News Leadership 3.0

Posts tagged with: Collaboration

December 29, 2009

Government 2.0: What’s in it for local news?

The fast-growing Government 2.0 movement could create opportunities for news orgs to get more local news and engagement without necessarily having to write more traditional stories.

(This is the fourth in a series of guest posts by Amy Gahran about how news organizations and other institutions can implement the findings of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.This joint project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute Communications and Society program produced the report, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age”. Read more articles in this series.)

By Amy Gahran

Local governments are the source of much local news—yet often they do a notoriously poor job of communicating with community members and news organizations. This is starting to change as more governments become open to experimenting with new tools for sharing info and engaging community members. image

Monitoring and getting involved with these experiments can yield new opportunities to for local news. This content could be more engaging and less labor-intensive than traditional reporting.

The key to making this cooperation work is connecting with people in government who are eager and able to try new approaches to public transparency and engagement. The Government 2.0 (Gov2.0) movement is a great place to find allies for strengthening communities and local news.

Recommendation 4 in the Knight Commission Report is:

“Require government at all levels to operate transparently, facilitate easy and low-cost access to public records, and make civic and social data available in standardized formats that support the productive public use of such data.”

The Knight report suggests some ways to approach this by strengthening and more fully implementing public information rules, open meeting rules, and open courtrooms. These are also passions of government employees and officials involved in Gov2.0.

Gov2.0 is a movement among government employees, as well as other interested people, to apply the strengths of social networking and Web 2.0 tools to all levels of government. The goal is to create systems for public transparency, participation, and collaboration. Although Gov2.0 first gained momentum among federal employees, it’s quickly spreading through many state and local governments.

In fact, in coming years local government may be where much of the Gov2.0 action is. Mark Drapeau, a leading Gov2.0 practitioner, recently listed “local governments as experiments” as the first of his top five Gov2.0 predictions for 2010-12. Gartner analyst Andrea DiMaio agrees and notes:

“Indeed we have seen and will see the best from local authorities. Not because they are necessarily smarter or bolder, but because they are—by their nature—much closer to ‘real’ communities. The issues they deal with are local in nature and touch citizens more directly: parks, waste collection, traffic, environment, safety.”

ACTION STEPS: CONNECTING WITH GOV2.0 PEOPLE

1. Go where they are. The Gov2.0 community has some important gathering places online. Joining these communities, finding participants and projects near you, and getting involved in their conversations and events can help you find mutually beneficial opportunities to experiment.

GovLoop is your first stop to connect with the Government 2.0 crowd. This community includes people from all levels of government, so search it to find groups, blogs, and members from your region (or who are discussing larger issues that have strong local angles for you). To find local GovLoop members, try searching for your city and state in this format: Oakland, CA. Selectively friending local GovLoop members and asking about their current Government 2.0 projects or interests can be a good way to break the ice. This guide to searching GovLoop can help you find other useful info in GovLoop.

Also, GovFresh features the best of US Gov 2.0 news, TV, ideas, and live feeds of government social media activity.

2. Attend Gov2.0 events in person or online. CityCamp is a participant-organized “unconference” about practicing Gov 2.0 at the local level. It will be held Jan 23-24, 2010 in Chicago. Someone attending from a news org might volunteer to run a session on how local media can complement local Gov2.0 efforts. For discussion, this group has a forum/mailing list, in-progress agenda, Facebook Group, and GovLoop group. Also, on Twitter, you can follow @CityCamp or watch the hashtag #citycamp.

Similarly, Gov2.0 Expo 2010 will be held May 25-27 in Washington, DC. This is part of O’Reilly Media’s high-profile Gov2.0 Summit event series. This will probably have a heavy federal government focus, so it might be most appropriate for national or major metro daily news orgs to attend.

3. Build on existing efforts. Most people involved in Government 2.0 already have projects in mind or in progress: data or documents they’d like to improve access to, easier channels for public participation, etc. In general, it’s probably easiest to work with what they’re already doing, rather than invent projects from scratch.

Once you assess which Government 2.0 projects are already in the works in your region, consider opportunities where using your news site and/or social media presence as a platform could enhance these efforts—while also providing relevant newsworthy content, and building community loyalty to your brand.

