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January 19 2012

15:20

How Social Media, Collaboration Fueled Reports on Australia's Refugees

An innovative Australian public journalism project has partnered student reporters and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation with a refugee support agency and a social media startup.

The aim of the project, #ReportingRefugees, was to tackle problematic media coverage of asylum seekers and refugees in a volatile political climate in parallel with educating students to connect with a "citizens' agenda." The result was a student takeover of the airwaves in Australia's national capital and a fundamental shift in attitudes.

MediaShift correspondent Julie Posetti anchored the project at the University of Canberra where she teaches journalism. This is the first in her two-part series on #ReportingRefugees.

Problem: Divisive & Xenophobic National Debate

For the past 15 years, racist and xenophobic political memes have dominated public discussion of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, with asylum seekers who arrive by boat demonized as threatening aliens by politicians whose divisive messages are fanned and fed by inflammatory headlines and tabloid TV.

Reporting Refugees Husseinis.jpg

In this climate, and on the back of involvement in a substantial national research project on the reporting of multiculturalism (which led to me theorizing about the potential transformative impact of minority encounters on journalists), I decided to embark on a public journalism project with my final-year University of Canberra broadcast journalism students.

The end result was two hours of radio journalism, fueled by collaboration and social media, that gave a much-needed voice to refugees, a better understanding for the public of the complicated issues surrounding them, and important lessons for those of us working on the project.

Journalism Partnerships For Change

#ReportingRefugees was built on partnerships that I forged with 666 ABC Canberra, the ABC's radio station in the Australian capital; Canberra Refugee Support, the city's best-known organization for refugees and asylum seekers; OurSay, an innovative crowdsourcing startup; and the School of Music at the Australian National University, also based in Canberra.

Reporting Refugees CRS.jpg

I made my first approach to CRS, and their initial response reflected the impact of xenophobic political campaigns and media stereotyping: They were reluctant to get involved. CRS President Geoff McPherson said concerns about resourcing the project were also paramount. But I persisted, pursuing meetings and arguing the merits of interventions in journalism education and public journalism approaches in tackling problematic reporting of marginalized communities. The proposal was for CRS to facilitate contact between student journalists and asylum seeker-refugee clients and provide advice on relevant policy and community programs, with the aim of minimizing any potential harm to vulnerable interviews and assisting in the development of culturally intelligent reporting on a complex and often poorly reported issue.

Ultimately, just a fortnight before the project kicked off, CRS agreed to participate. "The judgment of the CRS board was that the potential return on this project far outweighed the risks and (we) decided to proceed," McPherson said, reflecting on the project at its conclusion.

Collaborating with Australia's Public Broadcaster

By contrast, the ABC was keen to be involved from the outset. They were even prepared to hand over two hours of airtime on their main Canberra radio station to the students. They agreed to allow the students -- under the joint editorial supervision of the ABC, me and my tutors -- to report, produce and present a radio special devoted to #ReportingRefugees which was scheduled for broadcast on November 27 last year -- three months from the start of the project.

Reporting Refugees ABC.jpg

Jordie Kilby, ABC 666 Canberra content director, explained the network's motivation for involvement: "We hoped for an insightful look at the local community of refugees living in the Canberra region; we wanted to build on our relationships with local refugees and asylum seekers and the community groups that help and support them. We also hoped the project would give us an opportunity to look at some future journalists and their ideas and work."

Original Student Compositions Score #ReportingRefugees

By this stage, my ANU School of Music collaborator, Jonathan Powles, had agreed to offer his students the opportunity to produce original scores to accompany my journalism students' stories. Apart from being an interesting cross-disciplinary education collaboration and a potentially rewarding creative merger for broadcaster, teachers and students alike, the provision of original music for the planned radio program meant that the ABC would also be able to podcast the show. (Copyright laws in Australia prevent the podcasting of commercial music broadcast on radio.)

Giving Citizens a Say

Finally, I decided to approach OurSay -- a Melbourne startup which partners with media organizations, universities and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to crowdsource questions designed to address the "citizens' agenda." They jumped at the chance to be involved, and we launched the project's OurSay page which asked the public to identify the questions they most wanted answered by a panel of experts on asylum seeker-refugee policy during the ABC broadcast.

OurSay's CEO, Eyal Halamish, explained the role of the platform in the project: "Especially on such a contentious issue as that of refugees and asylum seekers, where the mainstream media latch onto sensationalist, short-termist news instead of taking a broader view, a social tool such as OurSay can help set the agenda more effectively and help express what the public feels about an issue, as sourced from their own questions and comments." It worked like this: Over the course of a month, OurSay users were asked to submit the questions they most wanted put to the panel, and the top five questions were selected by popular vote on the site.

The #ReportingRefugees Curriculum

With these #ReportingRefugees building blocks in place, I was able to finalize the structure of the project within the syllabus. This was no easy task! Trying to balance learning outcomes and university assessment policies against real-world media deadlines is always tricky. But doing so on a project seeking to break new ground through multiple public journalism partnerships, on a complex and sensitive reporting assignment, proved to be the most challenging teaching project I've ever been involved with. Fortunately, it also emerged as the most rewarding experience of my journalism education career.

Zoe Daniel.jpg

#ReportingRefugees became the foundation of the Advanced Broadcast Journalism unit (a class of 50 students) I convene at UC. I gave lectures on public journalism (featuring the work of professor Jay Rosen and others) and reporting trauma in the social media age. I also devoted a lecture to a live Skype interview with the ABC's South East Asia correspondent, Zoe Daniel, whose beat includes the massive refugee camps and asylum seeker communities of that region.

The major assessment required students to work in reporting duos networked via loosely themed production units, on original, long-form audio or audio/video stories about refugees-asylum seekers (or policies and programs pertaining to them) which would compete for selection in the final radio program. Additionally, they had to produce images and text to accompany their stories for online publication. They were encouraged to speak with, not just about, refugees-asylum seekers and to explore personal stories and angles that the media had largely overlooked. Some reporting duos were assigned to refugee-asylum seeker families and community services facilitated by CRS, while others independently identified stories and sources.

Assessing Audience Engagement and Reflective Practice

Additionally, the students were required to maintain Twitter feeds (with a focus on community building around content, crowdsourcing and content distribution) as part of an "audience engagement" assessment. They also needed to participate in Facebook groups dedicated to editorial management. The final assessment involved publication of an academically grounded reflective practice blog which required the students to critically analyze the project, their involvement in it and their experiences of it, with reference to scholarly readings.

Students' Perspective

So, what did the students think of the project at the start? Many have admitted they were daunted by the theme and the workload when they first heard about it. One, Ewan Gilbert, conceded he was initially a tad perplexed: "I went into the assignment thinking it was all a bit over the top." But Gilbert, now a cadet journalist with the ABC, clearly understood the project's purpose in retrospect: "I think one of the biggest barriers people face when it comes to understanding refugee issues, is that most Australians have probably never met one," he blogged. "Putting a face to an issue was so important to helping my understanding of the problems. You learn to treat the issue with humanity. You learn to see refugees as people and quite often extremely vulnerable people at that. If the whole refugee debate didn't have any relevancy to me before, it certainly does now."

Another student, Grace Keyworth, who was already working in the Canberra Press Gallery as a videographer when the project began, wrote that #ReportingRefugees was an important and timely intervention.

"I have been present at countless press conferences this year where the discussion of asylum seekers and refugees was completely dehumanized. There was a lot of talk of numbers, figures and 'processing' them like they're a piece of meat, but hardly any of names, occupations or their reasons for leaving their countries," she lamented. "It shows that as a society, we haven't progressed beyond the racial discrimination towards immigrants that has plagued our country since federation."

