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February 03 2012



Alfonso Nieto died yesterday in Pamplona (Spain) but his legacy as a person, friend,  writer, thinker, mentor and leader will last for many years.

He was the absolute force behind the development of Journalism education in Spanish universities.

During his time as president of the University of Navarre we founded INNOVATION.

We learned from him many lessons and one of them was that “nothing is more practical than a good theory.”

Alfonso Nieto was a close friend of the late Leo Bogart, a founding director of INNOVATION.

Like Leo, he was a man of good manners, many friends, sharp mind and highly educated.

Both loved books and libraries.

And both loved newspapers.

But both were very critical about poor media business management.

Without credibility, values and compelling service to readers, advertisers, audiences and communities, press and media were “cathedrals without soul”.

Alfonso Nieto was  a pioneer in news media management education.

He saw very early, in the 1980′s, the big role and future of free newspapers and wrote a seminal book on this matter.

When I went to New York’s Columbia Journalism School as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in 1978, his frequent letters to me during that year were always inspirational, challenging and really friendly.

A few months ago I got in the UK his last one, saying that he missed the Hay-on-Wye bookshelves!

They too, and all of us.

Don Alfonso, we will miss you very much.



April 10 2011


Collective, Non-Profit Investigative Journalism Takes Spotlight at Logan

BERKELEY, CALIF. -- I am back at Day 2 at the 5th Annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium, a gathering of the top investigative journalists and thinkers at University of California at Berkeley. Day 1 coverage is here, including an appearance by Skype by Julian Assange. Day 2 is shorter, but more focused on new models of journalism, including "collective work" and non-profit journalism.

Collective Work

Carrie Lovano, UC Berkeley: We are in a huge period of transition. The Guardian wants to do stories that will engage readers and make them take action. We wanted to get a technologist in here to talk about these things. Matt McAlister is an early adopter of social media, and will talk about what the Guardian is doing with open technology


Matt McAlister, head of technology at Guardian, former Yahoo and Industry Standard: It's about the network and the platform. I'm going to talk about business stuff, which is unusual for this event. I have trouble separating content from business and they all have to move toward a common purpose. Everyone understands that an open, collaborative approach is how we all should go.

What we've failed to do is make the open, connected model of journalism work. In that space, there's new thinking like Google Android, Twitter, Facebook and even Wikipedia. The Daily will feel even further behind.

We've been doing live blogs for awhile, and they've been hugely successful for us. The sports guys really worked this out, telling stories minute-by-minute -- we call them "Minute-By-Minutes" not live blogs. They do it in a Twitter-like way but Twitter has limits to it, and our website doesn't have limits. The protests in the Middle East were perfect for this. We realized it had to be in Arabic too, so we took people away from their jobs to translate for us, and we got some translation services. Collaboration was necessary for us to do our job.

If all of this was behind the pay wall, how could we have the same effect?

Slide shows comparison of Rupert Murdoch and The Daily as being closed, with Ev Williams of Twitter being open:


For the Times UK, they had very British experts on their site, and for the Times, that's OK, because those are the people who are paying for their site.

Q: Your correspondent mentioned that the advantage you had was being open and in Arabic, but how did you verify things?

McAlister: I wish I knew, I didn't have insight into the editorial process for that.

Q: Were you translating Arabic into English too, so both audiences could understand? Not just text, but video too?

McAlister: Yes, we translated both ways, and we did translate Twitter feeds, or we would post on our live-blog a Twitter feed in Arabic and translate it into English. They would do a screen capture of a tweet and put it in the live blog and the translator would translate that in a caption.

Q: How do you manage your Twitter feeds?

McAlister: We use Twitter much much more than Facebook, but our structure is very loose. Our reporters might use Twitter in very imaginative ways. We have guidelines for using Twitter but we don't have a commitment to using it one way or the other. The downside is that people don't always do the same thing, but it lets people invent new ways of using them.

During the G-20 protests in London, a newsstand worker was pushed down to the ground by the police and had a heart attack. The police report seemed unsatisfactory, and Paul Lewis our reporter put out a call asking if anyone was there. Someone had taken a video of it, and found out we were looking for it via Twitter, and sent it to us in a secure way. It's a fantastic story about how you can pull in sources with social media.

Another case, there was a man who died on a plane and he asked for photos or images, and he got a plane list of passengers and started tweeting them, and found people who were on the plane. He started a network of people, and someone was killed on the plane, and the police covered it up.

More Examples at Guardian

McAlister: The MP expense reports from UK Parliament - There are different ways to tell that story. The Telegraph did their analysis of this big pile of data. We took PDFs and put them on the website, we're talking hundreds of thousands of documents. We made a game of it, asking people to find things and let us know. There were buttons to say something was interesting or not. It happened again for a second year.


Some lessons from it: The problem with the first one was our progress bar showing all the documents people had looked at. People wondered what happened to all the other documents, plus it was just too much, overwhelming. So we broke down the data, so people could find expenses relevant to your own MP.

Your user name was ranked, among all the other readers. You could compare and contrast. Another case was when the Dept. of Treasury spending was put online. We had our engineers work on it, and asked other software/journalist types to come to our office to work it out. We used open source tools to build something dead simple to find things. We spent 3 or 4 days with eight developers total to build this database. Anyone could put it into Excel, and it took about 5 minutes before people found things. It was fascinating.

One person asked why we spend 100,000 pounds on flag waving? We immediately put that out and asked the question -- we got an unsatisfying answer, but at least we got an answer.

We publish things on Google Docs without licensing it at all. We set up a group on Flickr and sent out a tweet about it and have all these people doing storytelling around our data projects.

Another big initiative is our Open Platform at the Guardian. There are a million or so articles that you can post in full using this toolset. It's been great for building mobile apps, but the intent was for partners to use our stuff. One example is that we got this Wordpress plug-in, a Guardian plug-in that looks like a news feed right in your Wordpress blog. And you see an ad in the article as it's syndicated.

We also created a timeline of social media reactions during a World Cup game, so you could relive the game in a different way.

Q: What about the trust at the Guardian?

McAlister: It's hugely helpful for letting us experiment, and it's there in perpetuity. Collaboration with other partners who have these tools is step one. There are hack days out there. If you have a developer, you might get more out of them from hack days than having them finish whatever they're working on it.

The State of Non-Profit Investigative Journalism

Moderator: Charles Lewis, Investigative Reporting Workshop

Panel: Robert Rosenthal, Raney Aronson-Rath, Calvin Sims, Richard Tofel, Mc Nelly Torres, Gary Bostwick, Margaret Drain.

Charles Lewis: About a third of newspaper newsrooms have disappeared and the number of PR people doubled. This is not good. In a social revolution, many journalists started non-profit outfits, by rank and file reporters. Many were frustrated with the owners of their news organizations. This group, who never ran anything, became entrepreneurs, which is astonishing.


