and opened up the capacity for me to do foundation fund-raising so I could do more public radio.” Years later, after creating numerous successful public radio services and programs in Washington State, David says “I suddenly woke up and found that what I’d done is create an organization so that other people could do the radio that I wanted to do and my job was to raise money.”
“One of my most exciting and complex projects at the Evans School was coordinating a series of regional polls that were produced collaboratively by The Seattle Times and NorthWest Cable News. It turned out it was the first time The Seattle Times had worked with a broadcast media partner. The larger good that the kind of journalism that I wanted to see make happen really does require that kind of collaboration.”
David now teaches students about the impact of news coverage on public policy, journalists’ attitudes toward public affairs coverage, and strategies used by governments and non-profit agencies to manipulate news coverage. “When you just say ‘public policy issues’, they begin to glaze over. But when you find ways to tell a story that explains the impact on people’s lives, that has an impact.”
Many journalists have forgotten the value of what David calls “honest inquiry.” “There’s something about honest inquiries that the answer is found in the search to understand how other people are experiencing something, as distinguished from the truth being found in an ideology that goes out to find examples that support it. It has to be a commitment to very honest inquiry of what’s going on… done in the service of people who expect journalists to really struggle with finding out what is true. There’s a difference between arrogance of aloofness and a commitment to finding the truth. Journalists need a sense of honest, ethical inquiry.”
David’s three wishes for the future of journalism: “Take seriously the charge of telling stories that make what’s important sound interesting.” Second: “journalism will continue to struggle for a condition of authority without arrogance.” Third: “journalists will do a better job of explaining the enterprise. Making distinctions between a craft searching for truth is different from the simple distribution of news and information on behalf of other people.”
Ken Schreiner: Interview by David Messerschmidt
Ken was a broadcast reporter, anchor, technical operations manager and news director over his 30-year career. He now produces several blogs, and runs his own video production company in Salt Lake City, Utah. His most memorable stories are very different but fundamentally related: an expose of pollution and corruption in the Davenport, Iowa sewage treatment department in 1978 and the visit of Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev to Minneapolis in 1990. “They were products of basically the same execution, the same teamwork, the same community benefit. (Davenport) had local impact. (Gorbachev) had global impact as well as local impact. (Both) made everybody proud to have done it.”
Ken’s life in news began in Chicago in the turbulent 1960s. “We wanted to make a difference, we wanted to not only change things for the better but wanted to live exciting and meaningful lives. I always liked television, writing, shooting and when you can do what you love and make a living at it, you’ve got it all.”
“Video hasn’t lost any of its power, in fact, it’s more powerful than ever. It’s the institution of broadcast journalism that’s lost a lot of its impact just because of the pervasiveness of video and the democratization of the technology. It got me going on this campaign for media reform because… of all the organizations I’ve been a member of all my life, I felt like this would be the most meaningful at this time.”
“It seems like in reforming journalism, or redefining it- whatever you want to call it- you’ve got a couple of schools of thought. One is everybody should be working together more. But on the other hand, you have bloggers, mojos (mobile journalists), one-man bands and other trends and experiments in journalism taking it the other way, making it a more solitary experience.”
Ken thinks what journalism has lost, credibility, may be the key to the revival of it and America’s other tarnished institutions: government, business, and organized religion. “If government was trying to be as interactive as journalists are- newspapers, TV and so forth- that maybe, we wouldn’t have the problems we have, not just with our federal government but with a lot of other governments that create a sort of fortress mentality. I think what institutional journalism is doing is admirable in that it could end up being a model not just for government but for corporations, who want feedback on products, and could generate genuine, valuable feedback and interactivity by using the Internet, town meetings, all sorts of stuff.”
Three wishes for the future of journalism: One: “better stories. We need to get back to doing real stories about real people, not sensationalized stories about people who are utterly unbelievable or uncharacteristic of normal folks.” Second: “stronger values. Journalism has lost its way. I use the Iraq War as a perfect example. We bought in to it, we promoted it, we endorsed it, and now we deserve as much of the criticism for its failure as the people who originally designed it.” Third: “Re-establishing a leadership role in society. It’s to the point where people think (journalists) are lap dogs and they may be right. We compete with the bloggers who people think are heroes.”
