Archive for the 'Journalism' Category

Friday dog day with Mingus the Super Dog 8 Jan 2010

9 January 2010

A walk at the end of the day w Mingus the Super Dog cleared the brain and eased the soul. Here is the noble canine, after we’ve come down the hill. I spent most of the walk thinking about journalism and politics, and questions of balancing independence with strategic focus.

And just now, watched David Corn and Kevin Drum do a superb job talking with Bill Moyers, breaking down the story in our current issue on why and how the banking industry has “intellectually (as well as politically) captured Washington pols. A great show. Really feeling tonight all the pride and honor of working with guys like these – and the rest of the MoJo team.

Bay Area News Project: Please, God, let it not be boring.

25 September 2009

So the big news today out here is that after months of speculation, Warren Hellman, the patron saint of the Best. Festival. In. San Francisco. Ever. is plunking down $5 million to seed the creation of what’s being called the Bay Area News Project, a journalism outfit that’ll be linked with KQED public radio and television, UC Berkeley’s J-School, and it looks like The New York Times.  Alan Mutter has the best summary of the deal, and Dave Cohn just put up a smart post about what he hopes Hellman’s project does. Lots of details still to be worked out, so I think it’s way too early to say much more than that I’m really hoping this works out.

Okay, that having been said, I’ve got a couple more things to say.

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Doing distributed journalism with Amanda Michel and the ProPublica Reporting Network

10 July 2009

navbar-logoSo I follow @AmandaRMichel, who runs ProPublica’s distributed reporting program, on Twitter. And I  think she’s said some of the smartest stuff I’ve seen about what works, what doesn’t, when it comes to distributed or “citizen” journalism, like this CJR piece from last March about her experience with Off The Bus. The fact that she’s not a journalist, but an organizer, matters a lot, I think. Probably decisive.

After hearing her at #pdf09 a couple of weeks ago, I decided I should actually do some distributed reporting (or whatever you want to call it) myself instead of just yammering about it, so that I have at least some hands on experience at the ground level with it. I mean, how hard could it be, right?

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Friday dog blogging 3 July 2009

3 July 2009

First things first: the main generator/switch at MotherJones.com’s Seattle “carrier hotel” (aka server farm) failed early this morning, which resulted in a fire, which triggered the sprinkler system, which took our site (and several others) off line. No indication of when it’ll be back up; we’re actively looking at a Plan B fix (if anyone has ideas for a quick solution, let me know). Silver lining, I guess: it’s happening over a low traffic holiday weekend. P1030129

That also means no Friday cat blogging from Kevin, no frog blogging from the MoJo interns. (It also means you can’t get a look at the digital version of the new issue of Mother Jones, which has a totally kick-ass special package, “Wasted,” on the failure of the War on Drugs (so go buy a hard copy over the weekend).

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#PDF09 plus Pocantico: lots going on next week

27 June 2009

Headed east tomorrow to #PDF09 (plus some $raising for the Mother Ship) in New York. While the political digerati are enjoying the view from Jazz at Lincoln Center, there will be another conversation going on up the Hudson at the Pocantico Conference Center I’ll very interested in hearing more about: a meeting called by Rosie Rosenthal of the Center for Investigative Reporting and Bill Buezenburg of the Center for Public Integrity on “new models for watchdog journalism.”

First time that many of the new local news projects – MinnPost.com, VoiceofSanDiego.com, TexasWatchdog.com, etc., plus other investigative projects affiliated with university j-schools – will be sitting down together. Part of the agenda will no doubt be talking about some of the ideas Joel Kramer of MinnPost.com and Jon Sawyer from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting pulled together in this paper (link to a PDF on this page)  for another conference back in May.

You can read more about the Pocantico meeting at Ken Doctor’s Content Bridges blog (not to mention my comment on his post). Having been through an almost identical process that led to the creation of The Media Consortium – now a lively network of some 50 independent, progressive media operations  (Tracy Van Slyke is the project director for this gang) – what happens at Pocantico could be decisive in moving investigative journalism towards a more sustainable footing. Definitely worth following.

