How is journalism evolving in ways that might serve the movement for systemic change?  Many traditional news outlets are struggling, new media venues are proliferating and the ability to "publish" is now available to anyone with an internet connection.  A "new news ecology" emerging.   

  • What does this new news ecology look like?
  • What are the opportunities for us to play an active role in its continuing evolution?  
  • How does the idea of a New Story that we have been exploring in the Cafe recently connect with this opportunity?  


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We are delighted to welcome author and consultant Peggy Holman back to Occupy Cafe.  Last time Peggy was with us, we explored the idea of leadership in a leaderless movement, based on the insights in her wonderful book, Engaging Emergence.  This time, we explore an area in which emergence is especially accessible and relevant: journalism. Peggy is a co-founder of Journalism that Matters, and we look forward to discussing together what is working now, what is possible and how we might choose to engage in this terrain.

This excerpt from the Journalism that Matters (JTM) website helps to set the context for our conversation:

Who belongs to JTM and what is the new news ecology?

JTM members include reporters, bloggers, editors, citizen journalists, publishers, media educators, community activists, tweeters, videographers, social entrepreneurs, photographers, reformers and volunteer journalists from print, broadcast, and online media, both mainstream and entrepreneurial. Individually and collectively we are working hard to reinvent ourselves as well as the overall news medium, including investigating new economic models to support a healthy, vibrant journalism community.

The New News Ecology is the information exchange amongst the public, the government and institutions that informs inspires, engages, and activates the community. JTM  cornerstone concepts of the new news ecology include:

  • Journalism as a conversation – a groundbreaking shift from journalism as a lecture
  • Shaping a new “cultural narrative” – Recovering the mythic role of journalists as conveners and navigators through a changing world prepares them to support communities in shaping a new national “master narrative” for our times.
  • High tech/high touch journalism – Whether on the web or in the café, new storytelling forms are emerging that engage us on cell phones and iPods, and in gathering places with food, music and the arts.
  • Ready, Fire, Aim – A strategy of “just do it,” moving from idea (ready) to implementation (fire) and then watching the results and adjusting (aim).   This formula creates rapid experimentation and learning and avoids analysis paralysis.
  • Expanding the questions we ask – Adding to the normal who, what, where, when, how, and why, asking questions like “What’s possible now?” expands stories beyond simple information gathering into the realms of inspiration and hope.

As always, we weave conversation via this forum together with the discussions on our Cafe Calls, and we also invite you to discuss these questions in person as well, returning here to share the results.  We start with the following question:

  • What are some examples of the emerging "new news ecology" that inspire you?

Image of Occupy Wall Street Media Center, courtesy of riomaro 

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To help me get a handle on "News & Journalism" I do some brainstorming on objectivity... it has at least several heads or levels. I think of imbalances, omissions, factual disparities, coverup & bribery, innuendo and more.  How are these manifested?..

  1. What story (or movement or organization) or event is covered & not covered
  2. What questions are asked & not asked... and to whom
  3. Latitude and freedom and fidelity of answers & expressions
  4. Time and emphasis given to any story (priorities & biases)
  5. Threats of bias include:  monetary or political interests, family or personal interests, incompetence, ego.
  6. When or how story is run or distributed and other choices... about priorities.
  7. Affiliations and potential innuendos re journalist, editor, owner or network or corporation
  8. Mission or purpose of the reporting agency, e.g. to stabilize the public (Peggy's observ), to get high ratings, to influence the 'norms', to serve the public by distrib 'safe' or 'established' information, etc..

It seems to me, even with the best of intentions and no biases The Media or News Journalism would have an incredibly difficult time reporting on the Right news and right stories, giving the right amount of emphasis (considering ALL that's happening), and reporting it thoroughly & accurately enough to serve the best interests of the target public at large.  So, what can I hope for or work for in all this?

So it sounds like you're suggesting that "objectivity" is unobtainable.  What if we accept that and look for ways to support the new news ecology in which something larger is being served?  Peggy told us that what inspires her is the idea of a shift towards news as conversation, with a focus on what is POSSIBLE (a future orientation, based on the idea that there is a New Story emerging into which we are being called to live) and the presence of diverse voices.  I can work towards that--so far I think we're hitting two out of three here in the Cafe, with diversity being the element we need to work on the most.

It wasn't my intention to use objectivity and be judgmental, Ben... it was only to lay out what I see I'm dealing with.  And I'm certain it's not a complete picture. 

But answering your observation, seeing the apparent impossibility of something actually helps enable the new way of thinking for me.  Of course, this assumes one doesn't just relent, concede or give up on something... esp when its so meaningful and fundamental as human expression.

If I were to see something emerging from my list it would be that objectivity must not matter (or is less important).  Maybe its an illusion.  As Jane alluded-to the observer always changes the observed, no?  If we hear or create our expression as a story it is always subjective because we're human and automatically have filters based on our experiences.  Expression is always about a relationship... either between that expressed and the expressor... or between that expressed and the expressor as a surrogate. 

It must depend somewhat on what we're talking about... like is it an event, interpreting or abstracting an event, telling a story factual or fictional, with a point or without one...  If there's lots of stories about the same thing something will emerge as most true by the numbers.  But, maybe even that doesn't matter. 

Since we all have differing life experiences we'll necessarily perceive expression differently... even tho we think we are understanding.  For example, to casually mention a 'great' tree we all assume we know what that is.  Yet looking at a tree one might be overwhelmed with its huge stature, another by it's vivid color, another by its potential for firewood, another by it ability to produce oxygen, etc.. 

This topic is extremely fertile as it relates to all of life.


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