Pam McAllister-Johnson: Interview by Ilona Meagher
Echoing the comments of others, the pre-seminar interview was an inspired idea!
First a brief intro: Pam McAllister-Johnson is director of the School of Journalism & Broadcasting at Western Kentucky University and director of the Center for 21st Century Media. She was the first Black female publisher of a general circulation newspaper in the United States, the Ithaca [N.Y.] Journal (a Gannett-owned newspaper). McAllister-Johnson has a joint Ph.D. in Mass Communication and Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
One of the more noteworthy stories Pam recounted took place five years ago, when she was teaching a beginning news writing class. They were taking turns, talking about what some of the latest news events were on campus. “I was trying to get them to recognize what news is,” she said. One student mentioned that the university library was planning to cut down on its hours of operation. Pam saw the potential for a story, and asked for more details. “So I asked this first student why they were going to be cutting back, and she said it was just cutbacks, so we’re not going to be able to go at such and such a time,” Pam remembers. “So I said, you paid to be able to go to school during that time – and to the library. If I were a parent, I would want the library to be open.” By coincidence, the sitting editor of the student newspaper was also taking that very same class and Pam said to them, “This would probably be a good news story.” The editor had a reporter go and check on the story, and what they turned up was the news that the librarian had closed the library without consulting with the President! After their report, the old library hours were restored. This immediate feedback to their reporting was a great learning experience for the whole class. “The students got to see the power of the press and also how much it affects the public in terms of this watchdog role,” Pam said. “They could see right away that it doesn’t have to be anything gigantic that can make an impact, but journalists do make a difference. I felt good because…, first hand, they could see that [the issue] came up in class, and their class was the reason the library stayed open.”
Pam believes her major gift is as a writing coach. She has always taught the beginning news writing classes and believes coming to Memphis and participating in the Journalism That Matters seminar because it’s imperative that journalism educators know what today’s journalism professionals need to succeed in today’s news business. She gave one example. “I’ve been going around the country for the last five years reading everything I can get my hand on and also talking to professional journalists,” she said. “I always ask them, ‘What are you doing in converged journalism and what do you want educators to do to prepare students?’ So far, I seem to get the answer, ‘We don’t want super journalists. We want journalists who do well in one area and can deliver across platforms.’”
After time spent examining various journalism programs, Western Kentucky University has adopted a model where current resources have built a pilot convergence class. They are looking into having a certificate in converged journalism, too. “One of the things that we’ve done in our photojournalism department is that we have what’s called a new media track,” she said. “We’ve had it for four years now and we cannot graduate students fast enough. And they’re not getting entry-level jobs; they’re getting jobs at MSNBC.com, Washington Post.com. Without a doubt, that’s where the future is heading.”
Pam believes that the essential core of what journalism is reporting on the information that is important for people to know, its usefulness to the reader – how does the story impact the reader? “We need to write to help people to live better lives and to understand their lives better,” she says. Credibility is an area that she sees a need to be concerned about, where it appears there has been a bit of erosion or even loss of it in some cases. She wonders how citizen journalists or bloggers who criticize professional journalism rectify their own lack of training in the matter.
Pam’s three wishes for the future of journalism, in her own words:
1. That we build credibility 2. That we increase news consumption even if it’s delivered differently. Because we just can’t say newspaper readership is down, therefore let’s put it on a different platform. You still want to ensure that it’s consumed even more than it is now. And we have to find a way to measure that. 3. Journalists, journalism educators, and the public partner in shaping the future of journalism.