We looked at 60 groups, some new some not so new. OpenSecrets, TRACK, sites that were never considered investigative reporting sites, but should be. We created a database with all these sites. Of these sites, 40 started in the past few years. And there are many outside the U.S. and we'll be looking at them as well. Total operating budget was $85 million, and half of them won awards.

One thing we must bear in mind is that non-profit journalism is not new. The Associated Press did work more than a century ago, and NPR has been around since 1970 and it's the only news organization to double its audience in the past 10 years. We all know about the Guardian, which has done more innovative work than any other newspaper in the world. The non-profits have more time to do more serious work, and that's why ProPublica has won awards recently, and the Center for Public Integrity won IRE awards, too.

My Investigative Reporting Workshop is the biggest one at a university. We did Bank Tracker, putting all the data online with MSNBC, and there have been millions of page views, a lot of traffic. Using technology, multimedia, and Kat Aaron is the project editor for a 40-year look at what's happened with employment and workers in America, with a special website. It's a multi-million-dollar project.

It's getting blurry out there. For-profits are asking for memberships and donations, and ProPublica has ads. The non-profit space is changing basically every hour.

Q: Is there hope for PBS?

Margaret Drain of WGBH: We don't have a trust, but should have a trust. When I first came to PBS, I came to WGBH, which is the largest producer of content for PBS. I have quite a large portfolio of projects and shows. Early on, I found out we had to do fundraising, to raise several million dollars, because PBS didn't give us enough money. We had to produce content and do fundraising.

We get between 20% to 100% funding from PBS for our shows. It's generally about 40% for each show.

I was not very optimistic about the future of PBS, and then I got an email from someone at Capitol Hill and heard we weren't going to get cut for fiscal 2011, but there's still 2012. The problem that PBS faces is the blurring between commercial and non-commercial broadcasting. I think we need to protect the non-commercial part of broadcasting. And it's all in the perception. We do take ads on our websites because monetization is an issue, but we don't want commercialization to foul our nest.

Why have PBS? Everyone's got out of investigative journalism. It's very difficult to get my head around this. We need help from big donors, but where we're going to forming trusts based around genres. We've started the Frontline Investigative Journalism Trust. The other is a documentary film fund and another is for science and "Nova." And we'd like to recruit donors who have interest.

We also have the digital side to fund, and curation to do. We are dependent on the kindness of Congress but can't depend on that.

Robert Rosenthal, Center for Investigative Reporting: We are charging for our content. We put out a series this week, On Shaky Ground, and I estimate the audience we will reach in California will be 8 million to 10 million people. Distribution with ethnic media, broadcast, radio, newspapers and even 100+ Patch.com websites, as well as PBS Newshour and KQED. It's a tremendous audience and the feedback we've had from the audience is remarkable.


That cost us, as a 19-month investigation that cost $750,000, and our revenue is about $40,000 to $50,000. Some of our funders have great rapport with us others don't talk much to us. We have advertising on our site but our goal isn't to be a destination website. It's incredibly complicated to measure distribution. We put out a children's coloring book. It wasn't my idea but it's been very successful. We're not charging for it. We are at the center of innovation and collaboration but I can't sit here and say it's sustainable.

Sharon Tiller came back to do video for us at CIR. There's also a mobile app to find fault lines in California.

Raney Aronson-Rath, Frontline: We don't see corporate funding as being a big part of our funding. We are in a huge period of reinvention, just went to a full-year of programming. We got a big grant from the Logans, so we want to thank them. We're a legacy series, we have a look and feel and do investigative reporting. We're increasingly looking at going to more multimedia and doing more on the iPad -- and not just to put video there. What we want to do is have a more vibrant offering in the digital space.

We hired Andrew Golis from Yahoo and before that TPM. We want to add more materials on our website, more addendum material. We want to do things in that space that are as strong editorially as on broadcast. It's a big transition for us. We're focused less on our website and more on our tablet and digital spaces. So people can hold the iPad in their hands and have more of a multimedia experience.

So what does collaboration look like right now? It's getting hard-hitting investigative work in all our reports. So we have to rely on more people, because we only have a handful of producers. So we work with ProPublica and CIR and others. It's an exciting era now for us. We hired a new managing editor who comes from a big-time newspaper and believes in narrative journalism.

Calvin Sims, Ford Foundation: We have historically been big funders of investigative reporting, and we'll continue in that space. We are a social justice organization, and things that affect minorities and poor all over the world. We don't fund advocacy journalism because we think the public that supports strong journalism will take action. How do we decide what to fund?


We just announced a $50 million initiative for documentary funds, and we'll continue to fund the sector of public media and journalism, but we want to think more like a venture capital fund. We're looking for big influence and impact. More importantly we want to know if your content advances the public discussion on a topic, are you reaching an influential audience and how do you quantify that impact?

We want to bet on people who are going to still be around.

Richard Tofel, ProPublica: We're making enormous progress in sustainability. Ads and sponsorships are part of it, money from partners is part of it. We've had some interesting experiences with Kindle Singles, but philanthropy is how these non-profits are sustained. Smaller donors can be a very important part too. But do people see the need? That's why I'm optimistic. There's been a market failure in producing high value journalism that's crucial to democratic governments. They need to be funded as public good.

I'm very optimistic and think we've made enormous progress in 4 years since we launched at ProPulica.

Mc Nelly Torres, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting: We are doing OK. We decided to focus on Florida for fundraising. There are a lot of groups, but we don't want to have to reinvent the wheel. There are so many groups competing for funds from national groups like the Ford Foundation. We don't have a person dedicated to raise money. I'm raising money, and I also write stories. We just won our first national award. [applause]


Our website is growing, we are getting 60% more traffic on our site each month. All the mainstream newspapers are all my clients, you have to think that way. You need to have many sources of revenue, and think about ways to experiment with it. But the sky is the limit. The passion here is investigative journalism an we are providing something that has virtually disappeared from mainstream outlets. I'd rather spend my time in Florida and raise money there than waste my time and energy elsewhere where I'm competing with ProPublicas and others.

Gary Bostwick, Bostwick & Jassy LLP, part of legal support network for non-profit outlets: I was here a few years ago talking about this, it's amazing to see Chuck Lewis detail all the people doing it now. I am thrilled to hear everything from people on the panel, including CIR and everyone else. You're not going to be different in who will attack you as if you were a mainstream news organization. We are trained as lawyers to look out for issues. We want you to get your content on the air, but we won't always say yes, and we don't always say no. We usually say, "yes, but..." You are not in a risk-free environment.

I give constant education to clients who don't have a strong journalism background.

So why not get a group policy to cover CIR, ProPublica and all these groups for libel lawsuits? I just started thinking about that. I planted a small land mine out in the courtyard, but the chances of you stepping on it are small. I am trying to avoid the small risk of a cataclysmic disaster. We all do it because we believe in you and we want this to succeed.