Opening Up Journalism -- Critical Reflection via Social Media

The students were encouraged to openly reflect, through their social media activity, on their pre-conceived ideas about the refugee-asylum seeker issue and broadcast reporting conventions as they worked on their stories. They had to navigate very complex issues -- such as balancing the need to avoid re-traumatizing refugee interviewees who'd survived torture against the need for editorial transparency and independence. Many encountered significant journalistic obstacles -- from paternalism within some organizations which led (inappropriately) to one service provider refusing its refugee clients permission to speak, to nervous interviewees backing out of stories close to deadline. But in every case, these experiences delivered important learning outcomes -- about the need for sensitivity and informed consent in reporting on refugees-asylum seekers, and about the need for journalistic perseverance and resilience when confronted with problems that threaten to derail stories in which many hours work have been invested.

There were logistical hurdles to mount, too. The collaborative editorial management of the project with the ABC meant that assessment deadlines had to be interwoven with ABC production deadlines. And multiple classroom visits by the busy ABC content director needed to be scheduled across four tutorials, which were timetabled for only three hours each per week.

Once the students had filed their rough-cut stories for assessment, the difficult process of selecting the content for broadcast and web upload commenced. I shortlisted stories from each tutorial with my tutors (Phil Cullen and Ginger Gorman, both of whom are experienced ABC broadcasters) but the ABC's Jordie Kilby was responsible for selecting the final line-up of 10 stories. Meanwhile, we auditioned potential student presenters, and student executive producers attached to each tutorial began wrangling students to deliver final cut radio and web stories.

Putting #ReportingRefugees on Air

Ultimately, the students broadcast two hours of moving, human radio with a focus on personalized stories, situational reports on community programs such as a psychological service which treats traumatized child refugees, explanatory journalism that unpacked highly complex and sensitive themes, and an intelligent panel discussion, featuring the former Commonwealth Ombudsman and the UNHCR's representative in Australia, that addressed the questions crowdsourced via OurSay in a way that allowed misconceptions to be powerfully countered.

As the program aired, students, listeners and ABC staff participated in a lively Twitter discussion triggered by the stories, aggregated by the #ReportingRefugees hashtag.

Additionally, the ABC website continues to host a bundle of additional student reports produced for the project, along with a podcast of the radio special (Hour 1 & Hour 2).

I'll focus in more detail on the impact of the project on those involved, its reception by audiences, and the implications for journalism education in part two of this #ReportingRefugees series, but this quote from international student Linn Loken, sums up the value of the project and makes my own very substantial investment in time, energy and effort in its execution seem worthwhile:

"Knowing a few refugees now, this is not just a word to me anymore. When I hear the word REFUGEE mentioned, I think about the people I talked to during this project and I can see their faces."

Julie Posetti is an award-winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She's been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on journalism and social media, on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She's currently writing her PhD dissertion on 'The Twitterisation of Journalism' at the University of Wollongong. She blogs at Twitter.

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April 22 2011

17:00

Mediatwits #4: Impressive, Creepy Apple; The iPhone Radio Reporter

neal augenstein larger.JPG

Welcome to the fourth episode of "The Mediatwits," the new revamped longer form weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show is obsessed with all things Apple -- and iPhone. Apple had a blow-out earnings quarter, nearly doubling its profits and selling more iPhones than ever with the new Verizon iPhone. But the creepy part is the finding by scientists that your iPhone (and iPad) knows your location and has been storing that in a secret file since last June. (Update: Today the Wall Street Journal found that Google is also tracking Android phones.)

Our guest this week is Neal Augenstein, the first major-market radio reporter to give up his bulky equipment and use just an iPhone to do audio and video reports for WTOP-FM and wtop.com in Washington, DC. Plus, there are two new news aggregators and apps, Trove and News.me, that needed a quick take.

Check it out!

mediatwits4.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Apple's blowout quarter

3:30: Apple by the numbers

5:30: iPod going into the sunset?

7:00: Mark enjoys freedom from AT&T

iPhones tracking you

7:50: Background on consolidated.db file

9:15: Rafat says it will be shut down

10:40: WSJ series What They Know

12:10: Do people care?

Neal Augenstein interview

13:40: Neal details all the old gear he used to carry

16:10: The app Neal uses on his iPhone for audio editing

17:50: Audio is about 92% as good as before

20:10: Figuring out best practices as he goes along

23:40: RIP Flipcam

Trove and News.me

25:30: Mark's experience with News.me

27:40: News.me is a Twitter replacement or enhancement?

29:20: Flipboard gets $50 million in funding

More Reading

Apple clobbers estimates, iPad sales fall short at Fortune

AT&T Boosts Subscriber Rolls Even as Verizon Gains IPhone at Bloomberg

With iPhone, everybody wins: Verizon, AT&T and Apple at Computerworld

Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves at O'Reilly Radar

Researcher: iPhone, iPad track users' whereabouts at CNET

iStalk: Apple's iPhones, iPads revealed to be tracking user data at NY Post

Apple, Google Collect User Data at WSJ

News.me, the iPad News Aggregator Blessed by Big Publishers, Gets Ready to Launch at AllThingsD

News.me

Trove

What They Know series by Wall Street Journal

Holy Crap, Flipboard Just Raised $50 Million At A $200 Million Valuation at Business Insider

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about the iPhone tracking your movements:




What do you think about iPhones tracking your location?survey software

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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April 04 2011

17:30

How One Radio Reporter Ditched His Equipment for an iPhone 4

It's been more than a year since I packed away my laptop computer, digital recorders, microphones, cables and cameras, and began covering Washington, D.C. with only my iPhone.



When I first came to the top-rated all-news WTOP in 1997, the bag phone I carried weighed as much as a bowling ball. Reel-to-reel tape recorders (ask your parents) were the newsroom staple, but early versions of Cool Edit audio editing software signaled that the times, they were a-changin'.



key accessories.JPG

As cell phones became smaller, and laptops more prevalent, radio reporters could finally produce studio-quality reports in the field, and email them to the newsroom. But that involved schlepping, booting, connecting, dubbing, and a lot of waiting.


Now, with the Apple iPhone 4 and several apps, I can produce intricate audio and video reports, broadcast live, take and edit photos, write web content and distribute it through social media from a single device.

How It's Done

With the VC Audio Pro app from VeriCorder, I can quickly pull cuts, edit and assemble audio wraps, and adjust volumes on a three-track screen similar to the popular Adobe Audition used in many newsrooms. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been my single greatest workflow improvement. The finished report that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10. Here's a rundown of all the key ways I use my iPhone:

Audio capture

When I started my iPhone-only reporting on a 3Gs, I was pleased with the Blue Microphone Mikey. The small microphone connects to the charging port of the iPhone and iPod. Mikey provided nice bass response, but when Apple iPhone 4 was introduced, Mikey was no longer compatible. I tested several compact microphones, but all sounded thin and hissy. Currently I'm using the built-in microphone of the iPhone and am satisfied with the sound quality. The iPhone is very susceptible to wind.

Video capture

For video, VC 1stVideo has many of the same features as its audio cousin. It provides two HD video tracks and two audio tracks. The iPhone's built-in microphone points away from the subject being interviewed. I've experimented with the JK Audio BlueDriver-F3. It's a Bluetooth unit that allows a broadcast microphone to pair with the iPhone. It's expensive (more than $200), and while it does allow the mic to transmit to the phone, it doesn't mute the iPhone's built-in microphone. So, currently the only way to get good audio with video is to use an XLR adapter cable.

Photography

With photos, the ability to quickly snap, edit and transmit photos to wtop.com from the same device is causing me to rethink my newsgathering workflow. In years past my first priority at a breaking news scene was to gather audio. Now, I find myself taking a few pictures first. While dozens of photo apps are available, I use the iPhone 4's built-in camera. For editing, I select the photo from Camera Roll, re-frame, then take a screenshot of the cropped image by simultaneously touching the sleep/wake button on the top of the phone and the Home button. It's then ready to be emailed.

Mobile VoIP

For live reports, I've experimented with two mobile voice-over-IP (VoIP) apps -- Report-IT Live and Media5-fone. Each requires a receiver in the newsroom that costs several thousand dollars. I haven't been satisfied with the stability of either, and have decided it's too risky to use for a live report, so will usually pre-feed a pre-recorded spot. Skype -- especially in a WiFi hotspot -- provides a free live alternative that often sounds as good as the pricy apps.

