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June 20 2013

14:02

The newsonomics of Spies vs. Spies

So who do you root for in this coming battle, as Google petitions the feds? Are you on the side of Big Brother or Little Brother — and remind me, which is which? It’s a 50-year-update on Mad Magazine’s iconic Spy vs. Spy.

The Surveillance State is — at least for this month — in front of the public. The Guardian’s rolling revelations of National Security Agency phone and web spying have again raised the bogeyman of Big Data — not the Big Data that all the airport billboards offer software to tame, but the Big Data that the unseen state can use against us. We’ve always had a love/hate relationship with big technology and disaster, consuming it madly as Hollywood churns out mad entertainments. We like our dystopia delivered hot and consumable within two hours. What we don’t like is the ooky feeling we are being watched, or that we have to make some kind unknowable choice between preventing the next act of terror and preserving basic Constitutional liberties.

Americans’ reactions to the stories is predictable. Undifferentiated outrage: “I knew they were watching us.” Outrageous indifference: “What do you expect given the state of the world?” That’s not surprising. Americans and Europeans have had the same problem thinking about the enveloping spider’s web of non-governmental digital knowledge. (See The Onion headline: “Area Man Outraged His Private Information Being Collected By Someone Other Than Advertisers.”)

While top global media, including The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, dig into the widening government spying questions, let’s look at the ferment in the issues of commercial surveillance. There’s a lot of it, and it would take several advanced degrees and decoder rings to understand all of it. No, it’s not the same thing as the issues surrounding PRISM. But it will be conflated with national security, and indeed the overlapping social and political questions are profound. Let’s look at some recent developments and some of the diverse players in this unfolding drama and see where publishers do — and could — fit in.

The commercial surveillance culture is ubiquitous, perhaps even less hemmed in by government policy than the NSA, and growing greatly day by day. While Google asks the FISA court to allow it to release more detail about the nature of federal data demands, its growing knowledge of us seems to have no bounds. From our daily searches, to the pictures (street to sky) taken of our homes, to the whereabouts relayed by Google Maps, and on and on.

It’s not just Google, of course. Facebook, whose users spend an average of seven hours per month online disclosing everything, is challenging Google for king of the data hill. A typical news site might have 30 to 40 cookies — many of them from ad-oriented “third parties” — dropped from it. That explains why those “abandoned” shopping carts, would-be shoe purchases, and fantasy vacation ads now go with us seemingly everywhere we move on the web. It’s another love/hate relationship: We’re enamored of what Google and Facebook and others can do for us, but we’re disquieted by their long reach into our lives. It’s a different flavor of ooky.

We are targeted. We are retargeted. Who we are, what we shop for, and what we read is known by untold number of companies out there. Though we are subject to so much invisible, involuntary, and uncompensated crowdsourcing, the outrage is minimal. It’s not that it hasn’t been written about. Among others, The Wall Street Journal has done great work on it, including its multi-prize-winning three-year series on “What They Know.”

Jim Spanfeller, now CEO of Spanfeller Media Group and the builder of Forbes.com, related the PRISM NSA disclosures to commercial tracking in a well-noticed column (“At What Price Safety? At What Price Targeted Advertising?”) last week. His point: We’re all essentially ignorant of what’s being collected about us, and how it is being used. As we find out more, we’re not going to be happy.

His warning to those in the digital ad ecosystem: Government will ham-handedly regulate tracking of consumer clicks if the industry doesn’t become more “honest and transparent.”

Spanfeller outlined for me the current browser “Do Not Track” wars, which saw its latest foray yesterday. Mozilla, parent of Firefox, the third most-popular browser by most measures, said it will move forward with tech that automatically blocks third-party cookies in its browser. Presumably, users will be able to turn back on such cookies, but most will go with the defaults in the browsers they use.

The Mozilla move, much contested and long in the works, follows a similar decision by Microsoft with its release of the latest Internet Explorer. Microsoft is using a “pro-privacy” stance as a competitive weapon against Google, advancing both Bing search and IE. Spanfeller notes that Microsoft’s move hasn’t had much effect, at least yet, because “sites aren’t honoring it.”

These browser wars are one front, and much decried by forces like the Interactive Ad Bureau, the Digital Ad Alliance, and its “Ad Choices” program — which prefer consumer opt-out. Another front is an attempt at industry consensus through the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C. Observers of that process believe it is winding its way to failure. Finally, also announced yesterday was the just-baked Cookie Clearinghouse, housed at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. The driving notion, to be fleshed out: creating whitelists and blacklists of cookies allowed and blocked. (Good summaries by both Ad Age’s Kate Kaye and ZDNet’s Ed Bott.)

Never too far from the action, serial entrepreneur John Taysom was in Palo Alto this week as well. Taysom, a current senior fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, is an early digital hothouse pioneer, having led Reuters’ Greenhouse project way back in the mid-’90s. His list of web startups imagined and sold is impressive, and now he’s trying to put all that experience to use around privacy issues. As a student of history, old and modern, his belief is this: “When they invented the Internet, they didn’t add a privacy layer.”

“We need a Underwriters Laboratory for our time,” he told me Wednesday. UL served a great purpose at a time (1894) of another tech revolution: electricity. Electricity, like computer tech these days, seemed exciting, but the public was wary. It wasn’t afraid of behind-the-scenes chicanery — it literally was concerned about playing with fire. So UL, as a “global independent safety science company” — a kind of neutral, Switzerland-like enterprise — was set up to assure the public that electrical appliances were indeed tested and safe.

Could we do the same with the Internet?

He’s now working on a model, colloquially named “Three’s A Crowd,” to reinsert a “translucent” privacy layer in the tech stack. His model is based on a lot of current thinking on how to both better protect individual privacy and actually improve the targeting of messages by business and others. It draws on k-anonymity and Privacy by Design principles, among others.

In brief, Taysom’s Harvard project is around creating a modern UL. It would be a central trusted place, or really set of places, that institutions and businesses (and presumably governments) could draw from, but which protect individual identification. He calls it an I.D. DMZ, or demilitarized zone.

He makes the point that the whole purpose of data mining is to get to large enough groups of people with similar characteristics — not to find the perfect solution or offer for each individual. “Go up one level above the person,” to a small, but meaningfully sized, crowd. The idea: increase anonymity, giving people the comfort of knowing they are not being individually targeted.

Further, the levels of anonymity could differ depending on the kind of information associated with anyone. ”I don’t really mind that much about people knowing my taste in shirts. If it’s about the location of my kids, I want six sigmas” of anonymity, he says. Taysom, who filed a 2007 U.K. patent, now approved, on the idea, is now putting together both his boards of advisors and trustees.

Then there are emerging marketplace solutions to privacy. What havoc the digital marketplace hath wrought may be solved by…the digital marketplace. D.C.-based Personal.com is one of the leading players in that emerging group. Yes, this may be the coming personal data economy. Offering personal data lockers starting at $29.99 a year, Personal.com is worth a quick tour. What if you could store all your info in a digital vault, it asks? Among the kinds of “vaults”: passwords, memberships and rewards programs, credit and debit card info, health insurance, and lots more.

It’s a consumer play that’s also a business play. The company is now targeting insurance, finance, and education companies and institutions, who would then offer consumers the opportunity to ingest their customer information and keep it in vault and auto-fill features then let consumers re-use such information once it is banked. Think Mint.com, but broader.

Importantly, while Personal.com deals potentially with lots of kinds of digital data, its business doesn’t touch on the behavioral clickstream data that is at the heart of the Do Not Track fracas.

Do consumer want such a service? Personal.com won’t release any numbers on customers or business partners. Getting early traction may be tough.

Embedded in the strategy: a pro-consumer tilt. Personal.com offers an “owner data agreement,” basically certifying that it is the consumer, not Personal.com, that owns the data. It is a tantalizing idea: What if we individually could control our own digital data, setting parameters on who could use what and how? What if we as consumers could monetize our own data?

Neither Personal.com nor John Taysom’s project nor the various Do Not Track initiatives envision that kind of individually driven marketplace, and I’ve been told there are a whole bunch of technical reasons why it would be difficult to achieve. Yet, wouldn’t that be the ultimate capitalist, Adam Smith solution to this problem of runaway digital connectedness — a huge exchange that would facilitate the buying and selling of our own data?

For publishers, all this stuff is headache-producing. News publishers from Manhattan to Munich complain about all the third-party cookies feeding low-price exchanges, part of the reason their digital ad businesses are struggling. But there is a wide range of divergent opinion about how content-creating publishers will fare in Do Not Track world. They may benefit from diminished competition, but would they be able to adequately target for advertisers? Will Google and Facebook do even better in that world?

So, for publishers, these privacy times demand three things:

  • Upscale their own data mining businesses. “There’s a big difference between collecting and using data,” says Jonathan Mendez, CEO of Yieldbot, that works with publishers to provide selling alternatives to Google search. That’s a huge point. Many publishers don’t yet do enough with their first-party data to adequately serve advertiser needs.
  • Take a privacy-by-design approach to emerging business. How you treat consumers in product design and presentation is key here, with some tips from Inc. magazine.
  • Adopt a pro-privacy position. Who better than traditionally civic-minded newspaper companies than to help lead in asserting a sense of ownership of individual data? If news companies are to re-assert themselves as central to the next generation of their communities and of businesses, what better position than pro-privacy — and then helping individuals manage that privacy better?

It’s a position that fits with publishers’ own interests, and first-party data gathering (publisher/reader) makes more intuitive sense to citzen readers. For subscribers — those now being romanced into all-access member/subscribers — the relationship may make even more sense. Such an advocacy position could also help re-establish a local publisher as a commercial hub.

News and magazine publishers won’t have to create the technology here — certainly not their strong suits — but they can be early partners as consortia and companies emerge in the marketplace.

Photo by Fire Monkey Fire used under a Creative Commons license.

April 16 2013

00:54

Adobe Launches Collaborative Editing Solution at NAB

LAS VEGAS  —  At NAB last week,  Adobe presented its collaborative editing solution called Adobe Anywhere.  At the show, we  interviewed Adobe Anywhere Senior Product Manager Michael Coleman about the product.