**Q: Is there an issue with undercutting the price of doing commercial journalism?

Rosenthal: I think it's something we think about, many people in commercial journalism are now working in non-profit journalism. But we're talking about investigative journalism, and there's so much less of that now, and I think we have to keep it going. I wish it wasn't that way, but I've seen downsizing in commercial journalism. Our sustainability is whether we are having an effect on society, that's what fuels us.

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 30 2010


Live-Blogging FCC Workshop: Public Media in the Digital Era

How should public and noncommercial media evolve in the digital age? Hopefully we'll find out shortly, as I report live from today's FCC's Future of Media Workshop. A who's who of execs, funders and researchers are lined up to speak, and given that this isn't the FCC's usual beat, everyone's curious to see how the day will turn out. You can follow along with live-streaming video at fcc.gov/live, or on Twitter at #FOMwkshop. Let's start the show:

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Chairman Julius Genachowski
Says that he's excited to see "energy and enthusiasm around this important topic," and hearkens back to the mid-1940s, when the noncommercial broadband system was established: "If we hadn't made those simple but bold decisions then...our society, our democracy would have been uncalculably poorer." Now we are again at a moment of "seismic shifts" that offer both challenges and opportunities. Genachowski notes that the noncommercial community is no longer saying "public broadcasting," but "public media," and that thousands of web sites and mobile projects are now operating with a public media mission, but not yet recognized as public media.

"This is not about preserving an industry, or about preserving journalists' paychecks, though that wouldn't be so bad," he says. Instead, it's about preserving the vigilance and accountability of journalism for citizens. It's also about finding new ways to help parents helping to struggle with their children's media consumption, and giving them new forms of educational content.

live video fcc.jpg

Notes that there is tremendous creativity both in the leadership and in the grassroots organizations. He notes that the organizations are working together more, and urges them to "keep it up." Wants to make sure the public media spectrum truly serves the public, providing access to "vibrant, diverse" sources of news and information. Policymakers create the "platform for free speech" used by journalists and creative trailblazers to "enlighten us all."

FCC Commissioner Michal J. Copps
"The subject at hand could not be more timely...doing something about journalism is at the top of my bucket list," says Copps, who has demonstrated particular interest in the role of public media over the years. Citizens need "an information infrastructure" that tells them what they need to know to serve as informed citizens. This challenge has been with us since the founding fathers, who decided to subsidize postal rates in order to facilitate the flow of news. "Newspapers were the information infrastructure of that era...the technology and the lingo may change, but the small-d democratic challenge remains and always will," says Copps. Media literacy is part of the toolset, teaching people how to distinguish "truth from fact," and to not only know how to use media, but "how media can use them."

Praises public media makers for their impressive work given the embarrassingly low national investment in public broadcasting, even while noting that there are still things to fix. "It seems that with each finger that's plugged into the dike, 15-20 more leaks spring up." Journalism is still in trouble, and many conversations around the country need to address this issue. Of course, he notes, cable and radio commentators may dismiss this as "Maoism or whatever else," but "we need to get off the defense and on the offense," says Copps. We need more substance--what we have right now is "a bad case of substance abuse." Notes that Bill Moyers is broadcasting his last show today, and "can think of no journalist now or at any time who has contributed more to our democracy," and asks the crowd for a round of applause

Framing Presentation: A 1967 Moment... A Vision for Public Media

Luis Ubiñas, President, Ford Foundation
In a taped address, Ubiñas describes Ford's historic investments in public broadcasting, but notes that public media "must find new relevance." How to create a cross-platform system that includes interactivity and user-generated content? Notes that the Carnegie Commission set the vision for 50 years; now our charge is to "ensure access and engage all Americans to create a new kind of public square." Notes that now we need to "take risks," to create "dynamic media" and create "the space and access required to encourage innovation." Ford, he says looks forward to investing in a "new generation of public media pioneers."

Ernest Wilson, Chair, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
"This is a critical moment in the life of public service media," says Wilson, and the challenge is to move "beyond public broadcasting." We are "beyond the old and the new, and have to challenge ourselves with creativity and energy" to harness the tools that we now have. But "tools are not enough," we need the "wisdom to use those tools wisely," as well as courage to discard old practices, attitudes and institutions that don't serve a new vision of public service media. If we succeed, democracy will be stronger.

In terms of education, he wonders, will Americans--especially the poor among us--have the tools they need to navigate the new digital ecosystem? How will journalists be trained or retrained? Notes that a number of journalism schools are addressing these challenges through the Carnegie-Knight initiative.

Turns to the mission of the CPB: commitment to "innovate for the American people," not to be wedded to a particular platform or institution. NPR and PBS are at the core of the noncommercial media ecology, and are "sprinting rapidly" to adapt to the new platforms. But some legacy institutions aren't "sprinting," but strolling, and CPB is trying to help them catch up in this turbulent environment. This is a moment for change, and CPB has commited itself to the values of "digital," dialogue," and "diversity." Institutions nimble enough to succeed using the three "d's" will be rewarded with a fourth "d": dollars.

Right now, not quite a "public service media" but no longer just "public broadcasting" either--somewhere in between. Moving forward, the challenge is to welcome the future as an opportunity. "The time to act is now."

Waldman asks: How can you measure success in this new arena?

Wilson: A set of measurements has to emerge in conversation with people in this room and at the stations. But "it's not rocket science." Diversity can be measured by the number of people of color at the local stations or in leadership, by audience share, content type--we need to set the standards and incremental money will follow.

Waldman asks: What is public broadcasting's approach to local news and information?

Wilson: This is at the core of what we do, especially as the quality of commercial local media declines. In some communities, public broadcasters are the only source of local news. Our obligations are becoming even more important, but it's going to be a challenge to embrace new technologies at the local level. Production values are in question--is it worth sending out local reporters with Flip cameras in order to increase local coverage? "We're not doing enough, and we need to do more. One of the challenges is to save money inside the system...so that we can buttress local reporting."

Panel Discussion I: Varieties of Public and Noncommercial Media

Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers University School of Law, Camden and Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Future of Media Project, is moderating this panel and introduces the panelists

Patricia Harrison, President and CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Public media is "the real Homeland Security," Harrison says, noting that CPB was created to serve as a firewall between the government and public media, and "this is the trust equation" that allows the public to rely on public broadcasting for news and information. "We've always been underfunded but have always overperformed on a shoestring...but that string is running out." Journalism is shrinking, and CPB is struggling to respond. Notes investment in Project Argo and the Local Journalism Centers as a start, and will soon be announcing another $10 million investment in investigative journalism. "These are all components of a dynamic public media," collaborative and diverse. "This turbocharges our transformation in the digital age." Great companies that grow cannot be wedded to the status quo, she says.