CIR takes on California

8 May 2009

For about six months in 1994, I worked with then-Executive Director Rick Tulsky as the director of development for the Center for Investigative Reporting, here in San Francisco. CIR had just been awarded a pretty good sized “capacity building” grant from the MacArthur Foundation, and Tulsky hired me to help build the organization. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way, Tulsky (who’s a terrific investigative reporter, and came to CIR from the Philadelphia Inquirer) moved on, and so did I.

Before I did that, though, I saw how CIR’s fundraising worked: besides a relatively small individual donor base (and a couple of important major donors) at that time most of the foundation fundraising they did was organized around film or video projects they were working on, usually in conjunction with WGBH’s Frontline. [Over the years, CIR and Mother Jones have collaborated on a number of stories.]

They did some great work, but that always seemed like a tough way to fund an organization, project by project.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a future for journalism…

23 April 2009

This is pretty cool: Mark Glaser at Mediashift has pulled together info (plus one more in the comments) about the growing number of (non profit) local watchdog news sites around the country. Worth a look.

Welcome to the club, Jane…

21 April 2009

So here’s Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake.com announcing that they’re kicking off a $150,000 fundraising campaign to pay for Marcy Wheeler (blog handle: emptywheel), plus another investigative reporter and a researcher.  Why? Here’s the money quote:

“I’ve been trying for months to get funding for Marcy so she can do what she does full time. I’ve been turned down by every major donor and donor representative I’ve asked. They’d rather create their own “astroturf” blogs.”

Amen and welcome to the congregation. It’s not just good bloggers getting locked out from access to progressive funding; it goes way back, and this is just the latest iteration.

Ridiculous – based on an elitist, ill-informed, and ultimately completely self-defeating take on what all this independent reporting is about.

Now is the time for progressive donors to make many small bets on independent journalism. Let the experiments flourish. Support the leaders, encourage the innovators, find the new ones pushing the edge.

As this blog’s namesake once said: The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.

Update: as of 4/23: $41,193 raised from 682 people (that’s about a $60 average gift).

A fundraising question about Spot.us

20 April 2009

Ruth Anne Harnisch posted a comment earlier today here and pointed to Dave Cohn’s Spot.us as a model to watch for journalism.

The basic idea: reporters propose story ideas or “tips” in the hope that there will be enough “citizens” interested in making a pledge of support.

Here’s how the Spot.us site describes what this means:

“Pledges give reporters a sense of community interest in a news “tip.” It does not represent real money. Nothing is committed – although we ask you pledge only what you’d be willing to eventually donate if a reporter builds a full “pitch” inspired by this tip. Donations to pitches are tax-deductable and are a transaction. If the pitch is unsuccesful, you will receive money back in the form of Spot.Us credits. No matter what your money will go to support journalism.”

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Foundations, heal thyselves!

18 April 2009

The recent announcement about the Huffington Post Investigative Fund raised some concerns for me, not so much with how the journalism will be organized (although there’s plenty to talk about just there) but more on how philanthropy may not be properly organized to serve this need.

Here’s what I see unfolding:

First, various media observers (Paul Starr, Jay Rosen) are beginning to talk about journalism (Starr) or more specifically investigative journalism (Rosen, twittering away) as a “public good.” This takes the argument for “non profit journalism” (which for instance, Vince Stehle’s recent piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy neatly laid out) and extends it: it’s no longer just about the structure of financing and operations – now it’s perceived to be actually intrinsic to the work itself. If this consensus takes hold, I think it’s actually a big deal for how journalism or investigative journalism will be perceived in the near future.

I’m personally not sure about Starr’s argument that “news delivered to the public is a public good,” (Brittney Spears a public good?) but I do think Rosen’s case that investigative journalism is a public good can be made. Historically delivered via private, commercial media operations, but now with the upheaval in the business (particularly metropolitan daily newspapers), the search is on for a new home for investigative journalism. The argument then goes that given its status as a public good, investigative journalism “ought” to be supported via some sort of public funding, or at least funding made in the public trust. That is, philanthropy. And so we see a kind of intellectual backfilling going on to justify what’s beginning to unfold: big donors (like the Sandlers) or foundations (Atlantic Philanthropies) putting major money into investigative journalism. And of course this has been Mother Jones’ MO for 33 years.

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