Twitter

Twitter is complementing and redefining my on-air and website reporting. I'll often break stories on Twitter, and follow-up with audio and website reports. Tweeting pictures and video has a faster upload time than emailing, so often the website will capture tweeted elements for inclusion on wtop.com. I'm very happy with the free version from Twitter Inc. My backup is TwitVid.

iPad + accessories


These days I also carry an iPad to take notes, while my iPhone is on a podium during a news conference. Before that, I liked the Apple Wireless Keyboard, which paired easily with the phone.

mic clip iphone.JPG

In attempting to reduce my load, I carry a few accessories. Because nobody makes a microphone clip for the iPhone, I jury-rigged one by super-gluing thin foam to a standard clip, which holds the phone snugly while preventing scratching. I also just purchased the Joby Gorilla for iPhone 4, which can be wrapped around other microphones on a podium.

Conclusion

So is it worth it? A year in, iPhone-only reporting isn't perfect. While audio editing works great, with the phone's built-in microphone I'd estimate the sound quality of my field reports is 92% as good as when I use bulky broadcast equipment. Getting better audio for my video is a real challenge. And if I ever have to cover a story from a subway tunnel or location where there's no WiFi or cell coverage, I won't be able to file until I resurface.


As digital equipment continues to morph I'm sure my tools will be substantially different within a few years. Every day, new applications open new opportunities for a reporter who's willing to work around the limitations of iPhone-only reporting while maximizing the benefits.

For the past 14 years, Neal Augenstein has been an award-winning reporter with WTOP-FM and wtop.com in Washington, D.C. He's the first major-market radio reporter to do all his field reporting on an iPhone. Neal is a frequent contributor to CBS News Radio. Born in Connecticut, he graduated from American University in Washington, with a degree in broadcast journalism. On Twitter, follow @NealAugenstein and @wtop.

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March 14 2011

21:02

IMA + SXSW = Major Discussion on Future of Public Media

Public media makers found a whole new crew to hang with at this year's Integrated Media Association (IMA) Conference on March 10 and 11. Joining the mix were attendees at a Knight Foundation-supported panel on news innovation and content strategy.

Adding a further dose of excitement was a new collaboration: The IMA preceded and then flowed into the interactive track of the SXSW festival on the 12th.

Despite looming cuts and recent controversies, participants seemed eager both to learn about a raft of recent public media experiments and collaborations, and to meet their online friends and followers in the flesh. This annual public media conference, IMA, has recently been revitalized with new leadership and strategy, and felt much hipper and more cohesive than the last iteration of the conference in 2009.

But don't just take my word for it. Here's a glimpse at the conversations through the eyes of attendees -- noted in bold -- and my own running Twitter coverage at @beyondbroadcast. You can follow a larger discussion of both conferences by going to the #imaconf and #sxsw hashtags on Twitter.

The run-up

Geez -- pack for IMA or glue myself to the screen to track blowback on Schiller's resignation? #pubmedia, I can't keep up!

@rbole (Robert Bole, CPB): Getting in the shute: first #imaconf re: #pubmedia analytics, then #SXSW on open APIs and finally #mediafuturenow on digital journalism

@nextgenradio (Doug Mitchell) : @beyondbroadcast Plenty to talk about amongst the faithful at SXSWi. Leaving today for Austin.

Opening panel: Innovation Anxiety

@martineric (Eric Michael Martin) : RT @LCKnapp: Jeannie Ericson encourages #pubmedia to adopt some Texas swagger while @ #sxsw2011 & #imaconf in Austin

@aschweig (Adam Schweigert, WOSU) : @joaquinalvarado: public service media seeks to identify need and engage with communities to solve problems

PBS and NPR Local/National Strategies

Kinsey Wilson (of NPR) at IMA conf: "I am here to tell you that NPR will keep moving forward."

PBS incubation lab is building directory of station tech staff for collab projects.

At #iMAConf, #pubcorps is announcing "America's Next Top Public Media Model" contest.

Learn more about these Top Model projects and the Kindred collaboration platform at publicmediacorps.org.

LaToya Jackson from #pubcorps says that "at this moment, #pubmedia needs drastic action if it's going to survive."

@rbole: @timolsonsf (Tim Olson, KQED) sending picture of Next Top Model at #imaconf

olsen.jpg

Beyond the Stream: Mobile Apps that Matter

mobile apps panel: Andrew Kuklewicz of PRX (@kookster), Colleen Wilson, Seth Lind, Demian Perry on which/how/why

Wilson: Interesting question re. geolocation app: "How can we get people lost?" Give people rich locative experience

Wilson: PBS/NPR already have streaming apps -- station apps need to take advantage of local assets/engagement

Seth Lind of This American Life: Exciting to be able to feature individual stories on iPad app, offer live content

Lind: "Thinking about mobile has pushed us to think about users way more actively, and it's just been great."


@kookster: Mobile is not as forgiving; you have to think about every pixel and what the user is seeing.

@kookster: variability of both networks and devices makes mobile development trickier than web by an order of magnitude.

@kookster: "people feel entitled to have amazing things in their pockets," & will tell you loudly if you fail to deliver

Lind: Users find push notifications offensive, especially when they are asking for donations

Wilson: proximity is key--finding what's near you now: discounts, stories, members

wm_logo.gif

Lunchtime Keynote

@mediaengage Top 10 #pubmedia Tech Trends, courtesy of @webbmedia at @IntMediaAssn #imaConf http://wp.me/pUN9X-a4

Re-thinking public TV

On the platform: Chris Hastings (@chrishast) and Bob Lyons from WGBH re. "Re-thinking Public TV" | http://www.worldcompass.org

Lyons: World is a national digital TV channel that is serving as a platform for independent and international #pubmedia makers

#worldchan website has a different take/voice than the channel -- younger, multicultural, multiplatform, participatory #pubmedia

#worldchan is arranged thematically, organizing a variety of content on the channel and online. Sample theme: Skin You're In #pubmedia

WorldCompass site just got redesigned for the 3rd time in 6 months; will rebrand again/ iterating on the fly #pubmedia #worldchan

(PBS MediaShift recently covered the redesign of WorldCompass.org.)

#worldchan is demonstrating multiplatform branding and cross-silo collaboration in #pubmedia; example: live video from The Takeaway on site

Lyons: the "visual vocabulary" of seeing the reporter unshaven and on the beat at 6:00 in the morning was exciting

Lyons: show's audio morphing into other things: audio slideshows, Snap Judgement multiplatform/animated storytelling, #pubmedia #worldchan

Lyons: #worldchan offering periodic "callouts" for public content. @chrishast elaborates. Goals: Incubate & support new creators #pubmedia

@chrishast: More goals for #worldchan--innovate new production models, bottom-up storytelling, solution-based civic discourse #pubmedia

@chrishast: Will be doing public callouts via WGBH Lab (lab.wgbh.org) to populate #worldchan #pubmedia

@chrishast current call is for videos re. gay rights, inspired by Stonewall anniversary #worldchan #pubmedia

@chrishast "In some ways we're creating a pipeline for independent makers that doesn't exist, in addition to PBS" #worldchan #pubmedia

@chrishast "It's not just about creating a platform for discourse, it's about solution-based discourse...not the rant" #pubmedia

@MediaFunders: Is it enough 4 public media 2 ask content makers to preformed mold? How can public truly enter the space?

@martineric: blog coverage of Re-Thinking Public TV: The World Channel from #SXSW Interactive http://worldcompass.org/blog

Open Wide: New Models for Public Media

Back at #SXSW -- at a panel on new models in #pubmedia, with Orlando Bagwell, Sue Schardt, Jacquie Jones and Greg Pak. How to innovate?


Bagwell: How to reinvent public service for a multiplatform environment?