Coleman explained, “Anywhere is going to allow professionals that are working with Premiere Pro and Prelude to collaborate on media over the network.”  Groups of people can work on centrally-located shared productions from anywhere in the world. “It’s a really big shift in the way people work.”

Adobe Anywhere doesn’t use proxy files, says Coleman.  “We work directly with high resolution media, and we have a new technology called the Adobe Mercury streaming engine that will send the high res media all the way across the network to the editor who’s working right in Premiere Pro and Prelude.  It’s a great way to work and it’s a huge advance in productivity.”

Coleman explains more about the product and target user, as well as gives a short demo of Adobe Anywhere, in the video interview.

Megan O’Neill

September 04 2012

13:13

From Parenting Listservs to Comedian Message Boards, Collaboration Starts With Community

"A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members..."
- Wendell Berry

In the days immediately after giving birth, I gave thanks for a listserv.

It was Day 4 of my daughter's life, and I was having trouble nursing (sorry if that's TMI [too much information]). In a moment of desperation, I sent an email to the neighborhood parenting listserv: "Need in-home lactation consultant this weekend please." Within minutes, several strangers had emailed me the names and contact information of consultants who lived within a five-block radius of me. Talk about customer service.

A couple of months later, I turned to the listserv for nanny recommendations. One woman replied to me and asked if I might consider daycare; if so, she highly recommended a place about a mile from my apartment. Her email really got my husband and me thinking, and we ended up visiting the daycare and falling in love with it; our daughter is there now, as I type this.

Of course, the way I've described the listserv so far doesn't really illustrate collaboration at work. Fellow listserv members helped me -- and, in other instances, I helped them -- but we didn't exactly "collaborate." We didn't create something together. But wait -- if it takes a village to raise a child (and I believe it does); and if this listserv put me in touch with village members I otherwise wouldn't have known existed; then is it maybe an example of collaboration after all?

In other words, is community a form of collaboration?

I'd posit that the answer is "yes."

Quid Pro Quo

A community can help you do something better than you could have done it alone, whether that something is being a parent or being a journalist. As Josh Stearns of Free Press recently wrote on Collaboration Central, journalists are increasingly coming together to form ad-hoc networks of support. In other words, journalists are helping each other do their jobs, whether by sharing news tips or safety precautions or the best place in town to get a camera repaired. They are forming communities (Stearns uses the term "solidarity"), and collaborating within those communities on matters editorial, legal, and operational.

Back to my parenting listserv. Are we really collaborating with each other, or just helping each other out? Scratch beneath the surface and "help" and "collaborate" may not mean such different things. In an editorial collaboration, one news organization may "help" another by providing complementary resources or expertise. Is this help provided free of charge, out of the goodness of someone's heart? No, probably not.

But the parenting listserv doesn't necessarily run on goodness, either. On some level, I help other members because other members help me. That's human nature. Of course, I'm happy to help another mom if I have information at my fingertips that she needs, or to share an experience. But as a member of the listserv, of the community, I expect the help will flow back to me, as well.

Adios, Silos

silos2.png

Two newsrooms come together to conduct an investigation. They share staff; they share budgets. On the other hand, two freelance journalists come together. They share story leads, sources, lessons learned from the field. Two parents come together. They share daycare recommendations, news about product recalls, and warnings about wayward dentists. (This really happened.) Whether the outcome is a news report, a scoop or an informed parent (or healthier, happier child) -- behind the scenes, the pattern is the same: individuals with a common interest coming together, instead of functioning as silos.

This is remarkable because of just how many silos continue to dominate our world.

In my consulting work, for example, I'm struck by how many organizations still have a culture where departments operate in isolation -- where an employee has no idea that the person in the office next door has information that could help her do her job better. Christa Avampato recently wrote about an innovative way to get executives and lower-level employees talking and collaborating on new product ideas.

It's staggering, really, when you consider how revolutionary it would be for more co-workers to just talk to each other, and for more people to just talk to other people in their field.

It's the People, Stupid

But for now, it's still noteworthy when a community forms, and holds up over time. In public media -- an industry where I've spent a lot of my career -- it took a handful of individuals starting a weekly Twitter chat (#pubmedia chat, R.I.P.) to get many people across the industry to begin to feel like part of a community. Around the time that chat formed, I happened to be the project manager of a multimillion-dollar collaboration funded in large part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). While we learned a lot from that project (I wrote about it here), I honestly think the chat ultimately had a greater ripple effect in terms of increasing collegiality and collaboration industrywide.

ryangoslingpubmedia_1.png

Why? Because relationships, not organizations, fuel collaboration. In fact, the best outcome I saw from the CPB-funded collaboration wasn't one of the contractually obligated editorial deliverables -- it was the relationships between individuals. A producer at the PBS NewsHour now knew who to call over at Marketplace, or NPR, and vice versa. These folks now had history together, and therefore trust, and it was easy to just pick up the phone or send an IM. With those channels of communication open, it became easier for collaborations large and small to take root.

To be sure, public media is no paragon of collaboration -- like most industries, it has a ways to go. But that Twitter chat morphed into a Facebook group, which, as I recently mentioned, I consider an invaluable professional resource. Like the networks Stearns profiled, this community sprung up because individuals saw a need -- and it's lasted.

A Venn Diagram of Communities

I'm a performer, and in addition to public media and parenting, comedy is yet another community in the Venn Diagram of my life. When I lived in Washington, D.C., Washington Improv Theater was the nexus of my community. Since moving to New York City, I haven't felt as strong of a connection to a group of performers, but one organization that helps provide a sense of connection is G.L.O.C. -- aka Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy (recently profiled in the New York Times). G.L.O.C.'s mission is to foster community among female comedians. Another vehicle for community among comedians is the Improv Resource Center, message boards that performers all over the country use to discuss the art of improv and related matters.

And my comedy friends from D.C.? We're currently collaborating on a web series, long-distance, using Google Hangouts.

The human need for community is as old as time. The interwebs just give us new ways to connect. And these connections provide an essential framework for the kind of collaboration that helps us do our jobs better, and with a greater feeling of connectedness ... of not being in it alone. It's almost enough to make a person sing "kumbaya."

Now You

Do you agree that community is a form of collaboration? And are there areas of your life where you find community lacking -- for example, in your workplace? How can you plant the seeds of community in place of silos? What resources do you rely on to help you feel connected to the communities in your life?

"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."
- Kurt Vonnegut

Amanda Hirsch is the editor of Collaboration Central. She is a writer, social media consultant and performer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. The former editorial director of PBS.org, she blogs at amandahirsch.com spends way too much time on Twitter.

Photo above by Flickr user Ed Yourdon.

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August 30 2012

13:13

The Rise of Ad-Hoc Journalist Support Networks

Journalistic collaboration isn't just something that happens between newsrooms. Increasingly, journalists working outside of traditional news organizations are coming together to support each other in a range of ways, from offering safety advice when covering protests to sharing news tips, local resource recommendations and more.

Safety in Numbers

"When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse," Clay Shirky wrote in a post on his blog, "their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to." In the news industry, an ecosystem is emerging that's fueled by independent and citizen reporters, along with a new generation of small non-profit news sites. These new journalistic entities are putting themselves on the line without the kind of legal, administrative or technological support of major newsrooms.

"Journalists who work for big institutions will continue to have better protections," Rebecca Rosen noted in The Atlantic almost a year ago, "not because of laws that protect them but because of the legal power their companies can buy." That means journalists outside such institutions need networks of support to provide protection for them, and for the work they do.

The lack of support and protection for journalists has made this one of the most deadly and dangerous times to be an independent journalist. The International News Safety Institute lists almost 90 journalists and media staff who have been killed in 2012 alone. The Committee to Protect Journalists found that of the 179 journalists imprisoned worldwide in 2011, 86 were digital journalists and 78 were freelancers. Here in the U.S. nearly 90 journalists have been arrested or detained in the past year, and in state after state citizens have scuffled with police over their right to record. As these statistics make clear, in journalism's changing ecosystem, networks that provide protections for journalists are essential.

Emerging Networks

reporters-protest.jpgIn my work tracking press suppression and journalist arrests I'm beginning to see some of those networks emerging. For example, in the week leading up to the NATO summit, a group of independent journalists organized a Google Group email list to share information and connect on the ground in Chicago. Roughly 50 journalists from all over the world joined the list, and in the days leading up to the protests they used it to plan their coverage, share local tips (like this map of places to buy camera equipment in a pinch), and socialize. As the protests swung into high gear, the list was alive with posts from people comparing notes, sharing where the action was, and helping each other confirm details or track down sources.

Joe Macera, a local Chicago journalist who works with Truthout and the Occupied Chicago Tribune, set up the NATO email list in hopes of connecting journalists around the nation to local Chicago independent media. One member of the list, Aaron Cynic, said via email that he found it useful for journalistic support and collaboration, but also for legal support. He said the list was helpful for "creating solidarity between us, fostering relationships, sharing information and photos, and also, getting information to the NLG [National Lawyers Guild] to help with people that had been arrested." Another member of the list, Ryan Williams, lamented via email the lack of diversity on the list, but acknowledged that "the list was great ... as a networking resource, and as a good early warning system for developing stories."

Journalists used the list for everything from meeting up for dinner to providing information on movements of marches and protests. Kevin Gosztola, another list member, pointed out via email, "You could run questions by others, ask what to do next if you hit a roadblock, inform others of something that happened that you think is an abuse of power, etc." After NATO, the members decided to keep it going as a forum and network for journalists who are covering protests, Occupy and a related set of issues. (Disclosure: I have been on the email list since before the NATO summit, using it to monitor reports of press suppression at protests.)

Rising Solidarity

The NATO email list was unique as it merged online and offline components and was truly ad-hoc in nature. Other networks that have emerged tend to occupy either an online or offline space, but rarely both. The local meet-ups by Hacks/Hackers and Online News Association chapters that have developed and spread quickly across the country (and world) are great examples of how local journalists are connecting and collaborating in person to support their work. Online, Twitter chats like #WJCHAT and the email and blog network Carnival of Journalism represent the digital equivalent of such collaboration where journalists are debating critical issues about the field, sharing lessons about their work, and supporting each other.

