Looking at journalism’s future through The Patterson Foundation’s lenses

Posted on November 15, 2011 by Janet Coats

The New Media Journalism Initiative has been at work now for two years. We began life in a conference room at The Patterson Foundation in November 2009, when we assembled a group of thought-leaders to help us chart a course aimed at enabling innovation in journalism.

That course has taken us in several different and interesting directions, and we’ve been fortunate to discover along the way a whole cadre of like-minded people who have been eager to share their knowledge and expertise with us.

One thing has remained constant through our journey, and that has been our practice of looking at all of our work through the four TPF lenses that frame all of our thinking: technology, finance, communications and learning.

I wanted to share with you how those lenses have helped shape our work, and how we’ve used them to accelerate the work of our partners in creating new realities for journalism innovation.

Our work in the New Media Journalism Initiative has focused on two threads: building the framework that will let entrepreneurial, community-based journalism to survive and even thrive; and building connection among innovators, so that they can share knowledge and solve problems together. As we end our second year of work, I’m so pleased to see these efforts taking root.

One of the most tangible fruits of this work is the Block by Block network of community news publishers. These entrepreneurial community publishers, identified as a specific innovation type in the work of Michele McLellan during her fellowship at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, needed a means to connect.

We helped enable that connection through two Block by Block Community News Summits, the first in September 2010, the second in September of this year. The publishers now are on their way to forming their own association, looking beyond our enabling support to shape the destiny of their group.

As we help them move in that direction, we are focused intensely on using our finance lens to develop the financial sustainability methods that will allow community news publishers to sustain their work. In doing this, we also are thinking about the technology that can help small businesses to manage their relationships with customers and to deepen engagement with their communities.

We recognize that strong communities need strong community journalism. And we recognize that the old models of funding that journalism are broken. By thinking about the ways finance and technology intersect, we believe are creating a road map for a financial future that will keep community journalism alive.

By partnering with Lisa Skube during her fellowship year at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, we were able to help build a collaboration tool that will allow those who care about journalism’s future to share and learn from each other. In the Journalism Accelerator, we looked at the issue of collaboration through a communications and learning lens: How could we enable connection in a way that promoted real-time discussion along with building resources and ongoing dialogue focused on results?

By seeing this project through both lenses – immediate communication paired with long-term learning – the Journalism Accelerator already has demonstrated its potential as a way of connecting innovators. While still in its early stages, the Journalism Accelerator already has shown that it can support serious conversation about serious issues, while drawing from those discussions the tools, best practices and approaches that can yield both learning and, eventually, results.

The challenges facing journalism are complex, and the approaches to meeting those challenges must be complex as well. But solving complex problems requires discipline, and a framework for thinking about how you will find your way through the weeds. TPF’s four lenses give us that framework – a light to help us both find the path and to hew to it.

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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