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December 01 2011

07:24

#OccupyLA Eviction: Is LAPD restricting coverage with last-minute 'pool media'?

Interesting mix of media tools: Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa posted his "Statement on Enforcement of City Hall Park Closure" on Facebook, while media published and distributed information via all traditional and "new" channels (Twitter, etc.)

Los Angeles Weekly :: Awesomely, the "pool" reports turned into a sort of crowd-sourced feed; LA Weekly reporter Gene Maddaus says he received constant email updates throughout the night from news outlets with soldiers in the pool. So it seems the chosen ones didn't adhere to the LAPD's silly, unenforceable idea of how media should work at the eviction. As it should be. However, police did manage to force out all indie reporters/photogs from the City Hall Park with threats of arrest.

The details - continue to read Simone Wilson, blogs.laweekly.com

August 24 2010

18:36

KCET's 'Departures' Exemplifies Community Collaboration

I've written for MediaShift several times about journalistic collaboration between news organizations, such a the Climate Desk project, for example, or Public Media's EconomyStory. But there's another kind of collaboration that's critical to the future of journalism: Collaboration between a news organization and the community it serves.

This kind of collaboration is critical for a few reasons. First, as anyone who reads MediaShift surely knows, the line between consumers of news and producers of news continues to blur. Community blogger expertise may match that of a newspaper's Metro columnist, and the people watching the evening news post their own video of news events to YouTube. Just as formerly competitive newsrooms are beginning to work together, as limited resources encourage the setting aside of differences in pursuit of a superior news product, news organizations need to rethink their relationships with the communities they serve.

In addition, finding efficient ways to harness and apply community expertise is increasingly critical to a news organization's ability to compete. Projects like Minnesota Public Radio's Public Insight Network have emerged to leverage the power of networks to source stories and collect quotes.

KCET Departures

devis.jpgOne example of community/news provider collaboration that really captures my imagination is Departures, an online documentary series from KCET Los Angeles. What sets Departures apart, for me, is the passion and dedication of its producer, Juan Devis. Devis is not just passionate about community collaboration in the abstract, or obedient to the trendy importance of listening to community members; rather, he is passionate about Los Angeles, about the people of Los Angeles, and about bringing the neighborhoods of the city to life in an authentic and compelling way online.

"No one knows Los Angeles as well as the organizations and individuals working and living in the area," Devis wrote to me via email. "By bringing them in and engaging them in every step of the content development process, Departures provides an authentic, accurate and fresh take on the issues and stories most affecting the city."

For example, Devis and his team produced a recent installment on Chinatown in partnership with the Chinese American Museum and the Chinatown Service Center Youth Council, providing multimedia production training to student reporters, who in turn contributed stories to the series.

chinatownland.jpg

There is also a concerted effort to capture stories from a diverse array of citizens in order to paint a multi-layered portrait of a neighborhood, rather than extrapolating truths about a place based on scarce citizen interaction. For the Chinatown installment, for example, Devis and crew spoke to hundreds of people from the neighborhood, ranging from community activists Munson Kwok and Irvin Lai, to Congresswoman Judy Chu, to journalists Ann Summa and Jeff Spurrier, who covered the Chinatown Punk Scene in the 1980s.

The name "Departures" is meant to evoke the idea of traveling within your own city -- discovering new neighborhoods and cultures with fresh eyes, from Chinatown to Compton Creek to Venice Beach's Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Devis calls the series a love letter to the city. The content of Departures, then, is more evocative than provocative; it's meant to conjure a sense of place, and replicate the experience of talking to the people in a neighborhood -- Mr. Rogers would be proud -- rather than analyze issues or draw conclusions.

Non-Linear Storytelling and Falling Short

In fact, by design, Departures encourages users to form their own opinions of the city and its people.

"When you're tied to a linear narrative, you're tied to a point of view," Devis said in a video about the project. Departures is decidedly non-linear, with a series of interactive maps and murals serving as gateways to a collection of audio, video, and text stories. This approach to navigation encourages users to explore each installment the way they might explore a physical neighborhood, wandering down a series of streets and alleyways.