Ilona Meagher: Interview by Pam McAllister-Johnson
Ilona works with ePluribus Media. “ ePluribus Media is a cooperative of citizen volunteers dedicated to researching issues of common concern and encouraging the highest standards of ethics and journalism.” The organization will celebrate its two year anniversary on January 26, 2007
EFFECTIVE NEWS STORY In the summer of 2005, Ilona was reading a story in Seattle Weekly describing how local service members were faring after they returned from war. It was the first time she’d seen a compiled list of a number of frightening incidents, which included soldiers who had committed suicide or murder/suicide. Ilona was curious. She wanted to know why there wasn’t more coverage of this story. (Since the third anniversary of the Iraq war, however, Ilona says the coverage of PTSD has begun to improve.) She began to seek out the answers to her own questions, and discovered something called PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder.
She started collecting data on other similar incidents she found while combing local and national press reports, posting them to online forums she participated in and asking members if the information was important. They told her it was. ePluribus Media eventually contacted her, and asked if she was interested in partnering with them to create an online database of these incidents. Called the PTSD Timeline, it has been accessed by dozens of news organizations and is currently being used by Senator John Kerry’s office.
Opportunities to write with others on the issue followed, and eventually she also created her own online journal, PTSD Combat: Winning the War Within. In May of 2007, she was contacted by Ig Publishing, an independent NYC publisher, with the opportunity to write a book that is scheduled to be published in May 2007, “Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops.” She credits new media with making all of this possible. For example, as someone living in the Chicago area, it’s highly probable that she would not have had an opportunity to read the Seattle Weekly piece that triggered her journey, and her research would be impossible to do a mere 10-15 years ago. She also would not have been found by her publisher, were it not for the new opportunities the Internet provides concerned and driven citizens to get their information out there to a wider audience, filling gaps in news that they believe others are also curious about but unable to find in the traditional press.
CONTRIBUTION TO JOURNALISM For Ilona, access to the media is a significant issue. She said that a lot of people are still left out of access to digital journalism and she wants to bring more people into participatory journalism. She said she feels strongly that infotainment has its place and that its place is not as journalism. She said that there are at least three reasons that infotainment is popular: it doesn’t cost as much money to write; there can be fewer law suits; and Americans have an appetite for infotainment. She said that journalists should write more serious news stories.
ESSENTIAL CORE OF JOURNALISM Journalism without truth telling would cease to be journalism Illona said. She added that journalists need to be unafraid to tell what they find. The public expects that news reports contain the truth and that the truth has be fact checked. She said she would be willing to let go of fair and balance as a caveat of journalism. She said that instead of just giving each story a 50/50 viewpoint, journalists need to include more analysis in their stories.
FUTURE OF JOURNALISM The three wishes that Ilona has for journalism include: (1) More people from all spectrums to be involved in participatory journalism programs; (2) find a way to write more serious journalism; and (3) less pressure for the news arm of the media to be responsible for the bottom line.
Steve Anderson answered the questions in writing
1. Each of us has been engaged with at least one media story that we experienced as particularly effective; a story that had great productive impact; in other words, a story that mattered. Tell me about a story you were involved with or were touched by that comes to mind. What made it such a powerful experience? What effect did it have on its audience? What effect did it have on you? What made it possible to do?
ANSWER: The story "The end of The Internet?" http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060213/chester -is a story that affected me strongly. It and efforts by FreePress prompted me to produce an online video called The Death of The Internet? (http://coanews.org/netfreedom). I've also now written about the issue of Net Neutrality.
It affected me because the article was the beginning of a movement to save the Internet, that has so far been successful. The the degree of engagement in this movement and success reminded me of how important and powerful journalism can be.
I would say this type of journalism is only possible via independent news organizations. This story has impacts to advertisers and many of the corporate media organizations themselves, and thus has received less coverage. This story and movement it help create would not be possible without independent media and bloggers.
2. Without being humble, what do you value most about yourself as a contributor to great journalism? What gifts do you see yourself bringing to this meeting?
I think I'm pretty good at being creative with ways to use new technology to get important stories out to a wide audience. I have experience with creating online video that young people find engaging enough to pass on to their friends. With my involvement with COA News I know first hand the strengths and challenges independent media organizations have.
Having studied media academically I also understand the political economy issues that strongly affect journalism.
