Thursday, June 29, 2006

Public Integrity Journalism

Michael Skoler, of the Centre for Innovation in Journalism, is speaking about what mainstream media is doing around new forms.

The new news ecology is about partnering. The hardest thing about our economic model is around doing flashier things. That is not really the problem, he says. It is all important. It is all tools of the trade. There is another focus. Many people come to news web sites, not from local audiences, but through search engines. This means there is a very different relationship.

The incredible people you meet

I spoke with a lovely journalist from the U.K., Jemima Kiss, who operates a blog at I could use a hundred students like her. She is young, intelligent and doing amazing things on the Internet.

Her site is beautiful. As an artist, her sensibilities come through in an amazing way. I particularly like the juxtaposition of her handwriting against the type, along with the very sophisticated colour scheme.

Her journalistic sensibility is also very different. The photographs, shot on interesting angles, represents how the web can be such an interesting place rather than the stuff designs associated with traditional media.

I encouraged her to try multimedia presentations in her journalism, not just using hyperlinks, text and graphics, but also expand into audio and video, as storytelling tools

She is a journalist for paidContent, writing from overseas. It must be challenging to work virtually, but we teach students that this is the new creative model used by companies based on the web.

It is energizing to see such creative, unique talent being used to stretch journalism.

Centre for Public Integrity

This is the granddaddy of non-profit journalism, the act of using money raised from sources to publish incredible journalism. Centre for Public Integrity has written books, stories and research on some of the most important stories in the United States.

This represents the future of investigative journalism. By raising millions of dollars to do its work.

There is no right answer for the upheaval going on in journalism, but this is something that needs to be seriously considered.


The web site was started by Stacy D. Kramer, who wanted to create a job for herself. It is now a major site, with three components, all around creating financially viable web sites.

She blogs from the moment she wakes until she sleeps. There is also a newletter and RSS. There is no charge for subscription, it is sponsored. It is a different model. Not one blogger making a living, this site is done by staff. They use blogging as a format, the software makes it easy to publish. These are not bloggers; they are journalists.

It is a virtual business, people come together to publish from all over the world and post to the site.

Twin cities media alliance

This parent organization runs the twin cities Daily Planet is an initiative similar to OhMyNews, the Korean citizen journalism web site.

All this is done part time. Using the rich media environment, he has been able to create the site. A mixture of paid staff and volunteers, the site launched in May after a lengthy test phase. Through the network of existing media and people who are interested in writing news.

Raw story, progressive politics news

This web site started two years ago and based on the economic model similar to the Drudge Report. Started by one person without any investment. Done with donations and advertising.

The site is part blog and part news. He uses Goggle and gets decent revenue. You have to be very big or very local to sell advertising. Internet advertising has low margins.

Sensationalism brings in traffic. This is worrisome. Where is the line drawn, when controversy sells?

It is quite hard to get mainstream media to acknowledge the high quality journalism on the web., an online news site, from a small community

Barry Parr is an example of a person who puts his money where his mouth is.

Serving a small community, Half-moon Bay, with only two roads coming into the town, in north California. He does it part time. He is looking at getting advertising.

He did some groundbreaking journalism and provide an alternative to large media. He sees the Tyee as an inspiration.

He faces a big ethical problem because his town is so small, he is afraid selling advertising may mean he must lower his standards.

David Beers, a fellow Canadian, talks about The Tyee

Why B.C. is a great place to do innovative media?

British Columbia is very old place, but it is future focused with a large multicultural component. Very creative place, he says. Can be very polarized, feisty place.

It should be a fertile place for innovative media. However, media is very concentrated - the biggest player being Global CanWest.

Economic settings is characterized by huge real estate and resource based. Tourism is also big.

The papers of record are protectors of these industry. Beers felt pressure to tow the line. Fragmenting of marketplace means newspapers pander to advertisers. It is neo-con heaven and runs up against anyone who does not share these views.