I admire this concept, though in practice, navigating the Departures site is not quite immersive. (I should confess that I used to write a column about intersections between documentary storytelling and the web, and have strong opinions about multimedia storytelling.) The series home page features individual stories from the latest installment in the manner of a traditional news website; I'd rather begin at a visually evocative map of the city that lets me "travel" to and from individual neighborhoods. While there is a central Departures map, it's a traditional map interface with pin points that correspond to the locations of individual stories, rather than a visual interface that evokes a sense of place.

The stories in Departures "should not be the ends unto themselves," Devis said, "but seeds: A context for engagement."

But while his team's real-world, behind-the-scenes engagement with communities is clear, online engagement with Departures seems surprisingly low. The series home page features a "From the Community" box, a design decision that seems at odds with the series' core dedication to stories from the community. The Community box features few comments, and I did not see comments integrated with the stories throughout the site. Given the series ethos, shouldn't community members' responses to the stories -- in other words, the dialogue around the stories -- be an equal part of the storytelling experience?

Expanding Departures

When I asked Devis about the interplay of Departures with KCET's more traditional news programming, he noted that now that the series has matured, "it offers a concise template that the station itself can follow, so KCET has started to incorporate some Departures elements in its more traditional media spaces." Devis also shared that beginning in 2011, his team will begin creating a series of daily TV interstitials tied to Departures. "We anticipate that, by that time, the media production teams (at KCET) will overlap in ways that we have not seen before," he said.

Devis talks about wanting to expand Departures beyond Los Angeles, and I hope he can do it. I'd love to see this kind of artistic representation of local culture depicting communities nationwide. Sure, the site itself could be improved -- but what site couldn't be? We need more rich, textured representation of local community culture, and I'd take a flawed but passionate, visionary approach over a more tepid effort any day. I worry, though, that replication will require reliance on templates, which will inhibit the site's ability to be more immersive.

"Journalism and news organizations need to become context providers," Devis said. "That is, they need to create and provide spaces -- structures -- into which users and community members are invited as full participants, and from which meaningful stories can emerge."

I agree, and I hope other news organizations will be inspired by Devis' example.

******

What examples have you seen of collaboration between news organizations and local communities? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image of Chinatown sign courtesy of Flickr user 7-how-7

The former editorial director of PBS.org, Amanda Hirsch is a digital media consultant who recently managed the EconomyStory collaboration, a journalistic partnership between 12 public media organizations. Learn more about Amanda's background at amandahirsch.com and follow her on Twitter at @publicmediagirl.

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April 14 2010

17:05

Spot.Us Expands to Seattle

We have been hinting at Seattle as the next Spot.Us city for some time and I'm very excited today, with the click of a few buttons, to make it a reality.

It would be a crime to keep Spot.Us limited to the Bay Area and Los Angeles. It would turn us into a non-profit news organization when, as I've said many times, we are a platform. A platform for freelancers to pitch the world (editors and the public) in one fell swoop. Non-profit news organizations can use this platform to fundraise, local papers and bloggers can use this to expand their freelance budget, and through Spot.Us the community can have a say in what news gets covered. So it's time to start opening up the platform. We may be coming to a region near you, so join our newsletter or suggest a city on our home page.

This is the first phase in a larger expansion. We are already talking with folks in other cities where we hope to expand. Perhaps some of these local Spot.Us networks won't pan out. Hopefully they will. This depends entirely upon the public. We need your help to spread the word and to get folks involved. It's a chance for the public in Seattle to take ownership of the media.

This is an experiment for the larger journalism community to take control of. This belongs to everyone.


Why Seattle?

My first response is: why not?

Aside from being the next major city on the West Coast, Seattle is a hub of hyper-local media experiments and projects. If my hunch is correct these local media projects need as many revenue sources, platforms and tools as possible. There are a ton of organizations and sites we hope to partner with like Investigate West, West Seattle Blog, Seattle Post Globe, Capital Hill Blog, Next Door Media, Seattle PI, CrossCut, Wallywood -- and that's literally off the top of my head.