Jones: describing trajectory of NBPC (National Black Programming Consortium)

Jones: every year that she's been at NBPC, there's been "a watershed event that galvanized an African-American public"

Jones: Began by supporting diverse producers, but then realized #pubmedia wasn't reaching minority audiences; how to create relationship?

Jones: realized there was no dedicated producer corps within #pubmedia creating content relevant to minority communities -- how to address?

Jones: next step was to create the #pubcorps in order to build linkages and skills among young producers and community/#pubmedia orgs

Learn more about the #pubcorps at publicmediacorps.org

Jones: "There's still a lot of opportunity to engage new voices and have a real impact in #pubmedia...even though we're in dicey times"

Jones: #pubmedia produced by young people may look very different: games, citizen journalism training, etc. Need to be reflected in content

Bagwell: Is there a possibility for young ideas to lead the future of #pubmedia? Jones: Yes, but it's really challenging, different process

Jones: "We learned that we have a lot more to learn"

Bagwell: a recurring issue in #pubmedia now is "how do you find the public where they are"

Sue Schardt (@Schardt) from Association of Independents in Radio (@AIRmedia) talking about vibrant, diversified universe of makers/content

@Schardt: "How in #pubmedia can we harness this invention and energy" of indy producers? MQ2 project: demo project exploring this

@Schardt: #pubmedia #sxsw You have to balance structure with creativity. Learn more about MQ2 here: http://bit.ly/Spreading_the_Zing

@Schardt: We don't throw out the existing infrastructure, but we have to reflect humanity in a relevant, meaningful way

@Schardt: It's a tremendous challege to produce authentic #pubmedia at this moment when many institutions are risk-averse

@Schardt: Every one of the MQ2 projects took themselves outside of the structure to deep into communities. #pubmedia led us there

Jay Rosen: Bloggers vs. Journalists Redux

Listening to @jayrosen_nyu deconstruct the psychology of journalists and bloggers & why they love to hate each other

@jayrosen_nyu: the "fantasy of replacement" is a phantom of journalists' fears re. waning business model.

jay rosen

@jayrosen_nyu: journalists dismiss bloggers as "compulsive," "random"--displaced anger at a public that doesn't value journalism

@jayrosen_nyu: what do journalists have against basements, anyway? pajamas? flies in the face of intrepid journalist stereotypes

@jayrosen_nyu: if it were self-evident that commercial model is better, drawing contrasts w/bloggers would be uneccessary, yes?

I always marvel at the skill with which @jayrosen_nyu brands himself and revisits his own crusades to clever effect

@jayrosen_nyu: bloggers turn critique around to claim that big media should be responsible so they can slack off. but press is us

@jayrosen_nyu: "discarded parts [of old news habits] live on in the subconscious...and have come roaring back with blogging"

@jayrosen_nyu: i.e.--Bloggers are the return of the repressed

@jayrosen_nyu: voice is what you take out of modern professional journalism--if you succeed you might one day earn a column

@jayrosen_nyu: "Bloggers disrupt the moral hierarchy" by jumping straight to voice without the discipline of flat reporting

@jayrosen_nyu: It's time for some psychiatry with journalists--to "get them to tell a better story" about themselves & the world

@jayrosen_nyu prescription: bloggers, learn some basic standards. journalists: get flexible. "mutualization"

@jayrosen_nyu: In psychology, you don't get over the things that have wounded you; instead you can open up space for motion

@jayrosen_nyu: "freedom of the press is a public possession," the right for citizens to print their opinions

@jayrosen_nyu Wants NPR to drop ideology of "view from nowhere" and replace it with pluralism & transparency

Editors' note: Read Jay Rosen's discussion of the attempts to defund public media.

@jayrosen_nyu: "so-called objectivity is a very expensive system to maintain" b/c anything that pierces it threatens outlet

@jayrosen_nyu: The only place we actuallly define journalists is via shield laws and velvet ropes

How PBS and NPR Can Support Local Journalism

Reporting from #sxswlocal panel on future of local w/ @kdando @tgdavidson @janjlab @amyshaw9net Photo: http://yfrog.com/gzfkcksj h/t @JLab

interactivepanel.jpg

Last #pubmedia panel of the day: On what PBS/NPR are doing in the local news space. @janjlab talking about variety in news ecosystem

@janjlab: lots of news innovation happening in silos; not networked in a way that can amplify news/info

Amy Shaw from the Nine Network in St. Louis talking about Homeland project, which we covered here: http://to.pbs.org/9Q6Ja0

Shaw: "I wish there was a more holistic perspective" about how to work in an community news ecosystem

Shaw: people need to "tuck their peacock feathers in at the door" and think about what's good for engaging community

Shaw: people need to be nudged around creating dialogue around stalled, intractable issues

RT @PatNarciso: Nine Network on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/STL9Network

@amyshaw9net: the master narrative about immigration is demonization and polarization of "undocumented"--wanted to deepen issue

@amyshaw9net: they are training people how to use flip cameras: young people get tech but not story; older folks the opposite

@pubmlicmic: Schaffer: Need to end mentality that once funding is over, project is over

@mediaengage: Great wisdom shared by @janjlab @kdando @amyshaw9net & @tgdavidson (and @nicolehollway!) at today's #SXSWlocal #pubmedia session

@JackLerner: "#pubmedia can help local news by being a hub, a partner, or an innovator." - @JLab's @janjlab #SXSWlocal #sxsw

And onwards...

@CJERICSON: Video or audio of #imaconf coming soon. Audio this weekend. Video next week. For all attendees & members.

@g5member: Great to meet so many of public media's creative and dedicated minds at #imaconf. Now, #sxsw time!

Full disclosure: In my role as the director of the Ford Foundation-funded Future of Public Media Project, I am working with the National Black Programing Consortium to incubate their Public Media Corps project via the Center for Social Media, and have also worked with PBS/NPR on the PubCamps and Association of Independents in Radio on a study of their MQ2 project. More details on all of these here: futureofpublicmedia.net.

Jessica Clark directs the Future of Public Media Project at American University's Center for Social Media, and is a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation.

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November 23 2010

16:30

The Business of Public Radio: WNYC Bulks Up, Builds Out

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The Public Media 2.0 series on MediaShift is sponsored by American University's Center for Social Media (CSM) through a grant from the Ford Foundation. Learn more about CSM's research on emerging public media trends and standards at futureofpublicmedia.net.

On a recent chilly night in downtown Manhattan, about 130 fans of WNYC's Radio Lab chuckled at quips exchanged between show hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich in the station's new event space.

The performance wasn't part of the public radio show's on-air lineup, but was instead a live event for which the audience members had paid $25 per ticket. This is just one way the station is reaching out to the community -- and in the process making a few bucks.

WNYC, the flagship public radio station in New York and the most listened to public radio station in the country, has in recent years developed a lot of ways to, in the words of CEO Laura Walker, "diversify revenue streams." It has increased its member base, used new fundraising techniques, attracted new grants, conducted capital campaigns to buy radio licenses and build new offices and studios, made financial investments, developed new sponsorships, increased web revenues, rented out its event space and more.

"What we have done is been a leader within the public media industry in applying both traditional and non-profit fundraising techniques," Walker said in a telephone interview. "We're taking the best of the non-profit world, the best of the public media world."

While WNYC has the advantage of being situated in the largest U.S. city -- a financial and artistic hub Walker says is "at the center of the creative world" -- the station also provides lessons in how public media can try to improve, even in difficult financial times.

LauraWalker_ScottEllisonSmith_medium_image.jpgWalker took charge of the station in 1995, when it was owned by the city and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was looking to sell it. Some of Walker's first tasks were to launch a campaign to raise $20 million to buy the FCC license and to negotiate a deal to stay in the city offices for a few more years, rent-free.

She later worked to diversify the programming and sources of income and to develop a five-year plan to bring more news and information to an audience that grew swiftly after the 9/11 attacks that occurred just blocks from their Municipal Building offices.