Vivian Schiller, President & CEO, NPR (Via Remote Video)
Points to the State of the News Media report, and likens it to "a blow to the head by a 2×4." The report begins with two words, she says, "What now?" NPR has been somewhat insulated from the wild swings in journalism, and listening to public radio is at an all-time high--more than the paid circulation of the top 100 newspapers combined. NPR stations are also some of the only locally owned and operated stations in the country. She sees the report as a call to action. "Public media has many of the answers to the growing void"; those answers involve innovation and partnership. Local accountability journalism is a signature focus of their new efforts. Diversity of listeners is also key--assessed by age, race, and other factors. Moving onto new platforms is also growing the audience for public radio: iPhones, iPads, and other. "We will always be free to the consumer on every platform." Digital technologies also offer the chance of reinventing distribution through the creation of a "public media platform." Goal is to make all public media available on a common platform, plus content from other nonprofits, archival material, and more. She anticipates that developers "in their pajamas in their basement" will be able to help repackage and innovate with this information--a new benchmark in access. So, "what now?" All public media outlets must commit to partner, to innovate, and to spur innovation inside and outside of their ranks.

Jan Schaffer, Executive Director, J-Lab, The Institute for Interactive Journalism
Thinks it's critical to expand the definition of public media to include nonprofit news experiments popping up on the local level. Newcomers more than "bloggers in their pajamas." They include hyperlocal sites, metro-area sites with paid staff, and "soft advocacy" organizations like Sunlight, which demonstrate "journalistic DNA." They are accomplishing this with bare-bones support from funders and donors, but need more support. All are experimenting with hybrid models of support; philanthropic support can jump-start them, but it's not enough. J-Lab has funded 52 startups, but has received more than 2000 applications. Policymakers should incentivize opportunities to be publicly engaged. CPB should be refocused as the Corporation for Public Media; and a Public Media Participation fund should be funded by taxes on cellphone and laptop purchases, with a matching contribution by these manufacturers; tax credits could be given to civic media producers, and more. Increased transparency, Shaffer notes, is key to support for these new news organizations.

Hari Sreenivasan, Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
Sreenivasan describes "the public making media in its most raw and simple form," by exchanging information about an event across platforms and screens. "We are telling our own stories now without waiting for a TV network to squeeze us down into a 20-second soundbyte." It's in this "impatient environment" that NewsHour is reinventing itself. Trying to serve viewers who are tired of the coarseness and acrimony of cable news, but are also expecting to be able to participate, contribute, comment. NewsHour also working to partner with more public media projects on the local level to feed local content up to the national level. Using new technologies to facilitate this reporting and share it, without using older, more expensive satellite technologies. Jim Leher is Skyping in from his book tour, now signing his emails "geeky Jim." Focus of NewsHour is on delivery of necessary information, not the most titillating tidbits. "My job isn't to tell you that the glass is half full or half empty, it's to tell you that it's a 16-ounce container with fluid in it."

Jose Luis Rodriguez, Founder & CEO, Hispanic Information and
Telecommunications Network (HITN)

HITN feels a gap by providing information and educational content to the Latino community. They are also working on an initiative to connect community organizations, libraries and schools via a broadband network to create a learning environment. The public interest set-aside policy for DBS satellite has allowed this network to grow, but obtaining cable distribution is daunting, and they are segregated into a "ghetto," which requires that users subscribe to them. He's recommending the creation of a national public interest cable tier. HITN should be "part of the public broadcasting familiy." He urges the commission to make digital channels available to independent educational broadcasters. "Is there any place at all for small, minority broadcasters in a rapidly consolidating landscape?" Such providers can add to the diversity of available content.

Sue Schardt, President, Association of Independents in Radio
Showing a video from the Makers Quest 2.0 project, designed to help lead public radio into the transition to public media. The video features the Mapping Main Street project, a collaborative, multiplatform documentary designed to help people map and document the more than 10,000 main streets across the U.S. Educators have been particularly interested in adapting the project to help students engage with their communities. The projects demonstrate the "bold, entrepreneurial spirit" of independent producers, and, Schardt says, "we are committed to building a bottom-up network," that will allow public media to " follow where they lead us."

Goodman asks Schaffer: If CPB got a "big pot of dough" for local journalism, how should they spend it?

Schaffer: Need to beef up editorial chops, create partnerships with regional expeiments.

Goodman: How to choose where money goes?

Schaffer: Not all of these sites are objective in a traditional way, but you can look at the track record of the sites, their involvement in the community

Harrison: There will be increasing investment in the local journalism centers. But we can't operate on a shoestring anymore. "The increase in what we're getting as an overmediated nation is not quality." But to respond to this problem, more money is needed.

Waldman: Won't questions of bias become more acute if CPB funds accountability journalism that holds local officials' feet to the fire?

Harrison: "I hope that's the outcome." Hopes that local journalism centers do "speak truth to power." Wants members of Congress calling in; "that would mean we're doing a good job...I'd welcome those phone calls and do receive them from both sides of the aisle." Leadership takes courage, she says, and public broadcasting "has a mission." This is why it's crucial to have "a funded, independent public media network."

Waldman: What about people who feel that Bill Moyers isn't a hero, but an ideologue.

Harrison: All kinds of perspectives are aired on public broadcasting, just listen. "I want to attract to public media the brightest, most creative people who are interested in ideas."

Goodman: What will it mean to have local stations serve as a "community hub"? Will reaching outside of public broadcasting complicate the objectivity issue?

Schiller: "It's a good tension." You have to choose partners wisely, though. Notes that it will be a case-by-case negotiation for stations to work with journalism experiments. Values of independence and balance are central to journalism.

Jamila Bess Johnson of the FCC asks: How do you bring people from other communities into the mix?

Schaffer: Micro-grant programs are good for bringing people out of the woodwork; notes that many J-Lab applicants have been women.

Harrison: Local journalism centers, as part of grant process, there's a requirement to connect with NAHJ, NABJ, etc. for recruiting. "There are ways to shape inclusion and increase diversity." As diversity increases in the country, we can't afford to "have the same people tell the same stories."

Wilson adds that by not recruiting more broadly, public broadcasting is "leaving a lot of talent on the table," especially as boomers start retiring. "I think it's going to be fun and important," to bring more diverse young talent in.

Goodman asks: What would you tell Congress about why they should fund shows like the NewsHour or stations like HITN?

Sreeivasan: "We provide context," and commercial media doesn't have the time for that, sometimes to the detriment of their editorial integrity. "I'm one of the few people in my peer group who hasn't had to go out and cover Tiger Woods over the past few months." NewsHour serves as an explainer about important issues.

Rodriguez: HITN has provided programs that teach Latino students and their parents how to prepare to go to college, interactive call-in programs with experts that explores topics like postpartum depression, the housing crisis, and immigration issues; you don't see these kinds of programs on commercial TV.