Why Now?

About six weeks ago I was having a meeting with Spot.Us media advisor Jeremy Toeman, one of my oldest "Internet friends," who gave me a polite kick in the butt as only an e-friend can. "You aren't learning fast enough," he said.

He was right. Something was holding me back and he aptly pointed it out. I was starting to talk with news organizations in various parts of the country about expanding Spot.Us in partnership. I still want to, but I can't wait for that to manifest. Especially not when it really only takes a few clicks for us to create a new Spot.Us network.

And besides: The mission of Spot.Us as a no-nprofit is not to partner with newspapers. Those are welcome events, like today's article in the SF Bay Guardian funded in part by Spot.Us, but it is not our driving mission.

Creating a new network without a strong partnership does feel vulnerable -- but that is what is needed in this phase of Spot.Us' growth. And more networks will come. We are looking at Austin and Minneapolis next.

March 19 2010

15:00

This Week in Review: Loads of SXSW ideas, Pew’s state of the news, and a dire picture of local TV news

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

A raft of ideas at SXSW: The center of the journalism-and-tech world this week has been Austin, Texas, site of the annual conference South by Southwest. The part we’re most concerned about — SXSW Interactive — ran from last Friday to Tuesday. The New York Times’ David Carr gives us a good feel for the atmosphere, and Poynter’s Steve Myers asked 15 journalists what they took away from SXSW, and it makes for a good roundup. A handful of sessions there grabbed the attention of a lot of the journalism thinkers on the web, and I’ll try to take you on a semi-quick tour:

— We saw some conversation last week leading up to Matt Thompson’s panel on “The Future of Context,” and that discussion continued throughout this week. We had some great description of the session, between Steve Myers’ live blog and Elise Hu’s more narrative summary. As Hu explains, Thompson and his fellow panelists, NYU prof Jay Rosen and Apture founder Tristan Harris, looked at why much of our news lacks context, why our way of producing news doesn’t make sense (we’re still working with old values in a new ecosystem), and how we go about adding context to a largely episodic news system.

Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center echoes the panelists’ concerns, and Lehigh prof Jeremy Littau pushes the concept further, connecting it with social gaming. Littau doesn’t buy the idea that Americans don’t have time for news, since they obviously have plenty of time for games that center on collecting things, like Facebook’s Farmville. He’d like to see news organizations try to provide that missing context in a game environment, with the gamer’s choices informed by “blasts of information, ideally pulled from well reported news stories, that the user can actually apply to the situation in a way that increases both recall and understanding.”

— NYU’s web culture guru, Clay Shirky, gave a lecture on the value that can be squeezed out of public sharing. Matt Thompson has a wonderful live blog of the hourlong session, and Liz Gannes of GigaOM has a solid summary, complete with a few of the made-for-Twitter soundbites Shirky has a knack for, like “Abundance breaks more things than scarcity does,” and “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

Once again, Jeremy Littau pulls Shirky’s ideas together and hones in on their implications for journalism in a thoughtful post, concluding that while the future of journalism is bright, its traditional players are clueless. “I just don’t see a future for them when they’re trying to protect information as a scarce commodity,” he writes. “The scarcity, in truth, is in media companies trying to create civic goods via user sharing.”

danah boyd, who studies social media and youth culture for Microsoft Research, gave a well-received talk on privacy and publicity online. It doesn’t have much to do directly with journalism, but it’s a brilliant, insightful glimpse into how web culture works. Here’s a rough crib of the talk from boyd, and a summary from TechCrunch. There’s a bunch of cool nuggets in there, like boyd’s description of the “inversion of defaults” in privacy and publicity online. Historically, conversations were private by default and public by effort, but conversations online have become public by default and private by effort.

— One of the big journalism-related stories from SXSW has been AOL and Seed’s efforts to employ a not-so-small army of freelancers to cover each of the 2,000 or so bands at the festival. The Daily Beast has the best summary of the project and its goals, and TechCrunch talks about it with former New York Times writer Saul Hansell, who’s directing the effort. Silicon Alley Insider noted midweek that they wouldn’t reach the goal of 2,000 interviews.