3. It is safe to assume that we all believe that journalism is essential to democracy. Given that is true, what is it about journalism without which it would cease to be journalism; what is its essential core? What are we ready to let go of?
Journalism should be about raising awareness about our reality. As such structural filters (advertising, profit mandate, ownership) should limited as much as possible. There is no such thing as objectivity, but presenting reality as accurately as possible is an important goal of any news organization.
Journalism ceases to be journalism when structural issues are deemed more important then informing the public.
4. What three wishes do you have for the future of journalism? -I hope citizens realize the importance of public service journalism -I hope public service independent journalism is expanded -I hope we develop online tools for citizens that not owned by corporations (NewsTrust is a good example)
Neil Ralston interviewed by Dave Zeeck
Interview with Neil Ralston
Tell me about a story that really mattered: I worked at the San Antonio Light, which is not around any more. I remember particularly a series of stories that dealt with immigration. Covered by a variety of people; from a variety of perspectives. I covered the governmental side; others covered the street side.
The aspect of a team project was what I remember
There was an amnesty aspect to it, but many people were very wary and wouldn’t come forward. The INS came to us and asked us to help them find people who were eligible for the amnesty program.
We worked to do that. It was not only talking to the government officials, but talking with the immigrant citizen groups.
I spent several hours at the amnesty office, apart from the INS office. I spent a lot of hours watching the immigrants come in and fill out the paperwork.
The effort was quite rewarding.
Something happened – at the time we saw it was gradually working. Immigrants were slow to respond, but as time went on more and more came forward. This was for all of South Central Texas.
Probably visiting the amnesty centers themselves was the most rewarding and interesting part, talking to the immigrants. Many of them, because I wasn’t fluent in Spanish and they weren’t in English, I had to be selective.
For me, it helped me understand that, at least in this case, a government agency that was normally seen as an adversary of immigrants, could for a period of time become assistants to the same people. An interesting transformation in my perspective and in theirs.
Today, here’s what I think about that story: A project that big isn’t something you can do overnight or with one story. It’s a long process. Changing hearts and minds takes a lot of people working together and takes a long time.
And that helps me with teaching. Getting students prepared takes more than one or two classes.
I’ve had students with whom there seems to be a flash point. Who come in and know what’s going on. But for many it’s a longer, gradual process.
Gifts: I have a lot of skepticism about “citizen journalism,” a lot of the changes people are talking about. In a lot of ways I’m old school. I’m hoping the skepticism will serve the group well.
I’ve been to Korea a couple of times in the past year. I’ve talked to some of the Korean journalists and their projects in citizen journalism. They’re very open that there are some special aspects about their culture that make their citizen journalism work – their cultural response to media and how well wired they are.
While I was over there a company gave us a thumb drive. It was two gigs. To them that was nothing. It was the smallest 2 gig thing I’ve ever seen.
Their youth are also very much involved in politics and involved in news. Frankly, our youth are much more . . . . I don’t know, spoiled? They’re just not paying that much attention to news or not to the same kind of news.
What makes journalism journalism: In our case, the connection to the democratic process. That it supports and feeds a healthy democratic process. We don’t emphasize that enough in our teaching (high school or college).
There’s a lot the public identifies as journalism that I don’t identify as journalism. A lot of broadcast commentary isn’t journalism. In my classes I’ll sometimes give people a lot of names and ask students to tell me who are the journalists and who aren’t. They’ll pick Oprah Winfrey and Rush Limbaugh, when I wouldn’t.
I’m starting to think that maybe we need to stop focusing so much on the term journalism as an occupation and look at what we do more as communication. I wonder how valuable it is to talk about journalists all the time. We get caught up in labeling people. Maybe we should be describing what we do, rather than labeling people.
There are people who practice journalism, but aren’t called and do9n’t think of themselves as journalists.
Focus less on journalists and more on the journalism itself.