Panel Discussion II: Purposes of Public and Noncommercial Media

James O'Shea, Editor & Co-Founder, Chicago News Cooperative
Explains that he's been a journalist for 40 years, including editor of the Los Angeles Times. There are gaps in journalism now. What is public service journalism? "It's like pornography: you know it when you see it." Describes impactful reporting on the death penalty in Chicago, a corrupt hospital in Watts. These strories weren't flashy; they were the "dividends paid" by regular, patient reporting. "Many newspapers today practice reporting by ROI," serving as "content machines." The Chicago News Cooperative, among others, is a nonprofit news experiment that is thinly capitalized, but trying to retain traditional news values. Says he's skeptical of government intervention in journalism, but urges government to incentivize these new types of organizations for the sake of democracy.

Paula Kerger, President, Public Broadcasting Service
PBS was created to do what commercial providers cannot: to use media for teaching and learning, to "serve the people, not to sell them." PBS has pioneered educational television, supported news documentary, and supported cultural performances. She talks in more detail about the role that various programs have served, and notes that PBS is developing popular online educational content, iPhone apps and content for smart boards" online games, and more. A new digital channel will also launch devoted to the performing arts.

David Fanning, Executive Producer, Frontline
Notes that documentary journalists have been experimenting with online platforms since 1995, and that Frontline has had significant success in providing content online, including Bush' War, which has been downloaded more than 6 million times. They use the web to provide better access to long-form interviews, background material and more. "Every Frontline lives in a matrix of curated content." They identify "bright lines of narrative," that travel out into the world with all of their content attached so that people can refer back. Frontline is reaching beyond U.S. borders, partnering with online journalism organizations like the Tehran Bureau. Worked with ProPublica and the Times Picayune on a documentary about Hurricane Katrina. "What's most exciting about this activity is that it's all so true to the public mission...this work is the serious and profound obligation to the public commons." In the end, more resources will be needed to support "a robust digital infrastructure...to pay for the pipes," so that public media doesn't have to rely on advertisers to support distribution.

James T. Hamilton, Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
Randolph J. May, President, The Free State Foundation

Public media fills the gap between what people need and want to know to function as voters and citizens. For most people they don't see the benefit in investing time in politics--a state economists call "rational ignorance." Duty, diversion and drama play a role in voters' interst in public media--they feel obligated to be interested in politics, they find it entertaining, they are engaged by colorful characters or controversy. But public affairs reporting is expensive. This combination of cost and lack of general interest in this kind of reporting means that it's often devalued. But such journalism can save lives, save public money, and more. It's hard to monetize this value, but there is another value system to consider: the public good. Even if readers aren't consuming advocacy journalism, they benefit from its production. "It's hard to do well and do good at the same time," but what's the cost of stories not told? They are highly valuable to society.

Randolph J. May, President, The Free State Foundation
The abundance of media today calls into question the need for public media funding. Tensions inevitably arise between role of government in supporting journalism and the first amendment. "Government's involvement exacerbates public tensions in a way that makes civil discourse difficult." Perhaps if there was widespread agreement that gaps exist, government funding would be more acceptable. But, given the national debt and budgetary demands facing the country, maybe instead an "exit strategy" might be set for funding public broadcasting at all. Cites Goodman's comments that the scarce resource today is not content, but "attention," and that public media should serve a curatorial and filtering purpose. He disagrees, and says that government-supported media shouldn't serve as a filter or a megaphone, and cites the significant differences of the coverage of the Tea Party as an example of the range of views across the ideological spectrum. There are significant differences of opinion about what needs more coverage, and the market should provide as much "quality" as the market demands. He emphasizes now is the time to reduce or diminish funding, not expand it.

Goodman: There's a difference between funding content and funding capabilities. New capabilities such as streaming are not in the current mandate of CPB. Asks O'Shea how he partners with public broadcasting without fear of influence.

O'Shea: They partner with both the New York Times and the local public station, WTTW. Partnering with WTTW allows them to have a tax-exempt status; eventually they will become their own nonprofit. They share a reporter; it's a collaboration, and no one can tell them what to do. "As long as you maintain that independence," it works.

Waldman: Asks May if marketplace is providing a sufficent amount of accountability journalism.

May: Says he understands and appreciates role of accountability journalism in democracy, and that the country is undergoing a transition that affects newspapers and other news organizations. Suggests that more original reporting is cropping up, and that models will evolve to ensure more accountability journalism. Fundamentally, he believes that the government shouldn't be involved in media, and that the private media should supply accountability journalism.

Waldman: How do you respond to the model that O'Shea describes?

May: "The more attenuated direct goverment support is, the more comfortable I am." Also more supportive of government funds for infrastructure rather than content.

O'Shea: Notes that they don't get money from WTTW.

Waldman: Asks Kerger to expand on the idea that noncommercial broadcasting spun off formats like reality TV, cooking programs; is that role still necessary given the proliferation of new platforms?

Kerger: Notes that only 15 percent of public broadcasting funding comes from the government. Public media needs to survey for market gaps. Arts programming pioneered on PBS also spun off into commercial channels--Bravo and A&E--but they have now backed off from this kind of programming because it's not commercially viable, so PBS is stepping back in. "WHere the marketplace serves well," it should, when it can't "that's the role of public media."

Waldman: Notes that high-quality long-form investigative work is expensive; given the crisis wouldn't money be better spent on re-employing reporters?

Fanning: In a noisy information ecosystem, progamming that provides context is very rare. "It is the great gap, both in terms of the investigative work that is necessary to ask the hard questions of our political instiutions, and more imoprtantly, to try to frame up the larger questions." There are times when this kind of work really matters, and "if anything we need more of it."

Goodman: If there's one point of agreement on this panel, it's that public media should fill market gaps. But "here's the rub." If consumers are "rationally ignorant," but we want public media to "grow its audience," how can we expect public media to do that when we're asking it to provide information that people supposedly don't want? Puzzlingly, some public media programs do have a large audience--how to explain?

Hamilton: The largest gap is local and state accountability reporting, but right now that's not heavily represented in public media. There are things that public media can do to lower the cost of discovering stories. "Impact" is not tantamount to audience--once the story is uncovered, it can be distributed through various channels. You can also tell a story that has public impact in an entertaining way.

Fanning: Frontline had 25 million page views on its site over the last 6 months--long-form documentary actually is popular. Why should we keep paying for this kind of journalism? There are so few places that actualy do it. ProPublica, Center for Public Integrity, Investigative Reporting Workshop--all talking with Frontline about how to work together to leverage and amplify one another's work.

May: Says he sees a contradiction in Fanning's assertion; that there are enough places creating long-form journalism, and that if there's more public demand, more will be produced. When the government funds such projects, there's a "tendency to displace private support." Support will come if government withdraws.

Fanning: Networks no longer support long-form investigation; have scaled back to "hidden camera" journalism and other less hard-nosed forms of news.

Kerger: Says public broadcasting's ROI is different; they're delivering against a second bottom line of service to the American people. Now, they're also not only delivering programs for broadcast and public media sites, but content that can be distributed elsewhere, on other sites, in the classroom. "Within public media there is a clairion call to create content of the highest integrity," but also to create content that generates demand for more.

Waldman: Asks Kerger--why is there more news on public radio than public TV?