Growth in Audience, Staff, Funds

In 1995, the station's operating budget was $8 million, and "there was no endowment to speak of," Walker said. Today, its budget is about $55 million. In fiscal 2010, which ended in July, the station raised $56.2 million in revenue and support, according to its financial statement [PDF]. It has more than $16 million cash on hand, and a staff of about 252 people, including 31 news reporters and producers, and 13 salespeople at the national and local levels.

The audience has grown more than 40 percent since it became independent to 1.2 million people weekly, a spokesperson said, for its two stations, one each on AM and FM. The station's members in fiscal 2010 gave the largest share of contributions, $15.4 million of the $33 million received. Major donors, who gave $1,000 or more each, contributed $2.4 million. About $3.25 million, 6 percent of the station's yearly operating budget, comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, according to the spokesperson.

The CPB also is expected to donate more than $1 million to help support "The Takeaway" morning news program, which WNYC produces in partnership with Public Radio International.

Fundraising Activities Raise Millions

To bolster its ability to create programming and keep expanding, the station has launched campaigns that in the last several years raised $62.9 million, Walker said. Members of the board, which include many New York media and society luminaries, have donated close to $22 million. Thirteen individuals or family foundations have given $1 million or more each to help support the station and its shows, she says.

takeaway-logo-sm.jpgWNYC partners with PRI and American Public Media to produce shows such as "Radio Lab," the "Studio 360" arts and culture show, "On the Media," "Freakonomics" segments for the Marketwatch business show, and "The Takeaway." Costs and revenues are shared with the partners.

For local audiences, WNYC launched "Financial 411" segments that explain economic issues, "Mainstreet NYC" to explore how the economy affects New Yorkers, and the Peabody award-winning "Radio Rookies" that gives teenagers, often from less privileged communities, a voice, among other shows, programs and events.

Last year, WNYC moved its operation to new headquarters that include the performance space, which was created with the help of a $6 million gift from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation. State and City agencies gave another $10 million toward the move. The space is working to become self-sustaining financially, said WNYC's Indira Etwaroo, who runs it.

The Greene space, as it's known, has hosted cooking demonstrations, concerts and readings, and is accepting applications for a second "Battle of the Boroughs" talent quest in which performers compete to host a concert and perform during the summer at Central Park's Summer Stage.

The recent 11th-annual gala, a glittering event hosted by station friend and listener Alec Baldwin and Ira Glass, host of Chicago Public Radio's "This American Life," raised close to $1 million. Baldwin, star of the hit TV show "30 Rock," not only donated his time, but also starred in a number of humorous radio spots used for the recent fundraising drive.

The station raised another $15 million to purchase and operate WQXR, the nation's most-listened to classical music station, from the New York Times this year. (Of that, $11 million was used to purchase the FCC license, and $4 million went to operations.) WNYC has since moved its classical music programming from WNYC-FM to QXR and now concentrates WNYC-AM and -FM on news and talk.

It all adds up to a station that has become a big fundraising presence in New York, bringing in dollars that support current activities and allow for new ones that, in turn, attract more interest and generate more revenue.

Walker Is Station's Highest Earner

By public media standards, Walker has been well-compensated for her efforts. According to the station's tax return for 2008 [PDF], the most recent provided, her compensation was $512,870, with $150,000 of that amount as a bonus. She was the top earner at WNCY, with former "Takeaway" co-host Adora Udoji coming in second at $332,147 (the other co-host John Hockenberry received $265,595). Dean Cappello, chief content officer and SVP was the third-highest earner, garnering $309,341.

Not everyone, of course, has been happy with everything Walker and the station have done. Last year, amid a decline in membership dollars, the station laid off four staff members, eliminated 11 unfilled positions and cut senior staff pay by five percent. Like any station, WNYC gets complaints when it changes programming or schedules, but because it's in New York, those complaints can come from highly visible individuals.

While the station has diversified its audience to better match the multi-ethnic and racial mix of New York, some believe it could do more. Maxie C. Jackson III, was the station's senior director of program development until a year ago. He is now president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and thinks the station's fundraising should reflect "a greater diversity."

"There needs to be a focus on generating revenue from communities of color," he said of WNYC and other public media.

Walker said the next phase for the station is "about doing innovate, creative programming in New York" and also "building out new revenue sources."

"I think we are uniquely positioned because we have diversified revenue streams, unlike our traditional non-profit brethren that often have less" and have to rely more on government and foundation support, she said.

While WNYC does have some unique advantages by being in New York, their efforts may hold lessons for ways in which public media can grow, prosper and expand its mission in the years to come.

A former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA, Dorian Benkoil has devised and executed marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk. He and his wife, residents of New York, support WNYC as members.

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The Public Media 2.0 series on MediaShift is sponsored by American University's Center for Social Media (CSM) through a grant from the Ford Foundation. Learn more about CSM's research on emerging public media trends and standards at futureofpublicmedia.net.

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August 25 2010

17:55

While Others Shrink, KQED Expands Cross-Platform News

Last month, KQED News in San Francisco dramatically expanded the scope of its news coverage with a new website, an increase from six to 16 local radio newscasts and the addition of eight news staffers, including six producers/reporters, a developer and a social media specialist. Its expansion will continue over the next several months (look for a new news blog in the next couple of months).

The changes at KQED reflect a system-wide emphasis on experimentation and news expansion by public media outlets. Since the release of the Knight Commission's report, Informing Communities - Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, last October, station-based news projects have grown substantially. Large, cross-platform projects are becoming more prevalent, especially among public media organizations with the resources to produce them. See, for example, some of the innovative work being done by outlets like WYNC and WBUR.

Cross-Platform Coverage + Collaboration

KQED's news site combines coverage from KQED Public Radio, KQED Public Television, and KQEDnews.org. In addition to cross-platform news coverage within KQED, the site aims to provide seamless integration of local, national, and international coverage (thanks to extensive integration of NPR's API); in-depth news and commentary (including investigative reporting); and real-time weather and traffic updates. Eventually, the site will incorporate additional interactive features to make news stories more dynamic and relevant to Northern California residents.

According to Tim Olson, KQED's vice president of digital media and education, the expanded site is part of an overall increased push in news coverage. This shift is not the result of a new dedicated source of funding. Rather, said Olson, "It was something [KQED president and CEO] John Boland wanted to do for a long time. We restructured the budget to accommodate these changes."

The new site builds on KQED's history of successful collaborative initiatives. For example, KQED Quest is a "multimedia series exploring Northern California science, environment and nature." Quest integrates radio, television, and online coverage in a site that features maps, a community blog, and hands-on explorations.

KQED News also already has a wealth of in-depth news reports that integrate social media and Web 2.0 technologies. Take, for example, Climate Watch, which provides continuous coverage of climate-related news and incorporates mapping projects such as Reservoir Watch, which tracks the state's water reservoir levels. There's also California's Water Bond - Where Would the Money Go?, which explores the distribution of funds in recent California water-related legislation.

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Another special feature, Governing California, invites users to learn about California government. This feature includes a California Budget Challenge game that allows users to submit their thoughts on spending decisions, and an interactive timeline of reform history in the state.

Additionally, "Health Dialogues," an exploration of health and health care in the state, includes an interactive map of health issues in rural California and Healthy Ideas, an eight-week special project that invited health care professionals to share their ideas on health care reform.

KQED News also incorporates maps, Twitter feeds, blogs, podcasts, video and user commenting on its news stories. KQED radio dedicates a portion of airtime to listener feedback, and the integrated site includes Perspectives, a section that provides two-minute audio commentaries from listeners each day.

Listen to this recent Perspective audio report from a KQED listener:

Traffic Increase & Challenges

Since the launch of the expanded site, KQED News has seen a 10-fold increase in the number of users, an impressive feat considering that, according to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Measured by audience size and budget, KQED is the largest public station in the country with TV and radio under one roof." KQED is growing in terms of partnerships as well: The organization currently has ongoing partnerships with upwards of 25 other news outlets, including organizations like the Center for Investigative Reporting, Youth Radio, and ProPublica, and this number is growing.