Three wishes: I’d like to make my first wish to have more than three wishes. I think today’s journalism is better than people think. I think we need a greater supply of ethical journalists and a greater understanding of ethical journalism by the public. I wish we had better ways to reward the best work, including better pay. (We pay all this attention to Pulitzers, but there’s a lot of good work that never gets recognized.) I’ll leave the third wish open until after the conference.
Beth Lawton, e-interviewed by Katherine McDaniel
Beth Lawton works in the New Business & Audience Development division of the Newspaper Association of America. She researchs and write reports on mobile devices, citizen journalism, and other items of interest to new media managers in the newspaper industry. I conducted this interview via e-mail, which seems appropriate as both Beth and are interested in new modes of journalism, which includes online reporting.
In answer to the question, what makes journalism effective, Lawton writes:
"I guess I don’t have a specific journalism story that I experienced as particularly effective. However, I have some experience in journalism environments that succeed (or fail miserably) at facilitating and fostering real effectiveness.
"I had the priviledge to work with a group of programmers and journalists at separate companies who had a can-do, experimentation-is-good, let’s-try-it attitude that created some innovative things that really served the target audience. In these environments, when anyone asked if they could try something, the answer was either “Yes!” or “That’s going to provide some challenges, so let’s work together to figure out what we can do.” At both places, the result was innovation, quality information in user-oriented formats (searchable databases, wikis, dynamic presentations, etc.). The effect on the audience: Our readers were educated and up-to-date, the Web sites became a powerhouse resource for their target audiences, etc.
"And then I worked at another small organization where the leadership was afraid to take on new things lest they fail. “Can we do…” was always met with “It’s going to be too hard. Too much work. What happens when x person quits?” It was all fear of change, fear of work, fear of experimentation. And so the organization went from being really dynamic and cutting-edge in the mid- to late-1990s to being old hat and boring by 2004. And it’s remained that way, and it’s incredibly frustrating to watch an organization decline opportunities that could create effective, innovative and unique journalism programming.
"I learned that the attitude of an organization’s leadership can really shape the entire direction of an organization. I’ve seen how fear of change and reluctance to experiment can really hurt the quality of journalism/information the publication can put out there. As a result of having both experiences, I’ve become a stronger advocate for experimentation and learning from others, and I don’t consider myself risk-averse."
Beth Lawton believes her most valuable trait, in terms of contributing to great journalism, is cuirosity. She writes:
"[I]f I could afford to be a permanent digital media and journalism student, I would do it. Fortunately, I have a job that almost allows me to do that. My job at the Newspaper Association of America is to track digital media trends, analyze how they change the ways newspapers (print, online and in any and every other format) attract, retain, inform and interact with readers and/or Web site visitors. And the crux of my job, really, is to help get that information out there – allowing new media professionals to learn from each other through best practices, case studies, 'lessons learned' papers and more."
What is essential to journalism? What is journalism's core?
"Journalism ceases to be journalism when honesty and transparency are compromised. Part of the purpose of journalism is to inform and educate, and disseminating tainted or (intentionally) incorrect information is contrary to that core function. I hope journalists are (getting) ready to let go of some of the “control” and voice-of-God attitude about their publications. Many journalism projects have taught us that information from the public can create better, stronger stories. Of course, there are risks, but I’m a fan of public collaboration when it’s appropriate and helpful."
What three wishes do you have for the future of journalism?
"1, 2 and 3 are all intertwined: More willingness to experiment, a shift in corporate attitude and funding at news organizations that will fosters a culture of controlled and educated experimentation, and for news organizations to focus on “what they do best” or what makes them unique – for most mid- and smaller-market newspapers, that mans more focus on local information."
Eddan Katz, interviewed by Michael Caputo
Eddan said he wanted to come to “learn and understand what the sets of concerns are for those engaged in media reform.” He’s got a great interest in seeing what role “open source journalism” will play in the push for change.
“I’m committed, in faith, to the ideas of openness and access and have trust that those things can work themselves out,” he said about open source journalism. “We need to trust it.”
Katz hopes to bring to the discussion a sustained focus on the multiple layers of access to information. This means looking at the infrastructure of information distribution, the way that people access technology and how government policy affects the free flow of information and ideas.