Kerger: There's a lot of local programming on public TV--public affairs, convenings, town hall, cultural coverage. There is more news on radio, and "the reason is a simple one: money." That's why more support for local news--which allows for collaboration between radio and TV--is important.

Johnson: Wondering if there's a role for public broadcasting to serve niche audiences.

Kerger: Yes, there is a role, and that's where the use of new platforms is going to be important. They are developing more content for children and teens specifically online.

Waldman: Is the distinction between international, national and local journalism important? Where are the real gaps?

O'Shea: What's really disappearing is the systematic, daily reporting conducted by newspapers. Statehouse reporting in particular has been "hit hard"--"that's really bad. I come from Illinois and I can guarantee that's not what we need." Systematic investigation of civic, governmental, private organizations is what's needed.

Hamilton: Difficult to mass up on the local level to support beat reporting. Cites a laundry list of reporters local to him who had been on various beat and had been laid off. "Those beats are gone."

And...scene. Time for lunch, back with more in a bit.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

December 14 2009


Bringing NGO news into the mainstream: The case of OneWorld.net and Yahoo News

[It's one thing for NGOs to get into the news-producing business; it's another for their news to get noticed. Here Larry Kirkman and Laurie Moy explore the case of one NGO, OneWorld.net, and how its partnership with megalith Yahoo! News has put its work before an entirely new audience. This is the fifth part of our series on NGOs and the news. —Josh]

One month after September 11, 2001, OneWorld.net, a global network of civil society-based public media centers, launched a daily service on Yahoo! News in its World News section. Yahoo News was then, and continues to be, the top rated online news source according to Alexa.com and ComSource, and it reaches more than 43 million unique visitors per month.1 How did an NGO-based news organization become a contributor to the most visited news portal online? The answer lies in the perfect storm of innovative editorial policies, a challenging news media environment, evolving media advocacy, and private foundation support.

Yahoo! and OneWorld editors both believed that U.S. audiences were motivated by the national crisis to understand more of the world beyond their borders. In an email communication, the current Yahoo! News Editor, Sarah Wright, recalled her organization’s motivation:

Yahoo invited OneWorld.net to join its world news service in Fall 2001 to complement the coverage of mainstream sources, such as AP and Reuters, with daily reports that tapped into the knowledge of nonprofit organizations. OneWorld journalists provide a unique and valuable resource to Yahoo by providing context for international headlines and voices from the front lines of international development.2

Yahoo! had been poised to broaden its news sources just before 9/11, in response to a study by the New York-based media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) that criticized Yahoo’s “male, white, and right” bias. According to OneWorld International News Editor at the time, Sebastian Zebania, the FAIR study, titled Diversity Gap in Online Journalism, “showed Yahoo’s coverage to be monochrome needing to diversify quotes, subjects, etc., as it grew global.”3 On August 24, 2001, FAIR reported on its website that Yahoo! News senior producer Kourosh Karimkhany had thanked the group for the critique and affirmed a commitment to improve: “To state it succinctly, we agree with you 100 percent. We have been trying to achieve exactly what you suggested.” Karimkhany wrote that the Yahoo! News mission is “to represent almost every perspective… We encourage Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting to watch our site over the next few months. We hope you will notice a broader journalistic range.”

It was just two months later that OneWorld joined the Yahoo! World News page. The timing of this relationship was significant. By 2001, the American news media environment was feeling the growing pains of the digital revolution. Internet news portals were taking off and traditional outlets were struggling to catch up. At the same time, U.S. mainstream media were drastically downsizing their foreign correspondence, eliminating international bureaus and relying on government-supplied perspectives. OneWorld offered an alternative mission that challenged the dichotomy of popular and serious. The conventional wisdom of news media gatekeepers was that U.S. audiences were simply not interested in international news. OneWorld believed that the burden of finding engaging international news was not with the audience, but rather with the news media. It explained its approach, reaching out to popular audiences through the internet with serious content, in a grant proposal to the Veatch Foundation:

Today’s news media and political structures do not engage or fully inform Americans on most issues of global significance. The same elite sources are quoted time and again and way too much time is devoted to spin, drama, and sensationalism instead of the real issues that affect people around the world. Politicians largely focus on the issues and offer the platitudes that will get them re-elected, ignoring many topics and perspectives that impact millions of people worldwide. These political and media failings have turned off countless Americans to important global issues.4

OneWorld: History and outreach

OneWorld was launched in 1995 with the mission to use the World Wide Web to engage wide-spread audiences on international issues and causes. The co-founders, Peter Armstrong and Anuradha Vittachi, called it the first “global justice portal” on the emerging Web landscape. Its central purpose was to aggregate and highlight the content of development NGOs such as Oxfam and Christian Aid, realizing the great value of the trusted brand names and social networks of the organizations.

The two founders brought a wealth of broadcasting and multimedia production experience, as well as editorial expertise, to these nonprofit relationships that established a professional media framework for the journalistic enterprise over the next 15 years. In identifying, selecting, annotating and contextualizing the knowledge of development NGOs, they set high expectations for the application of journalistic standards to reporting based on the news, research, opinion, public engagement, and advocacy campaigns of civil society.

In Vittachi’s brief history of the origins of OneWorld, published online in September 2003, she explained that the first websites for dozens of organizations, and in return, “partners agreed to share their material with the rest of the partnership and global audience at large—at no charge.” She made the case that OneWorld “supported partners by raising their profile and extending their outreach,” by aggregating their content and their audiences.

The original OneWorld project was based at One World Broadcasting Trust, known for its social media awards. In 1999, it was sold to a new UK-based charity, OneWorld International Foundation, to accommodate a growing global enterprise that has included centers in the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Spain, the United States, India, Zambia, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Austria, Canada, South East Europe, and Indonesia. The centers are autonomous organizations with their own boards of directors, special projects, extensive organizational networks of more than 2,000 NGOs worldwide, and a wide range of funding sources, including private foundations, government development agencies, partner dues, and individual donations. The centers operate under the OneWorld banner and with a set of common principles, standards, and agreements to share content and governance responsibilities.

OneWorld United States is a key component in the OneWorld network and supplies several different news products, including a bi-monthly online magazine, Perspectives, and a Daily Headlines service. All of OneWorld’s content, including more than 100,000 articles, is fully indexed and searchable.

A 2007 survey of Daily Headlines readers revealed an even split along gender lines and indicated that 48 percent of readers are in countries other than the United States. More than a third (38 percent) of Daily Headlines readers work in the nonprofit sector and the majority (61 percent) were interested in all geographic regions. The least interesting region for Daily Headline subscribers was North America.5

The placement of OneWorld on Yahoo! News allowed OneWorld to reach out to a broader, more “mainstream” audience, which complemented OneWorld’s existing demographics. A year after joining the Yahoo! News network , OneWorld conducted an online survey to collect demographic information about its new audience on Yahoo. The survey found that OneWorld News on Yahoo! readers were mostly male (66 percent) and middle-aged (41 percent were between the ages of 36 and 50). About one third (35 percent) worked in the business sector; only 12 percent of respondents worked for non-profit organizations, which marked a departure from the mostly non-profit and academic audience of the OneWorld community.

