Rebooting Rockwell's America: News, Art and Community
A PUBLIC SYMPOSIUM / September 11-13, 2009 / Stockbridge, Massachusetts
TENTATIVE PROGRAM: TALKS, BREAKOUTS, IDEA SESSIONS
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Historians, authors, scholars, journalists, technologists, volunteer and citizen journalists and new local media entrepreneurs will seed our talks and conversations. We'll work toward some fresh insights on the capacity of the social-media technologies to create and nurture real communities . . . to sustain the values and purposes of journalism in service of democracy. Our goal is to tap the wisdom of each participant, to trade examples of journalism that matters and journalism that works. This program is evolving as new participants contribute ideas and so the specific topics and presenters are subject to change. Among ideas we'll float:
Considering the options
- Coverage and the commonweal -- where do we come in? -- Whether its reconsidering a water line, rescuing a library from closure, rallying support for arts education, or electing a U.S. president, the public is learning that blogs, tweets, mobile phones and social networks are powerful mechanisms for ad-hoc organizing around civic issues. What responsibilities to we undertake to the commonweal when we turn these powerful tools to policy, and political, ends?
- Rethinking The Journalist's Creed -- In 1914, Walter Williams, the founder of the Missouri School of Journalism -- the nation's oldest -- wrote "The Creed" . . . a lofty, Rockwell-like expression of high principles for a craft which he passionately believed must be a profession. Almost a century later, anyone with a Internet connection has an audience, and may assert the role of journalist. What elements of trust are still required and how do we find them? (With Mike Fancher, retired editor of The Seattle Times, who has just spend a year rethinking the ethics and purpose of journalism under a Missouri fellowship.)
- How can you trust the news? -- We have relied upon journalists, and the news organizations which publish and air their stories, to vet our news, and to give it an imprimateur of truth, independence and integrity. If the advertising and subscription revenues are decoupled from the support of journalism, who will vet the news? (Tentatively led by Fabrice Florin, or another representative of NewsTrust.net)
- What's the news that's needed? -- Last year, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation empaneled a commission to study the information needs of communities in a democracy. What did the panel discover, and how are those needs going to be met? What is the role of citizens and of what remains of news organizations?
- Are bloggers the new pamphleteers? -- In Colonial America most printers were also publishers -- and hence journalists. They would produce broadsheets or pamphlets and these became the way news traveled throughout the colonies. They were opinionated and local -- and often challenged authority. And it wasn't hard to publish. Today, America's political bloggers are similiarly opinionated and local -- or topically speciifc. And they are are having some impact -- just as the pamphleteers of the 1700s and early 1800s. In an era of big government and big institutions, is that enough? (try to get Eric Burns, author of "Infamous Scribblers," and Tye Resch, (tentative) biographer of Anthony Haswell.)
- Rockwell and the the ideal of the utopian community -- Is the totality of Norman Rockwell's work silent pictures of a utopian community? What would a utopian community look like in the 21st century, and should journalists be guiding us to it? A consideration of what it means to be a "patriot" in the context of utopian thought. (Lead by Ellen Spear, (invited) director of Hancock Shaker Village, a living history museum of the utopian Shakers.)
Considering the tools
- Who will pay for the news -- and why? -- Is news a public good? If so, how does the public support the news without involving the government, from which journalists must stand independent and watchful? What would the Founding Fathers do? A quick survey of the experiments underway and in the pipeline for keeping the news flowing as advertising and circulation revenues leak away. (TENTATIVE INVITEES: Chuck Lewis, Bill Densmore, Bob McChesney, Jay Hamilton et al.)
- News to go: Engagement in the iPhone age -- With hundreds of thousands of applications, the iPhone has changed the news from a lecture to a conversation, and from yesterday to now. Which applications have the potential to change journalism?
- Remixing the news: Art, illustration and journalism -- From illustration to video to public spaces, public works and public museums, freedom of expression has traversed the culture as much through art as through an independent press. Increasingly, journalists, artists and technologists converge on the web. How are they aiding and abetting each other in a question for open ideas, open source and open access? And what is the role of cultural institutions as gathering places for community and keepers of the values and principles of journalism? (Bring in the computational journalism experts from Georgia Tech and Duke; add in cutting edge visual artists from MassMoCA and museum leaders from the Berkshires and beyond.)
- New News Venues: Reporting comes back home to new civic spaces -- The Industrial Age turned news into an industry. Giant, high-speed presses, and then powerful broadcast transmitters, allowed journalists to reach millions -- yet perhaps touch fewer and fewer citizens close to home. What will happen, as reporters disconnect from the industry, and rejoin real communities? How might this process be accelerated, and sustained? In The Berkshires, the Norman Rockwell Museum is part of an innovative experiment with roots in English coffeehouses and revoluntary pamphleteers. (With David Scribner, of the non-profit initiative in Berkshire County; plus several local online news community folks who are jazzed about the news-in-cafes idea.)
- Building the Community Information Center -- Not long ago, the news lived in silos -- daily, weekly, broadcast, cable. The web is the great leveler, where all meet. Now communities face the opportunity, and challenge, of supporting or creating information centers that cross platforms. What role might public libraries play? Cable public-access stations? Traditional private news organizations? And non-profit groups? (Tentative Examples: Tony Shawcross in Denver; Mountain Area Information Network in Asheville, N.C.)
- Bringing the Four Freedoms to School: News Literacy -- In a media-saturated culture we now can all create and share news. Before we can make news, do we need access to the tools and ideas that will help us consume and understand it? Should colleges make "news literacy" a required high-school course for enrollment? A quick survey of the emerging field of "news-literacy education." (With Rob Williams, (tentative) Action Coalition for Media Education and Howard Schneider, (tentative) Center for News Literacy, Stony Brook University.)