Possible results. Cooperating on Gov2.0 projects might be as simple as selectively retweeting local government Twitter items, or periodically excerpting content from their Facebook fan page or group onto yours.

Or imagine a local government decides to set up a site like Manor Labs where community members can submit ideas, rate them, and be rewarded for innovation. A local news organization might run a regular feature highlighting the best-rated submissions—thus increasing participation by reaching more of the community, and spurring constructive local discussion. A more automated approach might be to embed on the news site a widget that provides some of the civic site’s functionality.

You’ll only really start to see the possibilities for collaborating with more open, engaged, online-savvy governments once you start talking with the Gov2.0 community. These are creative, friendly people, eager to engage. And in many cases, the prospect of cooperation with or support from local media could tip Gov2.0 projects from ideas into reality.

Previously:

Community info building blocks: What do you already have?

Teamwork: Collaborating to build a community dashboard

Civic topic pages: Boost local traffic, democracy

October 25, 2010

SPJ and digital media: Start with learning, collaboration

The new strategic report from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Digital Media Committee, Will SPJ Remain Relevant in the Digital Age?, contains some good ideas for how the oldest journalism organization can continue to contribute value.

It’s laudable that SPJ wishes to extend its legacy of leadership into the frontier of digital media. But there’s a catch: Right now, like many journalism-focused organizations, SPJ lags notably in digital media. It’s pretty hard to lead from behind.

One way SPJ (and other journalism organizations) might address this problem is to put learning and collaboration ahead of leadership, for now…

By Amy Gahran

The strategic report recommends several steps SPJ might take which could prove useful eventually, such as:

  • “Take stands on hot-button digital media issues affecting the future of information sharing. Become an advocate for expanding access to the Internet, news and information.”
  • “Train media start-ups in entrepreneurial journalism.”
  • “Ensure staff and leaders are hyper-literate in digital journalism trends and new media theories so they can anticipate what members will need to know.”


These recommendations, and others from this report, would be more likely to succeed if SPJ either starts from a base of demonstrable knowledge and experience, or has in place a network of strong relationships with other players in the media ecosystem.

SPJ could get to this point—but they’re not there yet.

Understandably, SPJ has been focusing mainly on upholding the core values of journalism. This is important work that should continue as SPJ expands more into digital media. SPJ can continue to offer considerable value in terms of transmitting and applying core journalistic values to digital media.

But if SPJ is serious about eventually assuming a leadership role in digital media, the organization faces a considerable learning curve. This isn’t merely about learning technology; SPJ must cultivate new alliances, and be open to influence by cultures beyond journalism.

So far, SPJ and other leading journalism organization have mainly looked to people already in the news business for guidance. Unfortunately, this approach generally has failed to solve the most dire problems threatening the future of journalism.

Without opening up significantly to guidance and influence from beyond the journalism world, SPJ’s claims for digital media leadership would probably lack credibility and effectiveness.

In order to provide substantial, constructive leadership in digital media, SPJ and other journalism organizations might do better to begin with a focused period of learning and collaboration. This means actively seeking insight, advice, assistance, and partnership from players beyond journalism who have current, relevant digital media knowledge and experience.

Rebuilding core infrastructure takes time. This is not something an established organization with a deeply entrenched culture can pull off in a few weeks or months. I’d recommend that SPJ and other journalism groups set aside at least a year to focus their digital media initiatives primarily on learning and collaboration.

For instance, before implementing the recommendations of the recent strategic report, SPJ could spend a year or so on active learning-oriented outreach to groups that focus on technology, information sciences, libraries, business, entrepreneurship, community-building, advocacy, wireless carriers, mobile developers, marketing, education, government 2.0, social justice, campaigning, etc.

SPJ could make a concerted effort to attend or co-sponsor these groups’ events—and then share the lessons that journalists (and journalism) might adopt from these related fields. SPJ also could encourage its members to reach out to people in other professions, and report on their learning experiences.

While this is happening, SPJ could continue to offer basic digital media training and guidance, as it has been doing. Still, it would be wise to postpone claims to digital media leadership before the organization has sufficiently updated its own digital media skill set, mindset, outlook, and network.

During this learning and collaboration push, SPJ could find ways to bring SPJ members and other journalists together through collaborative exercises such as The Media Consortium’s recent Mobile Hackathon. Such events build relationships, blends cultures, and opens minds.