Both online and off, these new networks are designed to provide something the journalism ecosystem is largely lacking: solidarity. In a passionate post, Bryan Westfall, an independent journalist in the Bay Area, writes, "The work we do in these circles is up against something violent, self serving, and relentless ... we need each other in a way that must be personal in a way no version of simple 'networking' could ever be."

Many independent and freelance journalists I talk to describe feeling isolated in their work. "We need to continue to foster that solidarity," Cynic told me. "We don't have the same resources or protections as corporate media -- all we have is each other."

Networking with the Audience

During a recent Free Press webinar Pool, one of the best-known livestream journalists who has covered Occupy protests for the last year, said, "The Internet is my fixer." He was referring to the way his audience would step up during his coverage to help get him out of a bind, whether it was to get him food or water or a spare battery. Indeed, the webinar itself was designed less as a formal panel and more as an open conversation, drawing on the legal and safety expertise of the panelists but complementing that with personal stories and advice from the audience. The event helped connect independent journalists before the Republican and Democratic national conventions and foster more ad-hoc networks of support. This highlights the potential of new networks that enable audience members to become media allies -- both part of the journalistic process and advocates or defenders for that process.

More is Needed

To remake journalism, we need to build new networks of resiliency for the future of news. When we talk about the journalistic resources we have lost in recent years we tend to focus almost exclusively on the number of jobs lost, not on the capacity of the entire field to fight for the First Amendment, protect each other and our reporting, and support experimentation and eventually sustainability. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no comprehensive effort to map the needs of the new journalism ecosystem in these terms. Perhaps now is the time.

Josh Stearns is a journalist, organizer and community strategist. He is Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director for Free Press, a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to reform the media through education, organizing and advocacy. He was a co-author of "Saving the News: Toward a national journalism strategy," "Outsourcing the News: How covert consolidation is destroying newsrooms and circumventing media ownership rules," and "On the Chopping Block: State budget battles and the future of public media." Find him on Twitter at @jcstearns.

Photo above by Flickr user Paul Weiskel.

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August 23 2012

14:00

Poll: Which Resources Do You Rely on for Collaboration?

I can't imagine life without the Public Media Group on Facebook. OK, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement -- but I certainly couldn't do my job half as well without it. I was talking about it with a colleague last week, and he mentioned a listserv for data visualization geeks that he finds similarly invaluable. Resources like these enable a kind of ongoing, informal collaboration and run like an unsung power supply throughout the field of journalism. In the Facebook group I mentioned, people debate editorial ethics, offer technical solutions and discuss industry news. Where do you turn for this kind of collaboration? Vote in our poll below for general answers, and get specific in the comments below. We'll be putting together a resource with the best groups in a future post on Collaboration Central.


Which resources

do you rely on most to collaborate with journalists?

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August 17 2012

18:08

Twitter changes should concern journalists

The forthcoming changes announced by Twitter limiting what others can do with tweets has angered developers.

But news organisations and others involved in aggregating and curating material from social media should also be concerned.

The “Display Guidelines” will become “Display Requirements” and impose strict rules over how tweets can be shown, in order “to ensure that Twitter users have a consistent experience wherever they see and interact with tweets.”

As part of that “consistent experience”, the guidelines on the timeline say that “Twitter tweets that are grouped together into a timeline should not be rendered with non-Twitter content. e.g. comments, updates from other networks.”

In other words, don’t combine tweets with material from Facebook, YouTube or anywhere else. Yet this is exactly what many news organisations do when they cover breaking news, using tools such as ScribbleLive or Storify.

In his analysis of the guidelines, Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper noted that the rule “ is very broad and will bite more services and apps than you may expect. It’s probably the clause that caused the dispute with LinkedIn, and why Flipboard CEO Mike McCue just left Twitter’s board.”

The restrictions on mixing tweets in with other material could hamstrung news outlets. The practice of live blogging, pulling together material from reporters, news agencies and social media, has become common on news websites.

Live blogs have proved a powerful means to provide compelling and multifaceted coverage of news events, weaving a rich tapestry of human experience by pulling in from different networks.

It points to a more collaborative form of journalism, where the journalist acts as a curator, selecting the most relevant and powerful material, be it a tweet, a YouTube video or a photo on Flickr.

The stricter guidelines on the use of tweets go against the trend towards more inclusive, open and networked forms of journalism.

August 16 2012

14:00

Prehype Uses Collaboration to Bring Startup Culture to Big Companies

What if you could incubate the energy and talent that fuels so many startups, inside a big company?

Prehype, a product innovation company with offices in New York City, London, Copenhagen, and Rio, is doing just that, providing an infrastructure of collaboration in which big company executives and their team members willingly play on equal ground. The result? Companies retain more talent, and entrepreneurial employees get the chance to remake their day jobs into their dream jobs.

Capturing the Startup Spirit

Henrik Werdelin

In the not-so-distant past, every business school graduate's dream was to get an offer from a Fortune 500 company, thanks to the promise of a good salary, competitive benefits, and a strong foothold on the corporate ladder. But these days, new MBAs are increasingly forming their own ventures instead. And often, the startups they create are the result of collaboration.

At the Wharton School, 5 percent of graduating MBAs started their own business rather than looking for jobs; that means more Wharton MBAs are becoming entrepreneurs than hedge fund managers. At Stanford, a whopping 12 percent of 2012 MBAs started their own businesses rather than going to work for someone else.

Big companies are scared by this trend -- and they should be. The talented employee who tenders her resignation in order to start her own company often inspires others to follow suit. This exodus lowers morale at a big company and causes a drain on the talent pipeline that such companies have long taken for granted.

Enter Prehype, which brings the creativity and exhilaration of a startup venture into big company structures. Prehype founder Henrik Werdelin, a Danish digital dynamo, has designed his career around turning conventional business wisdom on its head. Watch a video of Henrik talking about innovation:

Rebuild big business - how to innovate from within?, Henrik Werdelin, Prehype from Rebuild21 on Vimeo.

He and partners Philip Petersen and Steven Dean all have deep product experience working for and with big companies and startups alike, so they speak both cultures' languages. And they believe the two cultures have much to learn from one another -- and a lot to gain by collaborating.

Cultivating Internal Stars

Traditionally, when a big company wants to expand into a new line of business or target a new customer segment, it scrambles to hire outside talent. Prehype helps break this paradigm, focusing instead on finding entrepreneurial talent inside a company's ranks.

Prehype then helps these internal entrepreneurs -- or "Entrepreneurs in Residence" -- develop their new product ideas and pitch them to company executives. When execs give the green light, they give the employees the freedom, investment (of time and money), and opportunity to bring the idea to life.

Since a product's fate ultimately lies with customers' willingness to buy it, Prehype helps companies get customer feedback as early as possible in the life of the product -- namely, within 100 days.

Leveraging a company's existing human resources to develop innovative products comes with a host of advantages:

  1. Employees want to be happy, appreciated, intellectually challenged, and engaged. Prehype believes the best way to achieve this is to help employees execute their own ideas in an effort to support the company where they work.
  2. Companies develop a stronger spirit of collaboration, and employees feel a renewed sense of pride in their work and loyalty to the company.
  3. The 100-day launch timeline instigates a high level of camaraderie. It leaves no time for office politics, power plays, and the dreaded corporate silo mentality. To get a product off paper and into the hands of customers in 100 days, everyone involved needs to roll up their sleeves and work together.
  4. Though working for a startup sounds like nirvana to many a corporate employee, the truth is that it is a lot of work and success takes time to build. For people who have hefty financial obligations (such as mounting student loan debt, a mortgage, or a spouse or children who depend upon a stable income and benefits), leaving a corporate job for a startup can be difficult to near impossible. Prehype's method gives employees a way to keep the stability of their corporate jobs while increasing the satisfaction they get from their work.
  5. It's far cheaper for companies to fail and learn with their existing teams than it is to do an external talent search that may bring forward a candidate who doesn't understand, like, or fit into the company culture.

Making Big Companies Better

Prehype focuses on bringing together companies, entrepreneurs, and freelancers with world-class technical chops to help large companies capitalize on opportunities and minimize threats.

Of course, that doesn't always work. The bigger the company, the more complex its politics. And when a big company has been successful for a long time, it can be difficult to get its management to realize that what made them successful in the past will not necessarily make them successful in the future. Plus, in the current economic downturn, even the boldest corporate employees can be reticent about suggesting new ways of doing things, for fear of losing their jobs.

Given these challenges, why not just help entrepreneurial-minded people get out of Dodge, ditch their companies, and start their own business independently? The Prehype team certainly has the skills and connections to make that happen. Steven Dean offered one answer.

"Companies have interesting problems to solve," he said. "They have an enormous impact on society because they are deeply entrenched in our everyday living, and they have been for a long time. If we can help them succeed, then we all win."

Though they are open to working with a wide variety of companies in a whole host of industries, the Prehype team has found that certain company characteristics are more likely to predict success with the Prehype model than others. Midsize companies, with a demonstrated ability to change with the times, are much more open to the Prehype methodology. It also helps if a company's back is up against the wall and it has no choice but to change or fall off the map. Desperate times call for unprecedented measures, which can be just what's needed to allow a company to embrace the change it needs.


Prehype is currently on the hunt for new markets and partners who want to reinvent the way business innovates. Given the number of frustrated corporate employees and big companies that desperately need creative solutions to stay alive, I'd say Prehype has a lot of potential ahead of it, indeed.

Christa Avampato is a product developer, freelance writer, and yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. She blogs daily about the art of creative living at Christa In New York: Curating a Creative Life. Learn more about the things that light her up by visiting her company website Chasing Down the Muse and very-often-updated Twitter feed.

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August 13 2012

14:00

Movement-Based Arts Inspire Public Lab's DIY Environmental Science

Researchers at Public Laboratory pursue environmental justice creatively, through re-imagining our relationship with the environment. Our model is to rigorously ask oddball questions, then initiate research by designing or adapting locally accessible tools and methods to collect the data we need to answer those questions.