In terms of readers’ regional interests, Yahoo’s mainstream audience presents OneWorld with both an opportunity and a challenge: most readers were based in North America (83 percent) and tended to be interested in the developed world (North America 67 percent and Europe 48 percent) and the Middle East (51 percent). There was a noticeable lack of interest in developing countries (Asia 33 percent, Africa, 31 percent, and Latin American and the Caribbean 28 percent). Many respondents in this survey said OneWorld provided a unique perspective that they did not get elsewhere. Most respondents noted they got their international news primarily from mainstream sources, including AP, Reuters, CNN, and the New York Times.

A lack of brand recognition of OneWorld among the respondents indicated that, through Yahoo!, OneWorld was reaching a different audience from the one that was reached through its website and Daily Headlines service. The challenge therefore was to engage that audience and expose them to new perspectives. OneWorld met that challenge by bringing content to Yahoo! that may be slightly tailored to the new audience, but it always links back to a more diverse set of stories than that to which the Yahoo! audience may have been accustomed.

Support from mainstream philanthropy

The changing media environment was not going unnoticed by American philanthropy either. In 2001, the Ford Foundation sent a significant signal to the nonprofit and media sectors with its first grant to OneWorld, for $275,000, “to expand its civic society Internet portal.” Ford support for OneWorld has continued to the present. The winter 2003 edition of Ford Foundation Report featured OneWorld TV on its cover with the title “The Next Information Age. Reality TV the World Should Be Watching.” The introduction to the edition credited OneWorld for “demonstrating the dramatic potential for serving up extensive menus of news and commentary… a full range of perspectives and world events…new access for voices not often heard…”

Funding from the Omidyar Network and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has supplemented the Ford support. In 2005, Pierre Omidyar, co-founder of eBay, explained to Business Week magazine why his foundation chose to get involved:

We’ve done a little bottom-up media with OneWorld. I have a sense that the traditional media hasn’t been aggressive enough talking about important issues. The empowering nature of people reporting their own news, speaking out, and challenging governments and even traditional media sometimes is a very powerful thing.

President Jonathan Fanton of the MacArthur Foundation, which has made grants to OneWorld since 2004, agreed that OneWorld had a vital role to play:

Modern technology makes it possible to broaden the sources of reliable information and bring a greater diversity of voices into the public debate about such topics as human rights and environmental sustainability. In harnessing the power of new communications technologies, the OneWorld network allows thousands of organizations around the world, ranging from community groups in rural Africa to large nongovernmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch to provide alternative perspectives on pressing global social issues.

In the foundation’s August 2006 News from MacArthur, Fanton said, “The spread of digital technology is dramatically changing news gathering, reporting, and broadcasting, as well as how people choose to access information,” and described OneWorld as one of the “creative new efforts to make better information from diverse sources about events across the globe available to U.S. audiences.”

These “creative new efforts” were a direct result of OneWorld’s unique editorial policy. As articulated on its website, OneWorld seeks a “solutions-oriented approach to presenting the news,” with a focus on “global issues known to be of interest to North Americans,” and “programs showcasing successful efforts to overcome development challenges.”

This editorial policy was informed and shaped by the insights of the Global Interdependence Initiative (GII). GII was launched under the leadership of staff at the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Rockefeller Foundation in 1999, and housed at the Aspen Institute, to use the tools of public opinion research, issue framing analysis, media content research, and cognitive linguistics to develop new approaches for engaging U.S. audiences in international issues. In the Who We Are introduction on its Web site, GII describes its purpose in this way, “to help broaden and deepen the American constituency for principled and effective U.S. foreign policy.” This extensive and well-funded project found that the conventional wisdom of news editors and publishers about the lack of consumer interest in international news was challenged by a strong indication of interest in international problems, such as infectious disease, labor standards, and global warming that were perceived as requiring multi-faceted and multi-lateral solutions.

OneWorld’s outreach and communications objectives

Because OneWorld’s goal is to communicate global issues to an American audience, most articles are international in scope, and the writers are encouraged to show how these issues are relevant to Americans whenever possible. To that end, OneWorld has provided a combination of articles that capitalize on “hot” topics along with those telling the “unknown” stories.

One of the most successful articles appeared in February 2006. Abid Aslam’s “Bottled Water: Nectar of the Frauds?” leapt into the international scene and generated more than half a million hits on the Yahoo! World News page in the first week alone. The article was re-posted on hundreds of blogs and other alternative news sites. In that first week, more than 2,200 Yahoo readers ranked the article with an average ranking of 4 (out of 5) stars. What’s more, the article generated tremendous discussion—900 comments to the article were posted onto the Yahoo! World News site alone. The article, drawing on the expertise of the environmental policy think tank the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), capitalized on a growing interest among the public as well as the mainstream media on the environmental effects of bottled water.

The piece clearly articulated environmental problems that affect the entire planet, specifically highlighting the personal effects felt in India and China. In addition, it went a step further by highlighting how villages in India and communities in Texas and the Great Lakes region of North America similarly suffer from the effects of water extraction, as related to increased consumption of bottled water. In this way, OneWorld took a highly popular topic, and made the connection between the global and the local, as well as the foreign and the domestic.

Another article, “Fossil Fuels Set to Become Relics, Says Research Group,” also rode the headlines and took the net by storm. It was the most viewed story on all of Yahoo! News on September 29, 2005, and it was OneWorld’s most emailed story (950 sends). The story capitalized on the growing interest in renewable energy in the country, but also drew upon the knowledge and experience of the nonprofit world, specifically Worldwatch Institute, in order to make the content relevant. That week more than 250,000 people viewed the article on Yahoo’s web site, and many more reposted and distributed the story through their own blogs and services.

In addition to blockbuster pieces that ride popular headlines, OneWorld also provides articles that present lesser known stories and the largely unheard voices behind them. For example, in November 2005, OneWorld contributed a piece to Yahoo! titled, “Shell Ordered to Stop Wasteful Poisonous ‘Gas Flaring’ in Nigeria.”

The story reported on the decision of a high court in Nigeria to force multinational oil companies to stop a practice called “gas flaring.” The article provided important context to an audience unfamiliar with the issue, and it explained how the practice affects local populations. It presented the voices and perspectives of not only the Nigerian court system, but also indigenous groups, as well as three local and international NGOs.

In December 2005, an article written by Niko Kyriakou highlighted the continuing struggle of residents of Bhopal, India, to force Dow Chemical to take responsibility for a deadly gas leak that happened 21 years ago. The article went beyond the typical corporate responsibility piece to include points of view from local and international activists, American college students, governments, and shareholders. In addition, the piece made the connection between the Indian struggle and a Texas woman who was also battling Dow in an environmental pollution case. Pursuant to OneWorld’s goals, the piece provided context, connection, and relevance.