His project – Access to Knowledge – has as its underpinning the relationship between people and technology. “There is one there,” he said, adding that it can range from ethical concerns when using new technology to how it will create democratic opportunity. His project aims at answering questions such as how federal regulations curb access to information? And, will this new technology be a force for improving democratic involvement?
Many of the problems when it comes to access of information derive from the ownership of that information. As an aside, he would tell the journalists attending this conference that people in the press seem to ““overlook the legal mechanisms, the stuff that is hard to boil down into a digestable story.”
Katz said the essentials of good journalism is information that allows people to participate in the democratic process, in their communities.
“It allows individuals to live a meaningful life,” he said. “To have some basic trust in knowing what it is that’s going on around them.” In fact, Katz said, journalism must provide people with trust in the world around them.
He worries about propaganda dressed up to appear to be news. And he said the old “he said-she said” construct of news reports – and the amped up version of this on “talking head” cable news programs – can easily fall away from journalism.
Katz added that the rise of blogging plays only a limited role in journalism – that of news distributor. “Right now it’s not sufficiently capable of doing news gathering,” he said.
His wish list for journalism includes: Having news that is far more interactive so that consumers become users; having news from around the world penetrate the U.S. far more than it does now; and more stories about technology policy in this country and on media and intellectual property.
He said most digital media activists, like himself, distrust government involvement in refoming access to information. He, however, is open to some limited governmental role and would like to talk about where reformers might seek to set up boundaries of governmental involvement.
My take on the discussion with Eddan Katz: His efforts to examine our information structure aim at the bedrock of what we, as journalists, do. The rapid change of technology may leave news organizations, reporters and editors searching for a new place to fit in. But without a sustained look at the public’s access to that technology, and then, at what people can receive as information through technology – our efforts at journalism reform will be minimized. I’m glad he will be attending.
Katherine McDaniel, interviewed by Beth Lawton
Unable to reach Katherine by phone (we really tried!), we interviewed each other over e-mail. She wrote that it seemed “appropriate as both Beth and are interested in new modes of journalism, which includes online reporting.” Katherine described herself as an academic. “I am not a journalist, I am an academic who is interested in information production, distribution, and flow. My contribution, if any, lies in highlighting how information policies effect journalism. For example, the manner in which intellectual property policies effect the production of content; whether Defamation laws inhibit or promote speech; and the ways in which technological policies that can hinder or promote the distribution of speech.”
Katherine wrote about two stories that had an impact on her. The second first:
“The second example of effective media, and the more recent one, was an article I read in the Atlantic Monthly (I think), on the Payatas landfill in the Philippines. The article was both a powerful ethnography (exploring the sub-culture of the people who make their living by scavenging at the dump); and a social commentary on western culture. The images that accompanied the piece were impressive, but the article itself did not need them to convey they story. The piece was effective that impacted my thought process and reminded me of certain values (the importance of waste reduction, recycling, composting, etc.) that I used to hold more seriously as a young person. And yet, even as I was reminded of these things, my actions were not effected. I recently moved in with my boyfriend and we are in the process of sorting our possessions and removing the unnecessary or redundant items. We gave away as much as we could, but a lot of it went in the garbage. Worse, a lot of easily recyclable items were thrown away as well. The article left enough of an impression to make the guilty feelings kick-in; but enough to rally me to gather and sort the recyclables, and then make the fifteen minute drive to the recycling facility.”
The first example she gave also spurred her to action, this time using technology:
The first example begins with a story in a legal trade magazine—I believe it was The American Lawyer. The story explored the impact of Amicus Briefs submitted to the Supreme Court. Amicus is short for Amicus curiae, Latin for friend of the court. In theory, these briefs are not filed by parties to the case, but rather by persons who believe they can add to the court’s understanding of a case, thus the name, friend of the court. In practice, however, Amicus briefs are filed by third parties with strong interests in the outcome of the case who are seeking not to educate the court but to influence it in hopes that the ruling will be favorable to the third party’s interest…. The part of the article that became so important is when one of the Supreme Court Justices noted that amici briefs are most useful when the case involves a difficult technical matter and the amici can educate the justices on certain intricacies.