We've found, perhaps not surprisingly, that innovation in tools and methods frequently emerges from creative practices. In the larger trend of art plus science collaboration, 2D graphics, illustration, and visualization get most of the glory. But sculpture and dance are also major drivers of environmental imagination -- and therefore scientific inquiry.

taking back the production of research supplies

publiclab.jpg

In early July, approximately 25 people gathered in the cool interior of the 600,000-square-foot Pfizer building to design and build kites and balloons. This event was led by a sculptor, Mathew Lippincott, one of the co-founders of Public Laboratory. From his workshop in Portland, Ore., he's been researching the performance of tyvek and bamboo as well as ultra-lightweight plastic coated with iron oxide powder that heats itself in the sun. Because community researchers around the world use commercially produced kites and balloons to lift payloads (such as visible and infrared cameras, air quality sensors, and grab samplers) high into the air, this is part of a mission-critical initiative to take back the production of research supplies into the hands of local communities.

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dancers and scientists collaborate

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What you may not be expecting to hear is that half of the workshop attendees were dancers or choreographers, organized by Lailye Weidman and Jessica Einhorn, two fellows of iLAND, an organization dedicated to collaboration between dancers and scientists. Inspired by embodied investigations into atmospheric pressure and dynamics, these dancers joined the sculptors to drive forward a research agenda into the little-understood urban wind condition. Other attendees included engineers, theater artists, design students, landscape architects, and urban foresters. This group spent the weekend splitting bamboo, heat seaming painter's plastic towards building a solar-heated balloon large enough to lift a person, and learning about aerodynamics through attempting to fly their creations.

This work on the replicability (ease of making) and autonomy (easily procurable materials) of DIY aerial platforms -- directed by the aesthetic and embodied sense of sculptors and dancers -- has increased the ability of non-professional scientists to ask and answer their questions about their environment.

14:00

How National Geographic Used Cowbird Storytelling Tool to Tell a Reservation's Whole Story

Sometimes, it takes more than one storyteller to get a story right -- especially when the subjects of the story are members of a community that often feels misrepresented by media.

Thanks to multimedia storytelling tool Cowbird, photographer Aaron Huey and National Geographic were able to collaborate with the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation to jointly tell their story to the world. The result: the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project, a companion to the August 2012 cover story in National Geographic magazine.

The Roots of a New Storytelling Approach

After working with the Oglala Lakota people for seven years, Huey felt their stories couldn't adequately be conveyed in the pages of a magazine.

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"To make a really great narrative [in print] often means only telling the story of a couple of people, and trying to use those stories to tell the larger story of the community and where it's going," Huey said. "That's often confusing for the community itself. People always asked me why I couldn't fit in something about the all-star basketball team, or the scholars going on to college. Everyone wanted something specific and claimed that I was missing the entire story because I didn't have those things. They felt like they were misrepresented. They felt like for decades in the media, they'd been misrepresented."

While on a John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University, Huey reflected on this storytelling dilemma. He tried to build a multimedia platform himself that could be used by National Geographic, but he realized quickly that he didn't have "the money or the expertise" for the job. But when he discovered Cowbird, an online storytelling tool developed by Jonathan Harris, Huey knew it was just right for the stories he wanted to tell.

"It was obvious that it was the perfect collaboration. I didn't need to reinvent the wheel," he said.

Telling the Whole Story, Unfiltered

Cowbird allows people to tell stories with photos, audio, timelines, maps, and other media. Working together, Huey, Harris and the National Geographic team crafted a Cowbird story interface and embedded it into the magazine's website.

Each block on the page tells a different story, from bits of tribal history to an account of one boy's encounter with racism. One photo, titled "Rez joke #2," shows Lakota men in line at a convenience store with the caption, "Pine Ridge traffic jam."

Submissions continue to roll in. Huey screens each story to ensure that it connects to Pine Ridge or the Oglala Lakota in some way; stories are otherwise unedited.

"National Geographic was incredibly brave to run this unedited content and to trust me to do this right," Huey said.

Inspiring New Approaches

The magazine's editor-in-chief, Chris Johns, said Cowbird and the "unfiltered voice" of the Pine Ridge storytellers were a natural fit for National Geographic. "This is a future that we're terribly excited about and fully embracing. This just suits our DNA perfectly."

For a magazine whose goal is representing often new, distant and unfamiliar places and cultures, this partnership has inspired thinking about new storytelling possibilities.

"I believe in the importance of letting people have their voice," Johns said. "We want to hear the voices of others, the voices of those who were photographed, to hear what they feel about the work we are doing."

Huey said this style of storytelling will continue in his own work, and he hopes it's something more journalists will embrace.

"We can't just put stories out there that are filtered through one or two people's vision anymore," he said. He noted that tools like Cowbird that enable multifaceted storytelling are especially useful for telling stories about a community likely to feel misrepresented by media.

"It's the right tool whenever there is a possibility for people to feel misrepresented -- when we as journalists are talking in big brush strokes about whole peoples or ways of thinking," he said.

Huey hopes that the Pine Ridge project will contain more than 500 stories by the end of 2012.

"We found a way to make the story infinitely expanding," he said. "The only limitation is apathy."

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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August 08 2012

14:00

The Art of Collaboration: Inside the New York Theatre Workshop

Editor's note: Collaboration Central occasionally looks at collaborations outside of the journalism world to glean lessons for what works elsewhere. This story looks at collaboration inside an award-winning theater company to explore inspiration for media organizations.

"Without collaboration, you can't make a play." --Jim Nicola, artistic director of the New York Theatre Workshop

Since 1988, Jim Nicola has been at the helm of the New York Theatre Workshop. Last season, he led this non-profit theater company to win 13 Tony Awards for the smash hits "Once" and "Peter and the Starcatcher."

In a wide-ranging interview, Nicola told me that he sees the role of artistic director as that of "facilitator in chief."

"My job is to support, sustain and nurture the relationship between artists and the audience," he said.

As someone who spent more than six years managing Broadway shows and national tours, I know first-hand that collaboration is an essential ingredient of any theater company's success. But not everyone takes collaboration as seriously as Nicola and the NYTW -- or applies collaboration to achieve such impressive results.

Collaboration's The Thing

Jim Nicola

From my first day on the job in theater, I understood in a visceral way that no man is an island in this business. A successful show effectively fuses the talents of a vast cast of characters, onstage and behind the scenes. And yet the writers, actors, musicians, designers, crew members and managers involved in a show often have competing interests, needs and opinions about how a production should come together. To add further complication, all of these parties have their creative reputations riding on the outcome of the final product.

This means that the leadership of the artistic director is critical to unite cast and crew members behind a single set of artistic decisions. Everything rides on this person's ability to transform a group of artists with strong opinions into a tight-knit community dedicated to one another and to the work. It is a Herculean task -- and one that Nicola handles with tremendous grace and savvy.

Community-Fueled Creativity

"We have a structure of collaboration and relationships and that structure is vital to our work," Nicola explained. A new NYTW show typically begins with a reading from one of the Usual Suspects, a group of affiliated artists 500-strong that receive support from NYTW. Each member of NYTW's collaborative community, including critics and audience members, has a stake in shaping and reshaping a show until each artistic element helps the story rise to its potential. It is a beautiful and rare process in this day and age of overproduced shows, celebrity leads, and ever-shrinking budgets.

"To do justice to a piece of theater, it needs to be in the mouths of actors," Nicola said. "That's why our labs and reading series are so critical to our creative process."

Once a reading is complete, NYTW uses a feedback technique called the "Critical Response Process" created by artist Liz Lerman. The process is composed of a series of questions that pass between the creative team and audience members, with the goal of giving the creative team useful feedback:

  1. The creative team asks the audience, "What ideas did you walk away with?"
  2. The creative team asks the audience their opinions of specific artistic elements in the show. For example, "How did you feel about the minimal number of props that were used in the show?"
  3. The audience asks the creative team specific questions about the motivations behind any artistic element in the show. For example, "Why was everyone wearing green hats?" The creative team may not have the answers right away.
  4. The audience shares its opinions and recommended fixes with the creative team.

If this process sounds lengthy and tedious, it is. It's also necessary in order for NYTW to continue its lineage of producing meaningful art. Collaboration is the vital ingredient that keeps NYTW at the top of its game and on the leading edge of a crowded field.

"Acts of creativity require collective support. When someone comes to see a show at NYTW, they are peering through a small window into a much larger image of what we do here," Nicola said. "There is an entire community at NYTW that is much bigger than any one production, and we want the audience to be a part of it."

The Role of the Audience

NYTW recently took the idea of audience participation to a whole new level when it staged the original production of "Once," the hit musical that transferred to Broadway and won eight Tony Awards this year, including Best Musical. The audience spent the pre-show inhabiting the on-stage bar that serves as the show's main location.

Nicola explained that NYTW does not try to entertain; instead, he wants the audience to think long and hard about the larger implications raised by the themes of a show and reflect upon how those implications make them feel about their own lives.

"We have an obligation to help the audience figure out what they think and why," he continued. "You are a citizen, one part of the fabric of humanity, and life is getting more and more complicated. You need to have opinions and thoughts on how it's unfolding. Theater is just a reflection of what's happening in society. Let's talk about it. We don't need to agree, but we do need to come together and share our points of view."

"A writer can write," Nicola said, "and a painter can paint independently. Theater is different. Everything we do here has to be an act of collaboration. And here, everyone counts."

Christa Avampato is a product developer, freelance writer, and yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. She blogs daily about the art of creative living at Christa In New York: Curating a Creative Life. Learn more about the things that light her up by visiting her company website Chasing Down the Muse and very-often-updated Twitter feed.

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April 29 2012

21:04

Going virtual: Technology doesn't (aim to) substitute "touch"

AdAge :: If the need arises, Dojo's team in San Francisco can have face time with clients in Europe at the drop of a hat. That's the beauty of the 2-year-old agency's extensive video-conference setup, said Managing Director Tiffany Coletti Titolo. "We can present to a client in Fremont, Calif., or in Switzerland without losing days to travel or wasting a client's money." In an industry once famous for three-martini lunches, virtual communication has become ubiquitous as more agencies and clients scale back on travel. The question is if something's lost when business is done virtually.

Continue to read Kunur Patel, adage.com

April 27 2012

13:38

Photo Gallery: Collab/Space 2012 Event in Berkeley

On April 11, we convened our very first event on collaboration, Collab/Space 2012, at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, Calif. We had a sold-out group of 80-plus folks interested in learning, sharing and interacting about collaborative journalism. Here's a photo gallery of people who attended the all-day event. If you click on a photo, it will link you to the image on Flickr, where you can see a caption of who is in the picture.