SPJ remains an authoritative leader on journalism. However, great leaders understand their limits and blind spots, and seek to compensate for them before barreling ahead in new directions. If SPJ is transparent about its learning and relationship-building process, this could help re-invigorate and encourage SPJ members to explore and experiment. Ultimately this could yield a more viable and diverse support system for great journalism—regardless of media.

Finally, I’d encourage SPJ’s Digital Media Committee to examine the role of mobile media in the future of digital journalism. This strategic report omitted any discussion of mobile—and fighting the last war generally is not a sound leadership strategy.

February 10, 2012

From news publisher to convener: Making the shift to build community in Iowa

By Amy Gahran

A regional economic development initiative in Iowa has captured the imagination of Chuck Peters, longtime head of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Getting directly involved meant facing a quandary: How could a news organization consistently support this initiative without becoming a crusader for it? The answer: become a convener of the public discussion…

A stretch of East-Central Iowa (around Iowa City and Cedar Rapids) has long been home to a unique convergence of business, technology, higher education, science, and the arts. All these forces recently banded together under the Iowa’s Creative Corridor initiative to work to enhance the region’s collective competitiveness.

Chuck Peters, president and CEO of The Gazette Co. (which publishes the daily Cedar Rapids Gazette and runs the local ABC TV affiliate station KCRG), decided to get his company involved. For about two decades he’d been discussing “systems thinking” and community development with Les Garner, former president of Cornell College and current president of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. And he’d also been working with John Lohman of the local Corridor Business Journal.

“Then we had that big flood here. Everybody was focused on cleaning up their own mess. John and I said we seemed to be the primary ones who cared about future of the region as a region. So we decided to join forces and try to promote the region.”

So the two media companies began a quasi-formal relationship with the Corridor Business Alliance, and formed Corridor2020—highlighting the alliance of 13 local economic development groups. Peters and Lohman began attending meetings and providing some money and in-kind support for the alliance’s efforts. Peters also summarized a major report advising the region on branding and development opportunities, and wrote an internal guidance document for Source Media Group (the trade name for the combined news and sales operations of the Gazette and KCRG). Lohman wrote an FAQ about the ICC initiative.

...Those are a lot of dense, weighty documents flying around, mostly talking about how to brand the region. But branding is no trivial matter.

“I’ve spent most of the last week explaining to people, if you think of branding as meaning a logo and advertising, that won’t help us much,” said Peters. “In the big picture, we actually need to develop regional capabilities for being collaborative and innovative. We can’t accomplish that without a shared vision of what that means.”

Defining what role a news company could or should play in moving the ICC initiative forward was a challenge. “How could we actively work to foster regional collaboration and innovation? As opposed to what we had been doing, which was to be a coconspirator in a culture of passivity,” said Peters.

“We had to change some basic things about the way we do our work. We’ve always been distanced observers lobbing articles into the community, often framing issues as contention of horserace. That just discourages people from engaging.”

The Gazette Co. decided to become a convener of public discussion around topics related to regional collaboration and development. This means planning and participating in public forums and other events, and producing new kinds of content.

“The news industry is so locked into the format of articles and video clips, but those are such incredibly ineffective tools when you’re trying to help a community understand an issue and come to consensus,” he said.

The newspaper and TV station are beginning to experiment with techniques used by the Khan Academy, such as using mindmaps as a way to illuminate connections between various issues and perspectives—and also to probe not just what people in the region want, but why they want it.

“It’s amazing to have these conversations with our community,” said Peters. “Like if we’re discussing education: Someone will say ‘we must have great schools.’ OK, why? What do we want great schools to do for us? Unfold the potential of each child. Again, why? Is it because it’s morally correct, or because we want to have a kick-ass competitive economy? Well, we want both—but now that we’re clear on why we want great schools, that makes it easier to think creatively about how to achieve that goal.”

The thinking of Peters and others involved in the ICC initiative was spurred in part by Collaborate: Leading Regional Innovation Clusters, a 2010 report by the U.S. Council on Competitiveness. While this report says little about the role of media organizations in regional development, there is a clear business motive for media companies to get involved. The report observes that “broadcast and media markets rely on a regional marketplace.”

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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