An article that appeared in January 2006 gave American readers insight into an issue that received very little coverage in the United States—the effects of genetically modified seeds on small farmers in other parts of the world. In “‘Suicide Seeds’ Could Spell Death of Peasant Agriculture, UN Meeting Told,” OneWorld reporter Haider Rizvi called upon indigenous groups from South America as well as local and international activists to explain the issue of Terminator seeds. Perspectives from these groups were presented alongside those of governments and agribusinesses, providing an alternative perspective and much needed context.

By contributing these lesser known stories, OneWorld continues to pursue its goal of exposing American audiences to truly global issues. The effects of this were evident in the 2002 reader survey report, where more than half of respondents reported that the service had changed the way they thought about issues, and 23 percent reported taking some kind of action as a result of reading the OneWorld article. These actions included writing letters, e-mailing and calling members of Congress, taking part in campaigns, and discussing the issues with friends.

Partnerships: a win-win situation

The relationship between Yahoo! and OneWorld has been a successful one, and the objectives of both organizations continue to be met. By 2009, the list of world news providers on Yahoo! had grown to include Agence France-Presse, Christian Science Monitor, Time, National Public Radio, McClatchy Newspapers, and BBC News Video. The continued presence of OneWorld has been a testimony to its distinctive role in the mix of these mainstream news sources. Yahoo! News Editor Sarah Wright summarized:

For over seven years, the OneWorld service has provided links to organizations that are knowledgeable and active in the areas being covered by the stories. In this way, OneWorld acts as a navigator to the non-profit landscape, which contributes to the depth of coverage, and distinguishes it from other news services.6

OneWorld continues to work towards the goal of making “voices from the village” heard. In January 2009, OneWorld began adding some of its Daily Headlines, which are largely contributed by members of OneWorld’s nonprofit network, to its Yahoo! service. But this does not mean that OneWorld simply serves as a mouthpiece for organizations on the ground. Instead its journalists and editors work with nonprofit staffs to meet the challenge of communicating the stories and knowledge with journalistic skill and integrity. The January 15, 2009, article “One Third of Kenyans Face Major Food Shortage,” drawing on ActionAid’s experiences in Kenya, for example, highlighted an issue that had been largely ignored by mainstream U.S. media, but was gravely serious for more than 10 million people in Kenya. “ActionAid, a group we’ve worked with for many years, was raising alarm bells, but very few here in America were hearing those bells,” said OneWorld U.S. Managing Editor Jeffrey Allen. “ActionAid has been working in Kenya for decades. They’re the experts. They can tell our readers what people in rural Kenya are experiencing much better than any bureaucrat in Nairobi could, and even better than most journalists who fly in and fly out—if they even bother to do that anymore.”7

But ActionAid’s communications officers are not journalists, which is where OneWorld’s editors stepped in, complementing ActionAid’s raw report from Kenya with context and background from Oxfam International, another aid group working in the country, as well as several development news sources, before publishing the whole package to Yahoo! News. In this way, OneWorld helped the mainstream audience in the United States better understand the situation in Kenya—and the larger issues of the global food crisis—while getting the scoop directly from the individuals on the ground that are living the story every day. The links included by OneWorld’s editors then provided the mainstream audience on Yahoo! News a direct channel to begin participating in the stories they care about by further informing themselves and supporting the organizations taking action around the world.

OneWorld’s partnership with Yahoo! World News has had implications for both audiences and foreign news reporting. OneWorld has demonstrated that a news service can talk up to its audience, surprising them with how much they can know and how much others like them are doing. It has sought to engage, inform and equip its audience to be vocal and active, and in doing so has created a model for news that is solution-oriented, that explains social problems and illustrates them, and that is based on knowledge of activists and stakeholders on the ground. Through Yahoo!, OneWorld U.S. has been able to bring this model to a mainstream audience, giving a voice to the unheard and bringing new attention to their untold stories.

The partnership has also highlighted and encouraged an increasing appreciation for nonprofits as sources of news. Tremendous growth in the nonprofit-news sector, coupled with the expansion of opportunities for platforming nonprofit news on the mainstream news websites, has brought increased visibility and credibility to nonprofit news providers. OneWorld and Yahoo! were pioneers in this new environment, and their partnership is being replicated and reflected widely. The Associated Press, for example, announced on June 13, 2009 at the annual Investigative Reporters and Editors conference that it would begin distributing the work of four nonprofit news producers (Center for Public Integrity, Investigative Reporting Workshop, Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica) to its 1,500 member newspapers. What once was extraordinary is now accepted practice.

The news media environment is evolving quickly, and its relationship to audiences and news sources is changing as well. Mainstream media’s news gathering capacity is shrinking and many new media portals are too fragmented to fill the gap. As a result, many traditionally underserved and underrepresented audiences are becoming even more invisible than ever. Given this, and OneWorld’s commitment to “stories of the village,” it has decided to reach out further, by partnering with New America Media (NAM), a network of several thousand ethnic media organizations in the United States. This new partnership, according to Sandy Close, founder and Executive Director of NAM, demonstrates the opportunity to create a “newsbeat that connects hyperlocal sources overseas with hyperlocal sources in this country – a global-local axis of news and communications at a time when American journalism is both shrinking dramatically and focusing heavily on hyper-local news.”8

Larry Kirkman has been dean of the School of Communication at American University since 2001. He directs and develops academic and professional programs in journalism, film and media arts, and public communication. At American, he has established centers for innovation in public service media, including the Center for Social Media, the Investigative Reporting Workshop, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, and the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and partnerships and programs with many media organizations, including the Newseum, USA Today, NBC, and New America Media. His work has included public television documentaries and public service campaigns, including Connect for Kids with the Advertising Council and Union Yes for the AFL-CIO. He launched the US Center of OneWorld.net, created the American Film Institute’s National Video Festival, and edited a series of ten media guides, “Strategic Communications for Nonprofits.”

Laurie Moy is the executive director of Pearls of Africa, a nonprofit organization serving children with disabilities and their families in Uganda, a position she has held since July 2001. She is also regarded as an expert in online volunteering and network engagement and advocacy of nonprofits. She has traveled globally to host workshops and presentations on nonprofits and communications technologies, and in 2008 she served as the Connect US Fellow at Netcentric Campaigns. She also holds a master’s degree in international media from the American University School of Communication and School of International Service.

  1. Sarah Wright, personal communication, February 2, 2009
  2. Wright 2009
  3. Sebastian Zebani, personal communication, January 25, 2009
  4. Michael Litz, Letter of Inquiry to Veatch Foundation (internal document), April 8, 2008
  5. OneWorld.net (2007): Daily Headlines Annual Survey Results. OneWorld, July 2007
  6. Wright 2009
  7. Jeffrey Allen, personal communication, February 5, 2009
  8. Sandy Close, personal communication, October 26, 2009
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