Rosa Ramirez (@rosamramirez) has covered immigration, food policy, health and Hispanic affairs for various publications including HealthyCal.org, Daytona Beach News-Journal, Rocky Mountain News, Birmingham Post-Herald and Hispanic Link News Service. She's currently completing a dual masters program in journalism and Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley.

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April 26 2012

14:00

LedeHub to Foster Open, Collaborative Journalism

I'm honored to be selected as one of the inaugural AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship fellows for the 2012-13 academic school year, and am excited to begin work on my project, LedeHub.

I believe in journalism's ability to better the world around us. To fully realize the potential of journalism in the digital age, we need to transform news into a dialogue between readers and reporters. LedeHub does just that, fostering collaborative, continuous and open journalism while incorporating elements of crowdsourcing to allow citizens, reporters and news organizations to come together in unprecedented ways.

LedeHub in Action

Here's a potential case study: "Alice" isn't a journalist, but she loves data and can spot the potential for a story amid the rows and columns of a CSV file. She comes across some interesting census data illustrating the rise of poverty in traditionally wealthy Chicagoland suburbs, but isn't quite sure how to use it, so she points her browser to www.ledehub.com. She creates a new story repository called "census-chicago-12," tags it under "Government Data," and commits the numbers.

Two days later, "Bob" -- a student journalist with a knack for data reporting -- is browsing the site and comes across Alice's repository. He forks it and commits a couple paragraphs of analysis. Alice sees Bob's changes and likes where he's headed, so she merges it back into her repository, and the two continue to collaborate. Alice works on data visualization, and Bob continues to do traditional reporting, voicing the story of middle-class families who can no longer afford to send their children to college.

A few days later, a news outlet like the Chicago Tribune sees "census-chicago-12" and flags it as a promising repository -- pulls it, edits, fact-checks and publishes the story, giving Alice and Bob their first bylines.

As you can see, LedeHub re-imagines the current reporting and writing workflow while underscoring the living nature of articles. By representing stories as "repositories" -- with the ability to edit, update, commit and revert changes over time -- the dynamic nature of news is effectively captured.

Fostering Open-Source Journalism

GitHub and Google Code are social coding platforms that have done wonders for the open-source community. I'd like to see similar openness in the journalism industry.

My proposal for LedeHub is to adapt the tenets of Git -- a distributed version control system -- and appropriate its functionality as it applies to the processes of journalism. I will implement a web application layer on top of this core functionality to build a tool for social reporting, writing and coding in the open. This affords multiple use cases for LedeHub, as illustrated in the case study I described above -- users can start new stories, or search for and contribute to stories already started. I'd like to mirror the basic structure of GitHub, but re-appropriate the front end to cater to the news industry and be more reporter-focused, not code-driven. That said, here's a screenshot of the upcoming LedeHub repository on GitHub (to give you a general idea of what the LedeHub dashboard might look like):

ledehub.jpg

Each story repository may contain text, data, images or code. The GitHub actions of committing (adding changes), forking (diverging story repositories to allow for deeper collaboration and account for potential overlap) and cloning will remain analagous in LedeHub. Repositories will be categorized according to news "topics" or "areas" like education or politics. Users -- from citizens to reporters or coders -- will have the ability to "watch" different story repositories they are interested in and receive updates when changes to that story are made. Users can also comment on different "commits" for a story, offering their input or suggestions for improvement. GitHub offers a "company" option, which allows for multiple users to be added to the organization, a feature I would like to mimic in my project for news outlets, in addition to Google Code's "issues" feature.

Next Steps

I recognize that the scope of my project is ambitious, and my current plan is to segment implementation into iterations -- to build an initial prototype to test within one publication and expand from there.

Journalism needs to become more open, like the web. Information should be shared. The collaboration between the New York Times and the Guardian over WikiLeaks data was very inspiring, two "competing" organizations sharing confidential information for publication. With my project, LedeHub, I hope to foster similar transparency and collaboration.

So, that's the proposal. There's still a lot to figure out. For example, what's the best way to motivate users to collaborate? What types of data can be committed? What copyright issues need to be considered? Should there be compensation involved? Fact-checking? Sound off. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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Katie Zhu is a junior at Northwestern University, studying journalism and computer science, and is particularly interested in human-computer interaction, data visualization and interaction design. She has previously interned at GOOD in Los Angeles, where she helped build GOOD's mobile website. She continues development work part-time throughout the school year, and enjoys designing and building products at the intersection of news and technology. She was selected as a finalist in the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership in 2011.

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April 24 2012

14:00

Collaborating for Dollars: How to Raise Revenue With Others

At the recent Collab/Space 2012 event, more hands shot up when Journalism Accelerator's Emily Harris asked who was interested in generating revenue than for any other question. Clearly, there's big interest in collaborating to earn money.

Here, then, are some pointers on collaborating to earn revenue and otherwise improve business performance.

Share The Pie to Make It Bigger

The common model in the media business used to be that one party would pay another a flat fee for a specified service or product. A publisher, for example, paid a vendor for printing or distribution. A freelancer got a check for a specified amount, agreed upon in advance.

PieThese days, however, it's increasingly common for two parties in a media deal to share revenue as it grows, rather than for one to fork over a single lump sum -- an approach that aligns interests and keeps both sides working toward the same goal.

Content creators for platforms like YouTube, BlogTV and Yahoo Voices can earn more revenue as what they produce gets more traffic. Vendors like AdSense and ad networks collect a share of revenue as it's earned, rather than simply charging a fee upfront for their technology.

Sure, if you're a content creator, it can be hard to let go of the impulse to keep all the money your efforts earn -- after all, the more participants there are, the more revenue has to be generated to support them. But your chances of earning more revenue grow if more people are collaborating to help make a project a success.

Help Promotion and Distribution

The more people or organizations there are collaborating on a media effort, the more promotional and distribution outlets become available, from websites to social networks, broadcast outlets, emails, mobile platforms, word of mouth, and so on. 

A New York Times executive recently told me that the paper's collaboration with WNYC on SchoolBook generates a lot more awareness of the education website because of the radio station's reach. (Read our previous coverage of SchoolBook.)

Lowell Bergman

Such active linking and sharing can, in turn, increase a product's search engine visibility, thus generating more traffic over time. And every additional pageview that carries revenue opportunities such as ads equals more money over time.

For non-profits, increased traffic can lead to increased funding.

"Collaborations could lead to ... more recognition, more distribution and more impact for stories," MediaShift's Mark Glaser, who co-hosted Collab/Space with UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program (Berkeley IRP), wrote on a discussion thread started by Harris on the Journalism Accelerator website. "That could lead to more donations, memberships and foundation interest for funding."

At Collab/Space, co-host Lowell Bergman of Berkeley IRP pointed out that a Frontline collaboration with another news organization generated twice the viewership of a typical episode of the investigative documentary series.

Increase Efficiencies and Decrease Costs

In today's resource-starved news business, with reporters being laid off and fact-checking and copy desks eviscerated, it's increasingly difficult for any individual news organization to have the person-hours needed to carefully report a story and get it right.

"Collaboration has become something that is not just optional," Glaser said at the event. "It's become something that's really required and necessary."

Collaborating creates efficiencies by enabling partners to report and produce different parts of the same story. Rather than having multiple partners send a reporter or camera operator to a news conference, the partnership can send one coverage team, and other staff can focus on complementary work. People who are good at writing can write; those who specialize in video production can focus on that; and so forth. Organizations can share resources on the business side, too.

"Do we all want to be islands, or do we want to collaborate, share things like back-office operations?" asked Evelyn Larrubia of the Investigative News Network collaborative, which helps its dozens of members share "back-end" resources such as billing and accounting. "The problem we're solving is not a content problem. It's a resource problem and a depth problem."

Change the Mentality and Learn "Coopetition"

arm wrestling

Journalists needed to learn, as technologists in Silicon Valley have, that sometimes, cooperation with competitors is the best thing for your business, Glaser said. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Foursquare and many other media and technology companies share some level of information and code with competitors, knowing they'll be stronger for having done so.

As The Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Gawker have shown, others will share your material and build a business on it with or without your active participation; in that case, it's better to form proactive partnerships for mutual benefit.

Many news organizations and some journalists still tend to be proprietary about their efforts. But in a linked economy, why invest resources in "matching" a story that's just a click away?

"We have to have this kind of cultural shift," Glaser said. "There's a kind of ownership of the story that ... becomes about us. 'I want this scoop, I want the award.' What we have lost along the way is it's not about us, it's about serving people -- uncovering things that are important."

Oakland Local's Susan Mernit talked at Collab/Space about a for-profit news organization that "doesn't link out" and refused to help fund her organization's efforts to contribute to their site for fear her not-for-profit group would eventually overtake them. Both, actually, could have benefited and earned more revenue from the content.

Build Smart Networks to Build Value

Collaboration can take advantage of the network effect, the concept that the more nodes there are in a network, the more value there is to the network and to each of those nodes -- even when the nodes are competitors.

One apt illustration is "private label" ad networks that allow similar, sometimes competitive websites to aggregate their page views and communities through platforms such as Addiply, BSA Private Label and AdKiwi and increase each site's ability to appeal to advertisers they'd have more trouble reaching on their own.

In one example, a group of local websites that reach different neighborhoods around Chicago are banding together and increasing their ability to sell throughout the region with one sales staff.

Large media companies such as NBC Universal and Cox media have formed their own private label networks to group sites by subject, such as health, sports and food. Collaborating in this way can lead to more revenue for all.

Limit Liability

Imagine if CBS News had collaborated with computer experts to vet documents allegedly showing George W. Bush shirked his duties in the National Guard, or if Jason Blair had collaborators on his false stories published in Times. In each case, the news organization could have saved huge embarrassment and cost, and even kept the focus on the issues in the stories rather than the mistakes.

Also, the more contributors and organizations there are behind a story, the less easy it is for someone offended by it to take legal action. As Bergman noted, "If you can spread the liability on a story," you can make those who might sue think a little more before they do.