I read this article around the same time that the Grokster case was argued before the Supreme Court. This case was extremely important, as the decision could ultimately free the development of new peer-to-peer (P2P) computer technologies, or slow such growth to a trickle. The case was eventually decided on narrow grounds, meaning it had neither the impact I had hoped for nor feared. But at the time, the oral arguments and the discussions in chambers seemed of utmost importance. The mainstream print media for the most part ignored this story, with the exception of a few articles in technology or law and society sections. The blogosphere, however, was abuzz. It was there that I encountered a rumor that Supreme Court clerks had set up computers in the Justice’s Chambers so that they could experience Grokster for themselves.
At the time it seemed like the fate of P2P depended how well nine senior citizens, albeit extremely intelligent seniors, understood technology. The questions the Justices asked in oral arguments did not suggest that their understanding was particularly sophisticated. This is where amici briefs would have been must useful. But then thinking back to the article in the American Lawyer, I realized that even if the court had access to good amici, it was not guaranteed that they would read them or give much weight to them. Thus, it seemed to me that the best way to demonstrate the importance of the technology was to demonstrate its potential using the very system that that justices were rumored to be exploring: Grokster.
My plan was to flood the Grokster network with public domain and creative-commons licensed material. I posted the proposal on my blog. That post got linked to be a bigger blog, which got linked to by an even bigger blog, until my proposal landed on one of the biggest blogs around and was even linked to in a cnet.com article about the Grokster case. At some point I linked up with another blogger who had independently developed the same proposal and we joined forces.
Unfortunately, our attempt at movement building had little effect. While we may have increased the amount of non-copyrighted material on Grokster, the Court did not seem to notice. The Opinion the issued held that there was no “substantially non-infringing use” of the program—the death knell for Grokster.
This story begins with a well-written article on an interesting topic that stuck with me, the reader. It’s effect was subtle and indirect, but effective in the sense that I lead me to pursue one course of action rather than another. This story also involves the blogosphere, which I consider new media. The effect of posts in the blogosphere was conspicuous and direct—it created a discourse and, to some extent, inspired action. Yet it was also ineffective, as the discourse failed to inspire enough action to reach the attention of the ultimate audience: the Supreme Court….
On journalism being essential to democracy, Katherine wrote:
It is safe to assume that was all believe independent journalism is essential to democracy. But I believe state controlled or censored journalism is more harmful than a lack of journalism. So what is the essential core? Independence. By that I mean independence not only from the State, but also from other powerful interests that hinder the ability of journalist to report on relevant matters, or report in a manner that effectively communicates that relevance. These interests include corporate interests that influence internal policy; these interests also include the power of the masses to push journalism to pander to the lowest common-denominator.
Katherine’s three wishes:
1) A return of sophisticated, discursive journalism written for main-stream America (not the New Yorker, not The Nation or The New Republic, not even the New York Times)
2) A growth in local media
3) A growth in meaningful audience participation—by participation I mean more than letters of the editor or the superficial contributions such as persons who send footage to CNN’s iReport.
David Zeeck, interviewed by Neil Ralston
David Zeeck made my day when he said his newspaper, the News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., does not always try to be objective.
When it comes to the First Amendment, open records and open meetings, he said, News Tribune editors let readers know that the newspaper favors a free press and open government. It’s part of the newspaper’s attempt to be transparent regarding its procedures, policies and practices. (Author’s note: I came up with the “procedures, policies and practices” part, but David did say the newspaper tries to be transparent.)
David is the News Tribune’s executive editor and senior vice president for news He also is president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and he has served on the boards of New Directions for News, APME, the Missourian Publishing Association, and the Kansas City Urban League.
He grew up in Texas, earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and an MBA from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, and then spent 20 years with The Kansas City Star. During David’s time there, the Star won two Pulitzers, including one while he was executive editor.