One of the big questions about AOL and Seed’s effort is whether they’re simply creating another kind of “content mill” that many corners of the web have been decrying over the past few months. Music writer Leor Galil criticized it as crass, complaining of the poor quality of some of the interviews: “AOL is shelling out cash and providing great space for potentially terrible content.” David Cohn of Spot.Us compared AOL to the most notorious content farm, Demand Media, concluding that journalists shouldn’t be worried about them exploiting writers, but should be worried about their threat to the journalism industry as a whole.

— One other session worth noting: “Cult of the Amateur” author and digital dystopian Andrew Keen gave a sobering talk called “Is Innovation Fair?” As Fast Company’s Francine Hardaway aptly summarized, he pointed to the downsides of our technological advances and argued that if SXSW is a gathering of the winners in the cultural shift, we have to remember that there are losers, too.

Pew’s paywall findings: The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released its annual “State of the News Media” study, and it’s a smorgasbord of statistics about every major area of journalism, from print to TV to the web. A summary of summaries: The study’s six major emerging trends (expanded on by Poynter’s Bill Mitchell), some of its key statistical findings, and the Columbia Journalism Review’s seven eye-popping statistics from the study.

The biggest headline for most people was the study’s finding that only seven percent of the Americans who get their news online say they’d spring for a favorite news source’s content if it went behind a paywall. (The AP writeup has a few more statistics and some analysis about online loyalty and advertising.) Jeff Jarvis, a longtime paywall opponent, wondered why newspapers are spending so much time on the paywall issue instead of their “dreadful” engagement and loyalty online. Former WSJer Jason Fry breaks down the study to conclude that the basic unit of online journalism is not the site but the article — thus undermining the primary mindset behind the paywall.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds, who writes the study’s section on newspapers each year, said he’s done with dead-and-dying as an industry theme. Instead, he said, the problem with most newspapers is that they are becoming insubstantial, shells of their former selves. “They lack the heft to be thrown up the front porch or to satisfy those readers still willing to pay for a good print newspaper.” Editor & Publisher pulled some of the more depressing statistics from Edmonds’ chapter. Yet Lee Rainie, who co-authored the study’s section on online economics, said he was still optimistic about journalism’s future.

A bleak look at local TV news: Another fascinating journalism study was released late last week by USC researchers that found disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, trends in Los Angeles local TV news: Crime, sports, weather and teasers dominate, with very little time for business and government. USC’s press release has some highlights, and co-author Martin Kaplan offers a quick, pointed video overview of the report, concluding with a barb about wants and needs: “I want ice cream. I need a well-balanced meal. Apparently the people of Los Angeles want 22 seconds about their local government. Maybe if they got more than that, they’d want more than that.”

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps was “flat-out alarmed” by the study and vowed some vague form of action. Jay Rosen was ruthless in his criticism on Twitter, and Los Angeles Times critic James Rainey used the study as the basis for a particularly well-written evisceration of local TV news. Rainey had the most promising suggestion, proposing that a cash-strapped TV station find a newspaper, nonprofit or j-school interested in partnering with it to build an audience around more substantive, in-depth TV news.

The iPad, magazines and advertising: As we expected, lots and lots of people have been ordering iPads since they went on sale — 50,000 in the first two hours and 152,000 in three days, according to estimates. We’re also continuing to get word of news organizations’ and publishers’ plans for apps; this week we heard that the AP will have an app when the iPad rolls out next month, and saw a nifty interactive feature for the digital Viv Mag. (The Guardian has a roundup of other video iPad demos that have come out so far.)

SXSW also had at least three sessions focusing on media companies and the iPad: 1) One on the iPad and the magazine industry focused largely on advertising — here’s a DigitalBeat summary and deeper thoughts by Reuters’ Felix Salmon on why advertising on the iPad could be more immersive and valuable than in print; 2) Another focusing on the iPad and Wired magazine, with Salmon opining on why the iPad is a step backwards in the open-web world; 3) And a third on iPad consumption habits and their effects on various industries.