By its nature, business is a collaborative venture. All sides must derive value for a deal to succeed, and that's never been truer than in today's media business. Journalists who've grown up in a lone wolf, competitive culture would do well to emulate the lessons of their brethren in other domains.

Related Stories

> Collab/Space 2012: Building Trust, Tools and Relationships for Collaborating by Meghan Walsh

> Live Coverage of the Collab/Space 2012 Event by Ashwin Seshagiri

> Collab/Space 2012 Detailed Agenda

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An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk and you can Circle him on Google+.

Pie photo courtesy of Flickr user Mackenzie Mollo; arm wrestling photo courtesy of Flickr user Fabio Venni.

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April 20 2012

13:27

Catalysts of Collaboration: What Motivates New Journalism Partnerships

The shift from competition to collaboration in the American newsroom has been so profound that in 2009 the Columbia Journalism Review published an article on "Journalism's collaborative future," arguing that "there is something fundamental under way." That same year, Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger wrote, "I've seen the future, and it's mutual." The trend is clear, and by all accounts collaborations are expanding and maturing, but do we have a clear enough understanding of what motivates these collaborative efforts? What are the factors inside and outside the newsroom that are inspiring this great collaborative shift?

At MIT's Center for Civic Media in 2010 Scott Rosenberg, executive editor of Grist and Salon co-founder, commented:

There is a professional transition in the field from an environment where competition was the dominant mode of interacting with other organizations to an era where dividing labor and sharing might serve the public better.

The past few years have created a perfect storm of economic crisis, technological transition, and cultural change that have combined to help inspire many journalists to explore news partnerships. Below, I explore three factors that are motivating journalists to work together.

Rapid Technological Change

Journalism practice has always been tied to technological development. In their book, "Four Theories of the Press," Fred Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm argue, "The press always takes on the form and coloration of the social and political structures within which it operates." Historically, we've seen this as the telegraph led to the development of the inverted pyramid, the telephone begat the phone interview, and the always-on cable news channels resulted in the 24-hour news cycle.

telegraph.jpg

One thing that differentiates the current batch of technological changes and their impact on journalism is the profound pace of that change. Now, the Internet, mobile devices and new digital tools are prompting the profession of journalism to become more collaborative, by fostering interaction with the public and with other news organizations.

Platforms like Publish2, a content-management system; Stroome, a browser-based video editing platform; and DocumentCloud, a repository for primary documents -- among many others -- are helping to lower the costs of reporting and publishing and connecting individual journalists and newsrooms around shared resources. One of the most ambitious of these projects is the Public Media Platform, which former NPR CEO Vivian Schiller said would "allow all of the content from [various public media] entities -- whether news or cultural products -- to flow freely among the partners and member stations, and, ultimately, also to other publishers, other not-for-profits and software developers who will invent wonderful new products that we can't even imagine."

In addition, collaboration between newsrooms and the public is growing. Examples include CNN's iReport, Huffington Post's OffTheBus and various crowdsourcing projects from ProPublica and others. As a society we are witnessing a technologically driven resurgence in all kinds of sharing, and journalism organizations are a key part of that development.

Economic Factors

This new era of collaboration is not just a function of shiny new gadgets, platforms or programs. It's impossible to ignore the effect the economic recession has had in prompting collaboration. We're living through one of the most difficult periods in the history of the news business (albeit, one of the most exciting), where sharp budget reductions, shrinking ad revenues, dramatic shifts in audiences' media consumption habits, and a range of self-inflicted wounds (from media consolidation to unhealthy debt loads) have upended news organizations' longstanding business models and sparked an age of reinvention and experimentation.

nothiring.jpg

Indeed, many collaborative journalism projects have either been started or are staffed by some of the 30,000-plus people who lost newsroom jobs over the last four years. Esther Kaplan of the Nation Investigative Fund, which "incubates and supports" investigative stories and journalists until the stories are published across a network of magazines like the Atlantic and Mother Jones, has called her effort a "social safety net" for laid-off reporters.

Journalism collaborations present opportunities to share resources and costs, allowing media outlets -- especially independent ones -- to maximize their dwindling budgets. Examples include the Investigative News Network and the Media Consortium, which help independent news organizations with things like back office support, fundraising, and the facilitation of editorial collaborations. In its big-picture report "The Big Thaw," the Media Consortium suggests that the rise of collaboration represents a shift toward a human-centered "alternative economy" that puts community impact and engagement at the center of journalism.

Finally, the economics of collaboration are not only driven by what has been lost, but also by what has been gained as foundations focus on expanding their impact by supporting collaborative projects across organizations. According to J-Lab at American University, foundations have spent upwards of $143 million since 2005 to support new journalism projects, many with collaborative elements. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) provided $1 million in mid-2010 for the new Public Media Platform initiative that hopes to create a shared API for community and public media. CPB and the Knight Foundation have also funded regional collaborative journalism ventures between local public TV and radio stations around the country.

Better Journalism

Not all of the factors driving collaboration are external to the work of journalism itself. Many early converts to collaborative journalism argue that it produces a superior product. Spot.Us founder David Cohn has said, on more than one occasion, that if content is king, collaboration is queen. Through collaboration you can tap into skills and expertise outside your organization (such as multimedia production), uncover new story angles, bring in diverse perspectives, and extend the reach and influence of your work.

In the Columbia Journalism Review editorial mentioned above, the editors write:

From foreign capitals to U.S. statehouses, [journalism collaboration] is a way to extend our shrinking newsrooms, begin to rebuild public trust and ensure that the standards of the professional press help shape the development of new journalistic endeavors.

awards.jpg

In recent years, collaborative journalism projects have been earning significant awards. ProPublica has won numerous awards for its collaborations with NPR and other new organizations. The California HealthCare Foundation Center for Health Reporting and the Chico Enterprise-Record won an award from the Association of Health Care Journalists for their joint reporting on woodstove smoke pollution. And the Tiziano Project won a community collaboration award from the Online News Association for its work promoting collaborative journalism in Iraq.

While the other factors above provide external pressure on journalists, most wouldn't embrace collaboration if it wasn't helping them do better journalism.

From Safety in Numbers to Strength in Numbers

Regardless of the catalyst for collaboration, there is a growing sense in the news business that we are all in this together.

The magnitude of this shift toward working together, not just across newsrooms but across the profession as a whole, is perhaps best epitomized by the widespread adoption of a "Show Your Work" ethos. The credo, which encourages journalists and programmers to be transparent with the work they do and share the lessons of their work with the field, was first promoted by the Chicago Tribune apps team last year, and has also been embraced by ProPublica -- but the mantra has spread well beyond these two newsrooms. Dan Sinker, head of the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership, called Show Your Work "perhaps the biggest thing to affect journalism development" of 2011.

Show Your Work is a great example of how collaboration can turn safety in numbers into strength in numbers. Instead of collaborating simply because everyone around you is trying to do more with less, this approach suggests that by working together, we can all achieve more with more. We can build on each other's work, failures and successes to help build better journalism together.

What other motivations and external factors drive journalism collaborations, and how does understanding these catalysts help us better facilitate news partnerships?

Matt Schafer contributed additional research and reporting for this post.

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Josh Stearns is a journalist, organizer and community strategist. He is Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director for Free Press, a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization working to reform the media through education, organizing and advocacy. He was a co-author of "Saving the News: Toward a national journalism strategy," "Outsourcing the News: How covert consolidation is destroying newsrooms and circumventing media ownership rules," and "On the Chopping Block: State budget battles and the future of public media." Find him on Twitter at @jcstearns.

Photos above by Flickr users Chris Willis, Bart Heird, and Rob n' Renee.

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April 19 2012

14:00

How the Pomegranate Center Is Transforming Communities Through Collaboration

"I work with communities of place ... just people who happen to live together in the same neighborhood, same city, same town, who come from different cultures, ideologies, religions, tastes and values. In my philosophy, those differences are the greatest untapped asset we have in our society. In what conditions can those differences lead to something productive?" --Milenko Matanovic

milenko.jpg

Milenko Matanovic is a self-described recovering artist whose Pomegranate Center in Issaquah, Wash., is using collaboration to transform communities nationwide.

The center, which Matanovic founded in 1986, is a non-profit organization that works with communities "to imagine, plan and create shared public places designed to encourage social interaction and to build a local sense of identity." Why the emphasis on public spaces? "Unintentional encounters happen in intentional places," the center's website explains, noting that "modern U.S. communities may be among the first ever to be built without town squares or commons or central gathering places."

The Pomegranate Center is currently working with tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa, Ala., for example, to create an amphitheater and picnic shelters constructed primarily of materials salvaged from the ruins. Over the course of 2011, the center worked with 781 volunteers, who gave 8,000 hours of time to conceptualize, design and build gathering places in five different communities in the Seattle area. Here's a video explaining how the center worked with Walla Walla, Wash., to turn an area rampant with drug and gang activity into a thriving community park:

I first learned about Matanovic when I stumbled on this interview with him on the PopTech blog, which includes a video of his excellent 2011 PopTech talk:

Solving Problems (Instead of Arguing)

In the PopTech video, Matanovic describes the tension that inevitably arises in any collaboration between pragmatism and idealism -- between the people in the room who want to focus on what's doable, and others who want to focus, instead, on articulating a full-bodied vision of what should be done. As someone who's managed a number of collaborative projects, this observation rang true, and I wondered -- what does the Pomegranate Center do to resolve, or at least negotiate, this tension?

The key to resolving this and other tensions, Matanovic said, is to establish clear ground rules for discussion that steer the group toward active problem-solving, and away from simply advocating pre-existing positions.

The center invites each community it works with to contribute ground rules, but has a core set of rules it takes from project to project. Rule No. 1: Participants need to agree to listen. Matanovic is quick to point out that "listening" isn't just about waiting for your turn to talk; instead, it's about "being courageous enough to allow new thoughts to enter one's awareness." In other words: Be willing to change your mind based on new information. The best solutions usually come in what Matanovic calls the "second or third generation of ideas, when people start improvising and riffing off each other."

pomegranate3.jpg

The center also establishes at the outset of its meetings that there's no blaming allowed. And it's not enough to say no to something; it's much more courageous to propose something better instead. (Matanovic calls this turning "opposition into proposition.") Another of the center's ground rules: Be respectful, and be mindful of giving everyone time to talk. Having this ground rule established at the outset lets the facilitator keep the discussion on track without being combative. For example, if someone is dominating the discussion, the facilitator might say, "Remember, there are 40 people here, and we only have an hour, so please bring your comments to a close."