When he looked out over the landscape, the corporate media was not doing a very good job facilitating a broad ranging dialogue.

With an old-fashioned resume and a rolodex to get support. Went to labour (similar to, some direct investment and venture capital company from labour pension funds. Special fund was available and a local philanthropist, as well. It was a fascinating mixture of partners. But, it would be hands-off. About $200,000 was raised.

Original, credible journalism that had impact, not indie media. Indie media has not impact in B.C, he said. And, he wanted to build an audience.

Two-and-a-half years later, there are 200,000 visitors.

Next round of investors will be advertisers. Not even worth it until you have large audience. There is also interest from philanthropists. Approached all the time. Too often, there are many strings attached. Book section is a partnership between publishers and a government grant for $32,000.

Readers were also feeling shut out. Tyee is an unabashed champion of lesser known stories. Readers can contribute money through a non-profit organization. This funds investigative journalism and it works.

This is the future of journalism. Non-profit organizations which support journalism excellence. Like the Centre for Public Integrity, it will take money from different sources, non-main stream news organizations, to ensure excellent journalism is kept alive in Canada. Also support for CBC. It must be a hub for the highest calibre journalism in the country, regardless of any other mandate.

Can Free Media Sustain Democracy?

Show me the money!

This is about sustainability. Most bloggers play their trade for free. But there are many types of web sites that are meant to serve communities. There is a long history of sites that try to hang on with little or no money.

Many try to do this using foundations. There are far more foundations that support initiatives compared to Canada, where there are few, if any.

The real model is sponsorship, similar to PBS, according to Peter Drasilofsky, a consultant.

Small sites who place Goggle, may not find it very profitable. But for bigger sites, it may be useful.

Don't start selling advertising until all ducks in a row, he said. It is very tough

Moving to breaking news - changing gears

For the most part, this morning's sessions were not blogged, as I took notes instead. My plan is to come back to this later and write. It is the kind of material that deserves to be considered carefully before commenting.

For this afternoon's sessions, I am shifting gears to a more pure blog form, coming from the gut and reporting what is going on and being said.

This is my vehicle for doing this.

Here we go.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

moblogging for the conference

In an effort to use all the technologies available to me, I will be moblogging portions of the conference.

Arrangements have been made to have wireless Internet access, but I will try to use my Blackberry, as well.

Friday, June 23, 2006


What is the difference between my local rural paper publishing a submitted article from an organization and citizen journalist posting to the net?

Getting ready for UMass conference

Preparations are underway for the conference on news and politics. Reading the winter issue of the Nieman Report on citizen journalism is proving useful for getting some context. The opitimism surround this new journalistic form is inspiring and, yet, disturbing at the same time. The term democracy, a key concept in citizen journalism, leaves one scratching their head. In a Derrididian way, the word means nothing and, in viewing it this way, provides a crucial insight and begs certain questions. Are journalists wrapping themselves in the cloak of democratic language as a means to regain public trust and credibility? And, in practising cItizen journalism, have journalists merely replaced one hegemonic structure for another. Does the current political economy really allow full participation or are we opening a door to a certainclass or type of individual. Yes, housewives and students are gaining access, but what about farmers and plumbers?

And here is where journalist may need to go an extra step. We should worry less about opening the doors and do a better job of facilitating the telling of stories.

At Loyalist we are using Blackberry wireless technology to do outreach. Last winter during the federal election, reporters went out into the field to speak with poeple who were not able or felt unwilling to participate in our candidates debate. The result was amazing. We were able to approach people, who otherwisee felt there wasn no room in the system. By typing their questions into an email, we were able to send them directly into the auditorium where they were asked. They were alos posted to the web. The ansers wre communicated back.

The results were wonderfil. Once one woman participated at a hockey arena, 30 people surrounded the reporter seeking a chance to ask a question.

The same thing was done in a local coffee shop and at the bus depot.

This is an important aspect of e-journalism and a failing of citizen journalism.

Getting ready for UMass