The expansion is not without its challenges, however. KQED's clear strength is in radio news, but, as Olson noted, "text and images are required for a robust online news presence." Improving the text on the site is a major priority, and as the site continues to expand, this emphasis will grow as well. Olson noted that NPR has gone through a similar transition over the past few years, which was addressed by gradually training reporting staff, and adding photo editors and copy editors.


Another challenge is balancing the "one-stop shopping mall" all-news aggregator approach with the "hyper-targeted topic verticals" approach. It's sometimes difficult for sites to combine both of these elements, and KQED is currently testing both approaches, in addition to some of the more targeted projects listed above.

Olson said the expanded site is "very much just the first step" in overall growth. In addition to a news blog, "News Fix," launching shortly, a mobile version of the site is currently in production, and will be released in the fall. "We're in it for the long haul," said Olson. "We're just getting started."

Katie Donnelly is Associate Research Director at the Center for Social Media at American University where she blogs about the future of public media. With a background in media literacy education, Katie previously worked as a Research Associate at Temple University's Media Education Lab in Philadelphia. When she's not researching media, Katie spends her time working in the environmental field and blogging about food.

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July 29 2010

22:10

Pop and Politics Blog Becomes Converged Radio Project

These days it's not so unusual for a public radio program to boast a companion blog. But few shows begin online and move to broadcast.Pop and Politics is the exception.

Farai Chideya -- a high-profile public affairs reporter, novelist, and the former host of NPR's late and lamented African-American current events program "News & Notes" -- began the Pop and Politics site 15 years ago when she was working at CNN as a political analyst. The project, she said, has evolved through "a few different lifecycles" -- from a multi-author blog covering issues of race and culture, to a student journalism training organization, to its latest, a multi-platform radio show.

"I decided that now was the time," Chideya said. "There have been so many times that I have been a part of 'converged media' but it was too soon or didn't quite work. Now, all of the market conditions are right."

She described the project as more of a "media ecosystem as anything else," comprised of a broadcast, podcast, social media feeds, and mobile content -- all under the Pop and Politics brand.

Election Plans

On air, the program -- formally titled "Pop and Politics Radio With Farai Chideya" -- will launch in a pilot version just before the midterm election. It will be a series of hour-long broadcasts recorded live-to-tape from spots around the country where there are critical races. The goal is to feature perspectives that aren't always highlighted in national election coverage.

"All politics is local, life is local," Chideya said. "I want to meet people where they are, to be respectful of the fact that not everyone lives in a big city, that not everyone thinks the same way that I do."

She plans to work with American Public Media's Public Insight Network to uncover local sources for stories. Click on the video below to hear her describe the show's format.

News + Entertainment

A mixture of reporting, a panel of guests, interviews and live performance, Pop and Politics Radio draws inspiration from popular late-night comedy programs by mixing news and entertainment.

"I want to enjoy the act of making media, and I want people to enjoy the media I produce," Chideya said. But instead of just relying on celebrities and politicians to comment on the day's events, she'll draw in independent producers and reporters to contribute fresh content.

Her program targets a demographic that isn't young exactly -- around 35 -- but younger than the usual boomer-generation NPR fan, as well as hipper and more multicultural. Online, Chideya notes, with search, peer recommendation, streaming audio and podcasting, it's now possible to find audiences for public radio content, "even among those who don't consider themselves public radio listeners."

The show will be produced out of WNYC, the New York-based NPR station that is also home to such innovative shows as Radiolab and The Takeaway.

Fans of News & Notes -- who launched an online campaign protesting that show's cancellation -- will be excited to tune in. But they still have awhile to wait. "It's going to be a bit of a slow bake," Chideya said. Right now, she's focused on revamping the Pop and Politics site for its latest incarnation.

Jessica Clark directs the Center for Social Media's Future of Public Media Project, and is a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation. Tracy Van Slyke is the Project Director of The Media Consortium and was recently named one of "30 Women Making History" by the Women's Media Center. Together, they are the co-authors of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media, published in February by the New Press. The authors would like to thank the Ford Foundation and The Media Consortium for their support in conducting the summits and associated research.

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March 12 2010

16:35

NPR, SiriusXM Internships Steeped in Multimedia, Social Media

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When you think about internships at media companies, you probably picture people fetching coffee, running errands, or worse. But some internships have taken a different tack, setting up specialized blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages for their interns to help them understand new technology and spread the word about their programs.

At NPR, the 40-plus interns put together a special 30-minute multimedia and audio presentation for the rest of the staff each term. The special "Intern Edition" -- run mainly by interns themselves -- has morphed into a regular blog with daily updates. At satellite radio giant SiriusXM, 150 interns are herded by "Ross the Boss" Herosian, a former intern who has a special Twitter feed, Facebook page, blog, podcast and even YouTube channel for the internship program.

The advantage for interns coming into these programs (which run in spring, summer or fall terms) is that many of them are already immersed in digital media, so there's nothing to relearn. As Doug Mitchell, former head of the NPR Intern Edition, told me for a MediaShift story in 2008:

There's no 'legacy' to concern ourselves with because Intern Edition starts completely from scratch each term with a room full of strangers and me as the continuity and institutional memory. What better place to develop new thinking about media, development and consumption than where nothing truly exists.

A Major Juggle

One thing that interns at NPR have in common with other workers at media companies is the need to juggle like mad. They have their regular internship with a specific NPR radio show or production service; they might have classes at school or other internships; and then they have the extra-curricular work of Intern Edition, their creative outlet. And that creativity can take many forms: video, drawing, comics and more.

"It's never easy," said NPR senior trainer Sora Newman, who has taken on Doug Mitchell's former role. "The interns need to be committed to the project and they always underestimate the amount of time it takes to produce a radio story or slide show, etc. These are just skills learned by experience."

A slide-show by NPR intern May Ying-Lam of the Tiny Desk concert series

Intern Edition gives NPR interns a place to showcase new skills, test their limits and even build an online audience via social media. The @NPRInterns Twitter feed has more than 2,500 followers. And one intern, Teresa Gorman, has just one job for her internship: executive producing the Intern Edition. Gorman told me that "We do almost everything ourselves ... It's tough. It's worth it, though."

At SiriusXM, social media outreach is less about promoting the work of interns as it is about promoting the internship programs to prospective interns. Herosian told me he took a program that had 15 interns four years ago and built it into a powerhouse with 150 interns spread out around the country. The internships are unpaid, but they do offer college credit.

Ross Herosian.jpg

"I wanted to get the message out about what we're doing and market it to college students," he said. "I thought it would be great to go where the students are, rather than waiting for them to come to us. So when Facebook came out, I was creating groups for people to join, and when they launched the Pages feature, I saw a great opportunity for a community and outlet so that people can follow us."

Challenges for Interns

While both programs have had success in training college students and bringing some of them on board with full-time jobs, there have been some obstacles along the way. NPR interns have had to deal with an entrenched traditional media mentality, and SiriusXM has had to sort through various online platforms to get it right.

Dominic Ruiz-Esparza is the communications director for Intern Edition, and an intern at "Talk of the Nation." He told me there have been battles among interns over the direction of Intern Edition, which mixes newsy stories with lighter fare.

"There's a bit of disagreement about how much should be news content and how much is trying out new things that are fun for interns," Ruiz-Esparza said. "There's a bit of a battle here among people who run Intern Edition. I have a news background and would like that, but that gets boring and some people want to try innovative things. So it's really up to the managing editor to decide, so that we have some news and the interns have creative freedom, too."

dominic ruiz-esparza.jpg

He's also noticed that there's still resistance to change at NPR as a whole.

"Guy Raz, the weekend 'All Things Considered' host, talked to us awhile ago and acknowledged that there's a very conservative spirit here at NPR and it's changed," Ruiz-Esparza said. "It's a lot better than it was, but it's still not the norm for these new forms of content to be primary. The website has changed a lot due to the new CEO [Vivian Schiller], but there is that divide. It's changed somewhat, but not quick enough for young people here."