The real success, Matonovic said, is when the group takes responsibility for their code of conduct, encouraging each other to be constructive and creative.

Facilitation is Key

Matanovic emphasized that facilitators need to be "assertive and firm" in enforcing how the conversation is being conducted, while remaining neutral on the substance of the conversation. (The Pomegranate Center firmly believes that the community needs to have full control of the project's vision, in order to feel ownership of the final product.)

Facilitators also need to ask questions that steer discussion in a constructive direction. For example, at the first community meeting in Tuscaloosa, each of the approximately 60 attendees started out promoting that the planned project should be built in their own neighborhoods. The facilitator quickly intervened, asking, "If the project wasn't built in your neighborhood -- then what neighborhood should it be built in?" Matanovic remembers how in that instant, a woman who had been advocating her neighborhood suddenly shifted gears, naming a lower income neighborhood as the best location for the project. Others quickly followed suit.

The facilitator then emphasized that the question wasn't, "Where should the project be located?"; rather, the question was, "Where should we locate this first project to increase the chances of creating additional gathering places in the future?" "Our goal," Matanovic said, "is to stimulate a movement in the city -- to start with a pilot project, then mentor other people to replicate our work, until it becomes a normal standard of conduct in the community."

Respecting Multiple Intelligences

wallawalla.jpg

In addition to tensions between idealists and pragmatists, a host of other common tensions arise in town after town: tensions between those who make decisions based on data, and those who are more motivated by intuition, for example, or between those who talk in terms of concrete details, and those who prefer to speak more broadly, emphasizing values. These tensions, Matanovic said, stem from bringing together people with multiple intelligences. "People are smart in different ways," he said, "and we take that seriously. That's why we build things -- we don't just talk." This last point is critical: "Once hands and bodies get involved," he said, "a whole other layer of participation and collaboration is possible than if we just talked."

This emphasis on action and results is key to the Pomegranate formula. People are tired of attending endless meetings without seeing results, Matanovic said, noting that everywhere he travels, people seem to be getting skeptical about the idea of visioning; too often, they've been asked what they think, without evidence that anything happens with their input. This, he said, does not bode well for participatory democracy; people need to feel good about participating, and they need to know that their input matters. "That's why we move very succinctly through our process," Matanovic explained, with a limit of three to four meetings maximum per community. "Most talented people will disappear after two to three meetings," he said. That's enough time to arrive at the "essence of a vision," at which point Pomegranate staff can begin the design process, based on a community's vision.

Collaboration: Alone, Together

"I learned that what I need to do is both listen to the community -- so I'm open to understanding what's going on -- and then I shift to become a design team leader, and I need to make sense of all that information I just absorbed," Matanovic said. The latter, he observed, is "very individual work" (which often happens in the middle of the night) -- and yet, even this individual work is part of the collaborative process, in his mind. "It's like jazz," he said. "The teamwork and individual virtuosity are completely intertwined -- the greater one, the greater the other ... You build on each other."

He referenced the January New York Times article, "The Rise of the New Groupthink," which generated a lot of buzz, in which author Susan Cain argues passionately for the importance of solitude, in a culture she feels overly champions teamwork. Collaboration, Matanovic says, is typically associated with teamwork, and to him, this is a mistake. "Even in solitude, we can collaborate," he argued. How's that? "Collaboration is a state of being," he said, "that allows new information to penetrate my being -- allows otherness to enter my fixed assumption. It's a very courageous state of being that allows new things to happen. That is the foundation for me. And then some people like to collaborate physically -- and we call that teamwork -- but even in solitude, we can collaborate."

The Theater of Collaboration

"I'm not a proponent of collaboration as the only mode of expressing creativity," Matanovic said, "but I am a proponent that in this day and age, we need to be courageous about stepping beyond our assumptions. We need to find a way to work with each other's differences. This is the cutting edge of human evolution: Be centered in yourself, and be open to new information and insights at the same time."

stage.jpg

In Tuscaloosa, the visioning meetings -- which began in early December -- are over, and the design process is coming to a close. Now, the center is waiting to get the permits it needs to begin building; some grading is planned, along with some work on the site's concrete foundation. Then, for 10 days in June, a mix of local volunteers and volunteers from the center and its funder, Tully Coffee, will build a gathering place for the community, complete with an amphitheater, two picnic shelters, gateways, a new path, handcrafted banners and tiles.

Speaking of theater: Matanovic said that because of his roots in the art world, in some ways, he thinks of the center's work with communities as theater, "where people witness each other, and invisible ideas become visible."

Making invisible ideas, visible, by bringing people together -- isn't that ultimately what all collaboration is about?

Connections to Journalism?

How can news organizations apply the Pomegranate Center's model? Are there ideas here that we can apply to our work with citizens and communities as we shape products and services to meet their needs? What about collaborations between news orgs -- how can we honor that mix of "teamwork and individual virtuosity" that Matanovic describes? Share your ideas using the comments feature below.

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Amanda Hirsch is the editor of Collaboration Central. She is a writer, online media consultant and performer who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. The former editorial director of PBS.org, she blogs at amandahirsch.com spends way too much time on Twitter.

Photos courtesy of the Pomegranate Center, except for the photo of an empty stage, which is courtesy of Flickr user Simon Scott.

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13:17

The newsonomics of risking it all

Alfredo Corchado was used to getting mortal threats.

He received three in Mexico, but now he was in a Laredo bar, north of the border.

You better stop what you’re doing, or you’ll end with a bullet in your head and your body in a vat of acid, he was told. And then we’ll deliver the bones to your family in El Paso.

It was a chilling warning, or at least we’d expect it to put a chill into Corchado. An investigative reporter for the Dallas Morning News (and a former Nieman Fellow), he’s been covering the ravages of drug trafficking for years, much to the concern of his parents living, as the traffickers plainly know, in El Paso. Yet Corchado goes on with his work — as do Adela Navarro Bello of Tijuana’s Zeta news magazine, Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and Ramita Navai of the U.K.’s Channel 4. As Navarro Bello explained of her paper’s coverage of the drug trafficking that has consumed at 50,000 Mexican lives, “If we don’t publish this information, we are part of the problem.” (Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz has captured Zeta’s struggle — including the murder of two of its journalists — with a new movie.)

Each is an investigative reporter who put their lives on the line to reveal stories they think readers must know about. They spoke on the “When the Story Bites Back” panel this weekend, at UC Berkeley, part of the sixth annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium (live blogging of the conference, here, with a #Logan12 Twitter feed).

That panel and the entire spirited weekend, organized and led by esteemed investigative producer Lowell Bergman, tells us a fair amount about the business of journalism. Though it is not — like most of my work — concerned with the dollars and cents of the business, in its very essence, it describes why the current crazy-quilt economics of the business matters. Funding the journalism business isn’t like funding Sears and Kodak (“The newsonomics of the long good-bye”) or other fading institutions. It’s not even about saving a perhaps-vital American industry, like the auto industry.

It’s about keeping a lifeline of funding open so that our best reporters can do their jobs.

I’ll call it the newsonomics of risking it all because that’s what these reporters do. Many of the other Logan participants and attendees, thankfully, do less life-threatening work. Yet those represented at the conference — from ProPublica, the Washington Post, and New York Times to ABC, NBC, and NPR — are among the cream of the crop of investigative work and produce work with real public interest impact.

As we endlessly debate pay models, whether or not to work with Facebook, how to deal with Apple and Amazon and multi-platform journalism, the Logan Symposium is good tonic — certainly for those of us who attended, but really for all of us who know why this business matters to democracy. Whether and how the economics of the new news business work out isn’t an arcane question; it’s central to our collective future. The value of good, deep reporting is truly priceless.

So what about the state of investigative reporting? Look at the glass as half full and half cloudy.

What emerged from the conference, surprising to some, is that national investigative reporting is keeping its head above water. Both NBC and ABC talked about their expansions in the investigative area, while companies like NPR and Bloomberg have put new resources in as well. Units at the Post, L.A. Times, and New York Times may not be growing much, but seem to be sustaining themselves, for now.

“For now” is an important qualifier, and New York Times managing editor Dean Baquet’s opening interview at Logan, in its over-the-top self-assurance, bothered many of the conference participants with whom I talked.

Washington Post investigative editor Jeff Leen suggested that there were 200 investigative reporters paid by news media in the U.S., which I calculate as one for every 1.5 million Americans. That’s not a ratio that’s going to hold many big institutions — government, business, labor — to account. Maybe that’s why as Logan participant and new-media vet Neil Budde tweeted, “How many times will ‘existential’ be used this weekend? I think count is six so far.”

Importantly, it is largely the largest news media — mainly national and global ones — that continue to put money into investigative work; these are the Digital Dozen companies I identified in my Newsonomics book. For them, as NBC senior executive producer David Corvo put it, investigative work is a “differentiator,” important to distinguishing big news brands from one another in the digital age.

What’s going on regionally is more of a patchwork.

Dozens of people like the Logan family are using their wealth to fund investigative enterprises from coast to coast, most with little fanfare. The Knight Foundation, represented at the conference by its senior advisor and grant-giver extraordinaire Eric Newton, has put $20 million into investigative journalism. With the decline in newspaper budgets, and thus in funding of investigative teams at many regional papers, such private funding has been a lifeline, though there’s a profound sense that significantly less in-depth work is being done at former powerhouse regional papers.

This Logan conference lacked the always-odd spontaneity of a Julian Assange appearance, but it offered intriguing emphases:

  • Front and center, though not appearing in person was Rupert Murdoch. After screening “Murdoch’s Scandal,” Bergman’s Frontline documentary that aired March 27, “The Murdoch Effect: News At Any Price,” made for a raucous panel. Milly Dowler attorney Mark Lewis told how the phone hacking scandal had consumed his life and spoke of the “commercial despotism of Murdochracy” in the U.K., given the News Corp. CEO’s multi-party, decades-long influence. Big questions: What next, and if and how this tale plays out in the U.S.
  • “If it’s not on TV, the American public doesn’t know it,” observed Diana Henriques, the New York Times financial investigative reporter. Yes, we may be on the brink of this multi-platform age, where old newspapers like the Times and the Journal do video alongside print, but still — in terms of notice and public action — there’s nothing like the impact of TV documentary.
  • This is a generational challenge. Journalism has always had its challenges, but never has there been more uncertainty about how one generation can pass along its best practices to the next. Through that foundation funding, a couple of dozen younger journalists and students had their way paid into the conference. Surveying the group on the last day, Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch, summed his baby-boomer generation’s role: “I’m a bridge — we’re all bridges to the future.”

