During the last couple of months, most of my posts here have focused on the New Media Journalism Initiative’s work with the Block by Block community of independent news publishers.
That’s understandable, given how much activity there’s been in this aspect of our work. The Block by Block Community News Summit in September was a productive gathering of entrepreneurial publishers, sharing both common problems and potential solutions. Since the news summit, we’ve been doing some exciting work around financial sustainability. I’m hoping to start sharing details of what we’re learning from that effort after the first of the year.
But our work in New Media Journalism is really two projects wrapped in a single initiative. That work is, in many ways, intertwined. By focusing on two lines of inquiry, we’ve been able to dig deep into the areas of need that we think are most acute for journalism’s innovators: the need to achieve financial sustainability, and the need to connect to share promising practices and advance innovation.
It is that need for connection that animated our work from the start. As I’ve written before, when I first began my work at The Patterson Foundation, I heard over and over again that a major impediment to innovation was the inability of practitioners to see into each other’s work. Finding a more efficient way to share, both successes and failures, could help avoid duplication of effort and accelerate the pace of significant change.
Our early belief in that need for connection led us to collaborate with Lisa Skube, who was then a fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. That collaboration led to the incubation of the Journalism Accelerator, an online collaboration forum/resource hub/problem-solving space.
After a period of building and a couple of tests with small journalism communities, the Journalism Accelerator is now up and running. Lisa has been joined in the project by Emily Harris, who is serving as the project’s editorial director. A longtime journalist, Emily spent seven years with NPR, including five years as the Berlin correspondent. Emily’s deep knowledge of the field, combined with her considerable skills as a facilitator and interviewer, already are bringing new dimensions to the work of the Journalism Accelerator.
Most recently, Denise Cheng joined the team as the research/outreach editor. Denise comes to us from the Block by Block community; she most recently was citizen journalism coordinator at The Rapidian, a non-profit, community-focused site in Grand Rapids, Mich. Denise brings strong social media skills and a deep affinity for the entrepreneurial journalists who are using digital media to build community connection.
About a month ago, the Journalism Accelerator launched its first full-fledged discussion forum, focused on the value of local television news. As Lisa said, the forum drew numbers any start-up would love: more than 140 comments, from 23 unique commenters.
But the numbers are useful to us only in helping us track engagement with the Journalism Accelerator. Our goal is to provide a place for serious, productive conversation about how journalism is evolving, as well as to point to resources and tools that can help in that process. It is not a place for shouting, or even necessarily debate about what journalism is becoming. It is a place to focus on the how questions.
The ultimate how question for me is how those who are committed to a future for the kind of journalism that serves democracy can better work together to build it. Already the Journalism Accelerator is attracting folks who want to pull up a seat at that table.
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