At SiriusXM, Herosian has a serious challenge just keeping track of the 150 interns spread out around the country. Luckily, he has interns to help him with that task. Because Herosian is only a handful of years removed from his own internship, he can relate to the interns and has taken on the "Ross the Boss" nickname in a light-hearted way. Herosian hasn't been afraid to try new digital platforms to promote the SiriusXM internships -- and he admits some of them just didn't work out.

"At first with the blog I set up a LiveJournal format where everyone had their own account, but it was just too many moving parts," Herosian said. "For us, it wasn't the best interface to use. We also used Ning, which is a great service but it didn't quite meet our needs. Sometimes less in more with social media, because everything you create you have to maintain. People in corporate environments will create these pages and then say 'my job is done' and there's no maintenance that goes into it. It's the conversation aspect that's important, so you can't create them and then have them lie dormant."

Intern Learning and Teaching

As for what's been working well in social media, Herosian said Facebook has been the best way to promote the program to college students, who are much more comfortable commenting or asking questions in that environment. He was surprised that many college interns were new to Twitter and had to be prompted to use it regularly. One SiriusXM intern, Jeremy Lubsey, said he had heard a lot about Twitter before, but had never used it very much until his internship. That said, he thinks he'll get a lot more use out of his new LinkedIn profile.

Jeremy Lubsey.jpg

"[One of my biggest lessons was] the importance of social networking sites such as LinkedIn," Lubsey told me. "The second week, I was talking to one of the production guys and he said to put up a page on LinkedIn and get your name out there. That's helped me to work on my career after SiriusXM."

And when it comes to social media, sometimes it's the interns who help teach the staffers new tricks. Mediaite editor-at-large Rachel Sklar told me that the startup site had been blessed with "awesome, kickass interns" who also have their own Twitter feed.

"As for social media training, it's gone both ways!" Sklar said. "Only an idiot would welcome these kids just out of school without making a point of learning from them. They've grown up steeped in this stuff. The training flows both ways!"

*****

What do you think about internships that include blogs, podcasts, Twitter feeds and more? Should more media companies do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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December 17 2009

18:44

Lessons on Collaboration from EconomyStory, Election Projects

"Online: Content is king. I don't disagree. But collaboration is queen. In chess the king is the most important, but the queen is the most powerful." 
- David Cohn

We in public media produce a lot of content, but historically we haven't had a lot of collaboration. That's been changing recently, and I'm fortunate enough to have a front row seat.

I'm the project manager for public media's collaboration about the economy, EconomyStory, a project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that brings together 12 public media organizations to cover the current economic crisis, online and on-air. The idea was straightforward: By coordinating efforts across newsrooms, we can deliver to the American public news coverage and resources that are greater than the sum of their parts, and that leverage each organization's strengths. (For a list of partners and their contributions, see EconomyStory.org).

I previously managed a similar effort, also funded by CPB, around the 2008 election. Eight organizations were involved in that project. Over the course of these two projects, I've witnessed a series of triumphs and frustrations that are deeply relevant to the current conversation among journalists, and those interested in journalism, regarding the future of news. Below are my top three lessons learned. I hope other organizations can benefit from our experience, and build on what we've learned. I'd also love to hear what you've learned from similar projects.

Lesson #1: Collaboration Isn't Efficient, But Still Worth It



At the outset of the election project, I expected collaboration to create efficiencies. After all, instead of eight organizations having eight conversations about how to cover the same story, we were having one conversation. Certainly, the thinking went, this would reduce, if not eliminate, redundancies. But reducing redundancies, it turns out, doesn't necessarily mean reducing effort; coordinating with people at other organizations that have different ways of doing things takes time -- lots of it.

For example, during the 2008 election, NPR and PBS NewsHour jointly developed an interactive map that was featured on each of their websites, as well as on over 150 local station sites. With a curator assigned at both NPR and NewsHour, the map fused local and national coverage -- in text, audio and video -- from across public media. Having a collaborative map was convenient for stations, and, in my opinion, yielded a superior end product, which better served the public.

Both NPR and NewsHour could have launched the map earlier in the election cycle if they'd pursued individual products. Instead, they took the time to jointly develop the feature's specifications and select a vendor, among other tasks -- all of which lengthened the production process.

nprnewshourmap.jpg

Was this strategic? Absolutely. Efficient? Not really. Yes, the public media system as a whole was focusing its resources more effectively; but individuals were not producing results as quickly as they would have if they'd worked alone.

Of course, collaboration doesn't always increase effort. It depends on the nature and timing of the project, and whether the partners have worked together before. My point is simply this: Don't assume that working together means saving time -- that's not the value proposition of collaboration. The value proposition is about quality, to the extent that you're equipped to turn quality into revenue.

In other words: Working together yields a superior and more distinctive end product; more distinctive end products, when promoted effectively, build audiences; bigger audiences are the raw material from which revenue may be extracted.

Lesson #2: You Need the Muckety-Mucks

The web department still operates as something of a ghetto at many media organizations. Despite pockets of leadership and innovation, public media organizations are, for the most part, no exception.

Sure, everyone knows the future's in digital, but, more often than not, the people with power and influence work in the organization's legacy media area, such as print or broadcast. I witnessed this directly during the election collaboration, which primarily involved web managers and producers at partner organizations. This hampered the project's impact, either by limiting promotion or preventing more meaningful editorial collaboration. (Much of our "collaboration" during election 2008, aside from the NPR/NewsHour map, took the form of cross-promotion -- a type of collaboration, to be sure, but not the deepest type.)

Having learned our lesson, the kickoff meeting for EconomyStory included multi-disciplinary teams from each partner organization. We then broke off into strands for in-depth brainstorming sessions. At one point, producers of several blue-chip public media programs locked eyes and admitted they didn't trust each other. Then they laughed about it. Then they started talking.

The immediate result? At least one co-production, which aired on both radio and TV, with related web content. The longer-term impact is that the channels of communication are open between these organizations, including at the executive level. This sets the tone and empowers people at every level to explore creative ways of working together. Now it seems I hear each week about a new collaborative effort between some subset of our project's partners.

Lest you think the lesson here is that change only comes from the top down, I'll underscore that the idea to collaborate for the election and the economic crisis was largely hatched within public media's web community. This community just needed to engage the right executives in order to begin realizing the full power of its vision.

Lesson #3: Autopilot? I Don't Think So.

People were enthusiastic when they left the kick-off meeting, but then they returned to busy offices, overflowing inboxes, and lengthy to-do lists. In other words, it was going to take more than goodwill to drive the project forward. Specifically, success was going to require:

> Formal Communication Channels: For the election project, partners relied on the phone and email to stay in touch with each other, and with me. This time around, I introduced Basecamp, a project management tool from 37 Signals. I made it clear at the outset (and in partner contracts) that participation on Basecamp was a requirement. Sound harsh? Yes, but I knew I was dealing with busy people who needed extra prodding to remember to share information outside of their own shops.

It's been a huge success because it's far more effective for partners to share information with each other, than for information to flow only from them to me. Why rely on a switchboard operator in the digital age? 


One success story: near the beginning of the economy project, a producer at PBS posted a programming pipeline, including information about an upcoming Frontline special called "The Warning." It was about a lone regulator who warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s. A producer at Marketplace saw this information and ended up commissioning a series of original radio reports, including an interview with the regulator, Brooksley Born.

This may not sound like rocket science (and it isn't), but without this project, and without a central information-sharing hub, it wouldn't have happened.

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> Strong Central Staff: After the election project, it was clear that there were central project functions beyond project management that needed attention. For one thing, we needed to actually promote the partners' work, both to the general public and to public media stations. After all, it's hard to provide a public service when the public doesn't know what you're doing.

Also, in order to maximize editorial collaboration between partners, we needed someone with a bird's eye view of the project, as well as a journalist's sensibility, who could look for specific opportunities for partners to team up. We added these roles to the mix, bringing on freelancer and public media vet Katie Kemple to head up marketing; Public Radio International managed station outreach; and Lee Banville from NewsHour served as "editorial facilitator."