Bridging is, in part, what Lowell Bergman’s program does. UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program is a partner in the new Collaboration Central project, along with PBS MediaShift. With new funding, IRP will soon move into a new permanent office. It provides lots of training and fellowships, bringing along new generations to work alongside people like the Pulitzer Prize-winning Bergman, whose career has spanned from early Ramparts through CBS, The New York Times, and Frontline, and who was played by Al Pacino in the tobacco industry exposé The Insider.

Bergman paid tribute to his one-time CBS colleague Mike Wallace, underscoring Wallace’s storied tenacity. That tenacity, based on Wallace’s fierce journalistic power (highlighted at CBS, in story and video), is what it took a non-journalist to highlight in Berkeley.

Jules Kroll, who led the invention of the modern intelligence and security industry, gave the trade good, pointed advice. Saying he had heard a lot of journalists talking about how beleaguered they are, he noted, “You have a big impact.” His shared his inside view of the power of a good investigation. Colloquial translation: Stop whining and get on with it.

And that’s always good advice. As ProPublica managing editor Steve Engelberg aptly said, “They were whining in 1989, when times were good.” That’s true. There may be more to whine about these days than in 1989, but the power of great public service work, sometimes when lives are on the line, is one of the things that must propel the trade forward.

Photo of Alfredo Corchado by the U.S. embassy in Paraguay used under a Creative Commons license.

April 13 2012

14:00

Collab/Space 2012: Building Trust, Tools and Relationships for Collaborating

As the recent Collab/Space 2012 event made clear, the longevity of individual news outlets increasingly relies on a willingness and ability to collaborate.

Journalists, technologists and other media makers from a range of news, public media and non-profit organizations came together from across the country for the daylong event, which was hosted by the University of California at Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) and PBS MediaShift.

Going from "Me" to "We"

"It's not about us," PBS MediaShift Executive Editor Mark Glaser said. "It's about the people. It should be about how we can do it together to serve people in a better way."

Glaser described a culture of "I" in journalism: I want to get the story. I want the award. Collab/Space 2012, he said, was designed to help shift the journalism community's thinking beyond "I" and back toward what brought people into this profession to begin with.

Before the age of the Internet, collaboration was a terminable offense, observed the IRP's Lowell Bergman. But the benefits of collaboration -- from gaining additional resources to cover a story, to reaching a wider audience -- have come to outweigh individual egos, something that was evident as attendees openly discussed challenges and solutions over the course of the day.

bavc-tweet.jpg

Speaker after speaker reiterated that as financial resources continue to evaporate and social media enables more and more people to be content producers, the industry is going to have to adapt or die.

"If journalism institutions are shrinking and anyone with a smartphone is a journalist and deep investigative stories are being replaced by web hits, maybe it's time to start thinking outside the organization," Investigative News Network Executive Editor Evelyn Larubia said.

"When change comes, who survives?" asked Ulrich Nettesheim, an organizational psychologist at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, who ran an interactive exercise with the group. "The ones ready, willing and able to adapt."

Tools for Collaboration

The first half of the day was dedicated to introducing companies that can help facilitate the collaboration process.

Wendy Levy grabbed the crowd's attention when she introduced Sparkwise, a cloud-based platform that transforms raw metrics into easily digested and compelling stories using video, audio and text. Although Sparkwise wasn't explicitly created for journalists, Levy argued that in order to collaborate it will be necessary for the industry to find expedient and intelligent ways to publish data in a place where it can be aggregated with information from similar organizations. The largest obstacle, she said, is getting reporters to be willing to share their data.

civic-commons-tweet.jpg

Storify co-founder Burt Herman described how Storify allows journalists to curate social media, thus collaborating with users to tell a story. "Everybody is a reporter. Not everybody is a journalist," he said, emphasizing the value of the journalist's curatorial role. Read Herman's Storify coverage of Collab/Space here.

Another platform that enables real-time collaborative storytelling is ScribbleLive, which MediaShift used to provide live coverage of the day's events, including tweets, photos and videos. GitHub, which creates tools for open-source code development, was also present. GitHub has grown into the largest code host in the world and makes it easier to collaborate and share code.

It's the People, Stupid.

While attendees spent a good amount of time talking tools and strategies for managing collaboration, the overarching theme of the conference was relationships, which are at the core of any team effort. A few truths emerged: All players in a collaboration must trust each other, be willing to show their hand, and have faith in the common goal.

Some even wondered if relationship management should become part of journalists' core training. "Should a class on managing relationships be taught at journalism schools?" asked Meghann Farnsworth, distribution and online community manager at the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch, via Twitter -- to which Andrew Haeg, Public Insight Network co-founder, responded, "Yes":

relationship-tweet.jpg

Do you agree? And if you were at Collab/Space, what did you think of the event? Any highlights I missed? If you weren't there, are there any questions about the day's discussion that I or one of the other attendees or speakers can answer for you?

Keep up with all the new content on Collaboration Central by following our Twitter feed @CollabCentral or subscribing to our RSS feed or email newsletter:







Get Collaboration Central via Email

Meghan Walsh considers herself a print journalist but is always looking for creative ways to tell a story. She covered sports and breaking news for the Arizona Republic and then government and crime for The World newspaper before becoming associate editor of InWithSkin, a lifestyle and beauty magazine. As a graduate journalism student at UC Berkeley, she has learned to incorporate photography, video and multimedia into her storytelling. Meghan also works for the Investigate Reporting Program.

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13:15

Collab/Space 2012: Building Trust, Tools and Relationships for Collaborating

As the recent Collab/Space 2012 event made clear, the longevity of individual news outlets increasingly relies on a willingness and ability to collaborate.

Journalists, technologists and other media makers from a range of news, public media and non-profit organizations came together from across the country for the daylong event, which was hosted by the University of California at Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program (IRP) and PBS MediaShift.

Going from "Me" to "We"

"It's not about us," PBS MediaShift Executive Editor Mark Glaser said. "It's about the people. It should be about how we can do it together to serve people in a better way."

Glaser described a culture of "I" in journalism: I want to get the story. I want the award. Collab/Space 2012, he said, was designed to help shift the journalism community's thinking beyond "I" and back toward what brought people into this profession to begin with.

Before the age of the Internet, collaboration was a terminable offense, observed the IRP's Lowell Bergman. But the benefits of collaboration -- from gaining additional resources to cover a story, to reaching a wider audience -- have come to outweigh individual egos, something that was evident as attendees openly discussed challenges and solutions over the course of the day.

bavc-tweet.jpg

Speaker after speaker reiterated that as financial resources continue to evaporate and social media enables more and more people to be content producers, the industry is going to have to adapt or die.

"If journalism institutions are shrinking and anyone with a smartphone is a journalist and deep investigative stories are being replaced by web hits, maybe it's time to start thinking outside the organization," Investigative News Network Executive Editor Evelyn Larubia said.

"When change comes, who survives?" asked Ulrich Nettesheim, an organizational psychologist at Berkeley's Haas School of Business, who ran an interactive exercise with the group. "The ones ready, willing and able to adapt."

Tools for Collaboration

The first half of the day was dedicated to introducing companies that can help facilitate the collaboration process.

Wendy Levy grabbed the crowd's attention when she introduced Sparkwise, a cloud-based platform that transforms raw metrics into easily digested and compelling stories using video, audio and text. Although Sparkwise wasn't explicitly created for journalists, Levy argued that in order to collaborate it will be necessary for the industry to find expedient and intelligent ways to publish data in a place where it can be aggregated with information from similar organizations. The largest obstacle, she said, is getting reporters to be willing to share their data.

civic-commons-tweet.jpg

Storify co-founder Burt Herman described how Storify allows journalists to curate social media, thus collaborating with users to tell a story. "Everybody is a reporter. Not everybody is a journalist," he said, emphasizing the value of the journalist's curatorial role. Read Herman's Storify coverage of Collab/Space here.

Another platform that enables real-time collaborative storytelling is ScribbleLive, which MediaShift used to provide live coverage of the day's events, including tweets, photos and videos. GitHub, which creates tools for open-source code development, was also present. GitHub has grown into the largest code host in the world and makes it easier to collaborate and share code.

It's the People, Stupid.

While attendees spent a good amount of time talking tools and strategies for managing collaboration, the overarching theme of the conference was relationships, which are at the core of any team effort. A few truths emerged: All players in a collaboration must trust each other, be willing to show their hand, and have faith in the common goal.

Some even wondered if relationship management should become part of journalists' core training. "Should a class on managing relationships be taught at journalism schools?" asked Meghann Farnsworth, distribution and online community manager at the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch, via Twitter -- to which Andrew Haeg, Public Insight Network co-founder, responded, "Yes":

relationship-tweet.jpg

Do you agree? And if you were at Collab/Space, what did you think of the event? Any highlights I missed? If you weren't there, are there any questions about the day's discussion that I or one of the other attendees or speakers can answer for you?

Meghan Walsh considers herself a print journalist but is always looking for creative ways to tell a story. She covered sports and breaking news for the Arizona Republic and then government and crime for The World newspaper before becoming associate editor of InWithSkin, a lifestyle and beauty magazine. As a graduate journalism student at UC Berkeley, she has learned to incorporate photography, video and multimedia into her storytelling. Meghan also works for the Investigate Reporting Program.

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April 11 2012

03:24

Live Coverage of the Collab/Space 2012 Event

We are using ScribbleLive for our live coverage of the Collab/Space event all day April 11. Check in throughout the day for updated tweets, quotes, photos and video.

Keep up with all the new content on Collaboration Central by following our Twitter feed @CollabCentral or subscribing to our RSS feed or email newsletter:







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