At the recent RJI-sponsored "Pivot Point" conference in Chicago, we brought together a diverse group of folks inside, outside and on the edge of the news industry to see if we could accelerate some ideas that had been bubbling along and turn them into "actionable projects."
I use the quotes because a big chunk of the conversation, both before the event and during, involved providing "actionable information" for communities, which is a concept our co-sponsor for the meeting, CEO Chuck Peters of The Gazette Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, spends a great deal of time thinking about.
He and others in the industry want to know what a new framework might look like to help their newsrooms deliver the news and information that people need. What is the difference between journalism and news and information? Where does civic journalism fit into the landscape? How do our newsrooms join conversations in midstream rather than wait for the right news hook?
At the start of the meeting, folks introduced themselves and briefly mentioned what they hoped to get from the meeting. That word cloud (right) featured “journalism” front and center. Then, the next day, when we asked everyone in the room to describe attributes for a new focus or model for the news industry, the word cloud took a big turn (below).
Not surprising for a room full of journalists, but we were a room full of many different hats. So that was one interesting observation from our day-and-a-half meeting: community does seem to be a good place to start when thinking about innovation in the news industry.
We weren't sure what was going to happen when we brought this eclectic group together and we definitely had our share of organized chaos to work through.
Our meeting facilitator, Susan Leddick, did a great job of keeping the conversations moving in the right direction.
Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School of Journalism at Louisiana State University, told me he had never before attended an industry conference and not known just about everybody in the room. At Pivot Point, he said, he knew only a few people. Larry Birnbaum, professor of computer science at Northwestern University and chief scientific officer to the journalism startup called Narrative Science, said the same thing. "But I learned a lot and met a lot of interesting people some of whom I think will become colleagues," he said.
In the end, we came up with a list of seven potential projects/ideas that had community engagement at their heart. We're hoping they could play a role in helping build the new framework to deliver news and information more efficiently and effectively.
We'll have more information about these projects, which RJI will be following throughout the year. Next week we’ll have more details after another conference organizer, Bill Densmore, has completed the final review of the proposals.
For now, here's a short description of each one:
1. Reporters notebook
- A method for the public to engage with the reporting process in real time from the moment a story idea is conceived. Reporters create a public web page showing each step in the editorial production process, with text, photos, video, documents, links, and transcribed audio. Editors can access the newsroom's live workflow, and comment on the process during the day. The public follows along, commenting on specific content pieces. The resulting goal is total transparency.
2. Local wiki
- A local “wiki” focused on community issues, concerns, events and needs. It would grow to include standing, searchable archive wiki pages on every issue, every news event, every person in the news, and every place, business, governmental entity and organization in the news.
3. Local America
- A platform curated by a local news organization for its community to define civic needs, then measure and guide progress toward meeting them. Local America will be a platform for communities to rank themselves across a broad Livability Index covering 20+ categories.
4. Nevada media alliance
- A prototype place-based service that convenes, supports and fosters collaboration in an emerging news and information ecosystem, using American Public Media's Public Insight Network. It serves as an incubator for new forms of partnerships that are particularly relevant for small-to-medium-sized media markets.
5. Insight-to-action engine
- A system that auto-curates social media (Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc.) to provide topic advice from experts as judged by the crowd in order to spark insight and action. A collaboration with American Public Media's Public Insight Network, potentially in conjunction with the Nevada Media Alliance and the Nine Network Town Square initiative in St. Louis.
6. Community sandbox
- A replicable, asynchronous, demand-driven virtual "town hall." It will feature multiple entry points, a dynamic reference encyclopedia of key local issues, mapping assets, relationships, data and constituencies with a specific focus on schools and lifelong learning initiatives.
7. The new networks approach
- An outline of the reasons why traditional media need a new collaboration of local markets to compete for national marketing dollars. An “information newco” can then foster and build a global shared-user network for trust, identity, privacy and information commerce that federates the local networks.
For another perspective on Pivot Point, read attendee Tom Grubisich's blog on Streetfight.com.