Asked about an example of a media story that mattered, David said he has been inspired by the efforts of a News Tribune columnist whose persistence helped to bring about a measure of justice in the shooting death of a high school girl. The killing occurred when a gang member in one car fired at another car following an encounter between the occupants of two vehicles. When the defendants in the case changed their stories during the trial, a jury failed to convict anyone of the murder. But, David said, a columnist continued to write about the killing and pushed prosecutors to file perjury charges against the defendants. Eventually, a prosecutor did just that and a jury returned a guilty verdict.
“Occasionally, a newspaper can right a public wrong like that,” David said, adding that the columnist’s insistence was particularly impressive. “That’s still sort of what newspapering is for me.”
As far as what makes journalism journalism, David said “great journalism has to have a purpose” and journalists must understand what their purposes are. He said it is important for newspapers to be transparent and he referred to the notion of Jack Fuller (former president of Tribune Co.) that journalists need “intellectual honesty” in their work. They need to report all sides of a story in a way that makes the sources know they were fairly represented. At the same time, journalists’ search for the truth must come with the understanding that not all truths are equal. Regarding his three wishes for journalism, he said he wished that journalists were better at explaining themselves, he wished that good journalism was more valued by the public, and he wished that more young people viewed journalism as a viable career choice.
Interview with Sue Salinger After interviewing Sue Salinger on the telephone I was struck by the sense that she didn’t leave mainstream media so much as mainstream media abandoned her. I felt we had much in common -- each of us is trying to promote independent journalism that matters. I’m doing that in the context of a locally-owned, independent newspaper company; she is doing it as a teacher, student and catalyst for citizen participation in media. We both strive to call people to action and hold power accountable, and we wonder what economic model will support that mission. Salinger calls herself “a reformed 20+ yr veteran of mainstream media,” and she explains, “Reformed means media activist and I no longer work for commercial media.” Her current project, launching Free Voice Media Alliance, is advocacy journalism, but in her case advocacy is less about ideology than it is about truth-telling, transparency and integrity. Her focus is topics that can’t be touched by the mainstream press. She is clearly distressed by the state of media and what seems like public indifference, but she isn’t giving up. Her passion is evident in the rapid-fire questions that pepper her conversation: Can media that relies on any commercial support be truly independent? What kind of commercial support won’t be a conflict? Are traditional broadcast motivated to do anything more than create consumers? How can we inspire audiences to be passionate about social change? How can we train people to do their own journalism? How can we utilize the Web more effectively, and what innovative uses are there for the content we already have? What partnerships make sense for the future? These are all questions she hopes to explore at the JTM meeting.
Sue Salinger, interviewed by Michael Fancher
After interviewing Sue Salinger on the telephone I was struck by the sense that she didn’t leave mainstream media so much as mainstream media abandoned her. I felt we had much in common -- each of us is trying to promote independent journalism that matters. I’m doing that in the context of a locally-owned, independent newspaper company; she is doing it as a teacher, student and catalyst for citizen participation in media. We both strive to call people to action and hold power accountable, and we wonder what economic model will support that mission.
Salinger calls herself “a reformed 20+ yr veteran of mainstream media,” and she explains, “Reformed means media activist and I no longer work for commercial media.” Her current project, launching Free Voice Media Alliance, is advocacy journalism, but in her case advocacy is less about ideology than it is about truth-telling, transparency and integrity. Her focus is topics that can’t be touched by the mainstream press. She is clearly distressed by the state of media and what seems like public indifference, but she isn’t giving up. Her passion is evident in the rapid-fire questions that pepper her conversation:
Can media that relies on any commercial support be truly independent? What kind of commercial support won’t be a conflict? Are traditional broadcast motivated to do anything more than create consumers? How can we inspire audiences to be passionate about social change? How can we train people to do their own journalism? How can we utilize the Web more effectively, and what innovative uses are there for the content we already have? What partnerships make sense for the future?
These are all questions she hopes to explore at the JTM meeting.