Reading roundup: One ongoing discussion, two pieces of news and one smart analysis:

The conversation sparked by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreesen’s advice for newspapers to forget the printed paper and go all-in with online news continued this week, with Frederic Filloux noting that “there are alternatives to envisioning the transformation of the print media as only a choice between euthanizing the paper product or putting it on life support.” Steve Yelvington looked at setting up separate print and online divisions (been there, done that, he says), Tim Kastelle spun Andreesen and Google’s Hal Varian off into more thoughtful suggestions for newspapers, and Dorian Benkoil took the opportunity to marvel at how much things have changed for the better.

The first piece of news was Twitter’s launch at SXSW of @anywhere, a simple program that allows other sites to implement some of Twitter’s features. TechCrunch gave a quick overview of what it could do, CNET’s Caroline McCarthy looked at its targeting of Facebook Connect, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram was unimpressed.

Second, ABC News execs revealed that they’re planning on putting up an online paywall by this summer. The Guardian and paidContent have detailed interviews with ABC News digital chief Paul Slavin.

And finally, newspaper vet Alan Mutter examines the often-heard assertion that small newspapers are weathering the industry’s storm better than their larger counterparts. He nails all the major issues at play for small papers, both the pluses (lack of competition and broadband access, loyal readership) and the minuses (rapidly aging population, some local economies lacking diversity). He ultimately advises small papers to ensure their future success by innovating in order to become indispensable to their communities: “To the degree publishers emphasize short-term profits over long-term engagement, they will damage their franchises — and open the way to low-cost online competitors.”

January 28 2010

11:30

#followjourn: @mattgarrahan/Los Angeles correspondent

#FollowJourn: Matt Garrahan

Who? An Englishman in Los Angeles/Los Angeles correspondent.

What? Matt covers all things California for the the Financial Times’ website

Where? His work goes up regularly on FT.com.

Contact? Follow @mattgarrahan.

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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December 22 2009

20:30

KNC 2010: The Journalism Shop offers vetted editorial talent for hire

[EDITOR'S NOTE: We're highlighting a few of the entries in this year's Knight News Challenge, which just closed Tuesday night. Did you know of an entry worth looking at? Email Mac or leave a brief comment on this post. —Josh]

You may have already heard of The Journalism Shop, the assemblage of ex-Los Angeles Times staffers that has evolved into an editorial matchmaking service. (Its survey of ex-LATers detailing their predictions for the paper’s failure got some notice from Romenesko a couple weeks ago.)

It’s an online co-op where former Times reporters, editors, and designers can hang a freelance shingle and land jobs. The site, which evolved out of an email list for laid-off staffers, currently has around 30 members. And it’s throwing its hat into the ring for a Knight News Challenge grant. According to their application, they hope to build:

— a national network of regional reporters/editors/researchers/graphic artists who will create original work on spec, to be placed by The Journalism Shop editors.

— acting as an assigning conduit for editors looking for freelancers (a modern version of the old photo agency structure, but for writers and editors).

— a “pitching engine” to solicit assignments for our members.

— pursuing grants for topic specific journalism.

— building out the existing website to publish those stories (we’re working on some ideas for that now.

Scott Martelle, one of the co-founders and a former Times reporter himself, said The Journalism Shop helps assignment editors quickly find and tap experienced journalists for coverage. And since all of The Journalism Shop’s members are former LAT staffers, they have a built-in credibility with editors that not all freelancers can boast.

“There’s very little going on out there that tries to keep experienced journalists in the profession,” Martelle said. “We’re trying to keep people alive until the Big Bang ends and the solar systems begin to coalesce again.”

As you can see from the Shop’s Facebook page, work doesn’t always originate from traditional news organizations. The boundaries have expanded to include things like alumni magazines, annual reports, consulting, book work, and the like.

A News Challenge grant would allow Martelle and co-founder Brett Levy to dedicate more time to the project. Specifically, they want to build out the infrastructure and create additional opportunities for their stable of writers through outreach and advertising. Martelle said the model could also be extended to other locales.

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