The combination of Basecamp and additional project staff has spurred more informal collaboration on EconomyStory compared to what we saw during the election project. The Frontline/Marketplace example above is just the tip of the iceberg. It's critical to have a central team that works to keep partners focused and engaged. In addition, those of us at the center of the project are then able to identify strategic successes and areas for improvement.

Conclusion

Learning to collaborate is a lot like learning to manage. A junior manager often thinks it's easier to do things herself, rather than take time to train someone on her team. While this approach may allow her to deliver results more quickly in the short term, it's not sustainable over time. Similarly, collaboration between news organizations is often time consuming at first -- but it's essential to their long-term success.

As more and more news organizations shut their doors, or reduce operations, lean organizations and newly freelance journalists need to learn to work together in new ways if they're going to survive. They need to be scrappy -- and public media organizations are nothing if not scrappy. There may be hope for us yet.

Amanda Hirsch is a consultant to independent media companies and non-profits, and the former editorial director of PBS Interactive (as well as MediaShift's former editor). She is also a writer and performer. You can follow Amanda online on her website and on Twitter at @publicmediagirl.

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November 13 2009

18:25

Media140 Brings Old and New Media Together, With Explosive Results

Over 300 people gathered under the Media140 banner in a concert hall at Australia's national public broadcaster ABC in Sydney last week to consider the future of journalism in the social media age.

Media140 is a newly formed global collaboration of journalists, academics and social media practitioners that is staging conferences around the world. The goal is to examine the impact of the real-time web on news and media industries. It was founded in the UK last February by media worker Andrew Gregson. (Disclosure: I was the editorial director for Media140 Australia. Profits from the event will be donated to The Big Issue, a magazine designed to empower the homeless.)

Our conference at the bottom of the world rose to No. 4 on Twitter's trending topics after just a few hours. Issues on the agenda included the role of Twitter in reporting the Iran uprising; professional and ethical guidelines for journalists using social media; and how political reporting is being changed by journalists' adoption of social media platforms.

The gathering tested some professional journalists' assertions about the threat to quality reporting allegedly posed by Twitter. It also challenged claims on the territory made by social media experts. In the end, we established that Twitter is the platform propelling Australian journalists into the social media age, while also broadening the base of the movement to reinvent journalism.

The line-up featured some of Australia's most respected and prolific journalists, academics and bloggers. Tensions arose on stage and online during the conference between old rivals, over newly contested territory, and in pursuit of redefinitions of journalism. While hundreds mingled at the ABC, hundreds more participated online via Twitter, a live ABC webcast, a Ustream video feed, and live blogging.

The ABC of Social Media Guidelines

media140 mark scott twitter slide.jpg

The ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, was the first keynote speaker. He used the event to launch the most progressive social media policy that I've seen from a large media organization.

"I wanted to title my talk 'Making This Up as We Go Along'... because to a degree that's what we're doing," he said.

Essentially, the simple guidelines empower ABC employees to freely use social networking sites and tools for professional and personal purposes, with the rider that they be careful not to undermine their professional practice, nor their employer's reputation. The policy outlined four key rules:

* Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
* Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.

* Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.

* Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

"We need to experiment and we need to give our staff the space to experiment," Scott said.

The new ABC guidelines strongly contrast with the position adopted by the Australian Financial Review, which recently banned its staff from using Twitter professionally. (In a forthcoming MediaShift post, I'll analyze Australian media outlets' attempts to negotiate ethics and professionalism in this new territory).

Scott has dragged his staff -- some kicking and screaming -- into the social media age. He acknowledges that these new platforms are part of the public broadcaster's future. In his Media140 address, he pointed out that Twitter is just another "t" in a progression from telegraph to telephone to telex, and so on. He also showed how Twitter could easily fit within the realm of breaking news by offering tweet-length posts for some of the major stories of the past century.

Nevertheless, skepticism remains. The ABC's most senior political reporter, Chris Uhlmann (christened by the ABC chief the "Harpo Marx of Twitter" for his virtually mute state in the sphere), said, "I just don't see how I could verify sources from Twitter."

There were pockets of internal resistance to the ABC's involvement in Media140. But as the conference progressed, I heard that many journalists at the public broadcaster were watching the feed from their desks. Some of them eventually ventured onto the conference floor, while others contacted me after the conference was over.

The challenge now for progressive industry leaders like Mark Scott is to adequately support journalists so they can use social media as an integral part of their beat. As the ABC radio's chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis blogged during the conference, many already over-laden journalists are simply "too tired to tweet!"

Tweeting Politics and the Clash of the Titans

As I reported earlier this year, there has been a veritable explosion of Australian journalists in the Twittersphere. Today, Twitter is changing the way political reporters interact, and has broken a century-long tradition that prohibited live reporting from the Australian parliamentary chambers.

As the Sydney Morning Herald's Annabel Crabb told the conference, reporters are tweeting the daily Question Time sessions. Journalists are using Twitter to interact with each another and a broadening base of engaged civic tweeters. People are even challenging politicians via tweets as debates play out on the floor of the House.

media140 stage.jpg

While some journalists and organizations move forward, working on building new audiences by engaging through social media, conflict is emerging between publishers like Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and public broadcasters such as the ABC and the BBC. Mark Scott recently compared Murdoch's last grasps at control -- re-erecting pay walls and, as of this week, musing about blocking content from Google -- with the desperation of an emperor experiencing the fall of Rome.

On stage at Media140, the award-winning author and journalist, Caroline Overington expressed genuine alarm at the rising, monopolistic power of public broadcasters like the ABC in the new media landscape. She launched into a strident defense of Murdoch (whom she described as "benevolent") and his vision for newspapers.

She also revealed a hint of company strategy by indicating News Corp.'s plans were also linked to the development of a media consumption device, which is now facetiously being referred to in Australia as the iRupert or the Ru-pod. Overington also challenged rival, Annabel Crabb, with assertion that the Sydney Morning Herald, a Murdoch competitor, was in very dire financial straits.

That drew the retort from Crabb: "I think it is wonderful that your survival strategy depends on the robust genes of a 78-year-old... We are not in as much trouble as you will be once your great leader drops off the twig." Cue peals of laughter. (You can view the entire panel on Social Media and Political Reporting here.)

The Mass Media as the Masses' Media

One academic speaker told the conference that "the hoards are at the castle gates." I took this analogy further in my closing remarks at Media140. From my perspective, the masses aren't just threatening to storm the castle -- they've overrun it. Mass media has become the masses' media. Unless the mainstream media wants to be left behind to starve, it needs to join the revolution and figure out new ways of funding, filtering and curating stories to ensure the hard work of journalism -- shining a light in dark places -- can continue to be done.

"For the first time in human evolution we are co-creating the human narrative, never again will our histories be held hostage to the victors, our stories forgotten, unwritten, unscribed," said social media activist Laurel Papworth.

media140 jayrosen.jpg

This point was driven home in the question-and-answer session that followed a presentation delivered via Skype by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. During his talk, Rosen outlined a clarion vision for journalism in the social media age via 10 key points. Then a journalist in attendance got up and expressed fear about giving the "audience" the reins.

"If you don't have a democratic heart, you don't belong in journalism in the first place," Rosen said.

Media140 Sydney was an attempt to bridge the gap between the mainstream and the fringes, to negotiate change, and to provide a platform for the collaborative reinvention of journalism. Thousands of tweets, many new connections, and a few minor brawls later, the global conversation -- in newsrooms, on Twitter and blogs -- continues to reap dividends for journalism's reinvention.

In the coming weeks I'll outline more of the lessons learned and the progress being made in the wake of Media140. But, for now, the last word should go to SBS online news and current affairs editor, Valerio Veo, who told Media140 "I am the bastard child of old and new media... like a child of a broken home -- [I] care deeply for both my divorced parents, despite their temporary differences."

Images by neeravbhatt via Flickr

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