Your digital brand — journalism ethics

acts of journalism

Committing acts of journalism—  What’s that?

The Web and digital technology have made it possible for anyone to commit an act of journalism.

Today, more people than ever are participating in journalism. People are breaking news on Twitter, covering their communities on Facebook, livestreaming, distributing news via email and writing in-depth blogs on issues of civic and community significance. Some of these people are what we’d consider “traditional” journalists working on new platforms, but many are not. — Josh Stearns, when working at The Free Press. Read the Free Press Report on defining press freedom in the digital age.

That’s why as an independent journalist it’s important that you hard-wire certain attributes into your brand from the beginning.

Among others, these include:

These attributes will become increasingly important if news outlets evolve into a platform for our talent as some of us are predicting.

Continue reading Your digital brand — journalism ethics

The Homeownership Index

It’s past time to update this.

First published in July 2007. Read my other writings for the Chicago Sun-Times Real Estate section under category “The Right Place.”

Home ownership post WWII
Home ownership rate in 1945: 45%
Home ownership rate in 1955: 65%
Standard down payment: 20%
Standard mortgage term: 30 years

Home ownership 1994-2005
Home ownership rate in 1994: 64%
Home ownership rate in 2005: 69%
Possible down payment: $0
Standard mortgage term: none, variable

Who gained home ownership 1994-2005
Home ownership rate for blacks 1994: 42%
Home ownership rate for blacks 2005: 49%
Number of new black homeowners 1994-2005: 1.5 million
Home ownership rate for Hispanics 1994: 42%
Home ownership rate for Hispanics 2005: 50%
Number of new Hispanic homeowners 1994-2005: 2.0 million
Home ownership rate for households indicating more than one race 1994: 52%
Home ownership rate for households indicating more than one race 2005: 60%
Number of new homeowners indicating more than one race 1994-2005: 2.0 million

Growth of the subprime mortgage market 1994-2005
Aggregate dollars in subprime mortgages 1994: $35 billion
Aggregate dollars in subprime mortgages in 2005: $625 billion
Percentage of total mortgages that were subprime 1994: less than 5%
Percentage of total mortgages that were subprime 2005: 20%
Annual rate of increase in subprime mortgages 1994-2005: 26%
Subprime loans made by less supervised subsidiaries of banks and thrifts: 30%
Subprime loans made by independent mortgage firms without federal supervision: 50%

Foreclosure and personal economics
Rate of foreclosures in prime mortgage market: below 1%
Rate of foreclosures in subprime mortgage market: 7% (10 times as high as prime)
Predicted increase in foreclosure rates for new subprime loans 2006: up to 20%
Confounding factors leading to foreclosure: Job loss and illness
Number of Americans now without health insurance: 45 million
Percentage of first-time, low-income home buyers who return to renting: 40%
Percent of homeowners spending more than half of disposable income on housing: 45%
Percent renters spending more than half of disposable income on housing: 57%
Adapted from data in Subprime Mortgages: America’s latest boom and bust by Edward M. Gramlich

Audience engagement tools and innovations

P1140336Some audience engagement tools to check out. Could any of them be useful to you?


“Q: How do JOURNALISTS know the stories they report are stories their COMMUNITY finds relevant?
A: They ask them. And they use HEARKEN to manage engagement”

Listening Post and Curious City. What do you wonder about Chicago, the region and its people? Pose your question to Curious City and we’ll track down answers together, with stories online, in a weekly podcast, and on WBEZ 91.5 FM. Follow what we do — and learn how you can help investigate — on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter and Tumblr.

What does it mean to be a member of a public radio station in the United States? What could it mean? How could expanding the definition of membership instill a sense of ownership and identity among listeners, allowing them to feel more connected and invested in public media’s content, work and mission? Follow Melody Kramer on GitHub.

Framed by WDET
An audio-visual experience that integrates PHOTOGRAPHY and AUDIO STORYTELLING to tell the story of ETHNIC AND CULTURAL COMMUNITIES throughout metro Detroit.

Chicago’s weekly event to build, share & learn about civic tech. “Open data  without journalism is public relations.”— Barb Iverson

With Blendle, you read all articles from your favorite newspapers and magazines. Without subscribing. Coming soon to a locality near you.

New developments
Here in Chicago, City Bureau, SmartChicago and Invisible Institute have developed the Task Force Tracker.  
Using an excel sheet and Genius, a team of City Bureau Community Documenters  an annotated, updated and independent hub for public use that will measure the ~200 individual recommendations against existing contracts, policies, potential conflicts and public discourse; such as the Fraternal Order of Police contract, local legislation and media reports.

A couple of large scale initiatives involving remnants of big newsrooms brought together hold lessons for Chicago. And yes, they contribute to the “Could it happen here?” factor.
Poynter details how a non-profit now runs Philadelphia news and here’s an explainer. The Knight Foundation held a discusson last week and you can watch a video of the panel discussion  if you want more details. In Detroit, here’s the story of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative  and how the coop’s members — the Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine, Detroit Public Television, Michigan Radio, New Michigan Media, and WDET FM101.9 —all learned to play nicely together. Check out NextChapterDetroit.


Getting started


preston-bradley-hall-holiday-party-for-opengovchi_11346925516_oThank you for hosting a conversation May 10 as part of the Independent Media Circle for the Chicago Community Trust’s On The Table 2016.


  • Sign up at On the Table 2016.
  • Your event description is the headline and a paragraph of what you want to discuss.
  • Invite your guests via email through the OTT 2016 interface.
  • In the form, select “Independent Media” as your partner (this puts you in queue for the special independent media survey questions.)
  • You’re done registering!
  • You can revise your event and add guests up until the day of your conversation.
  • Follow me on Twitter and join a Facebook group of your peers.


I highly recommend reading some reporting from the New Jersey Local News lab about their experience. First get better acquainted with the concept of what a news ecosystem is.  Then  head over to Medium to read Molly de Aguiar (@MollydeAguiar) and Josh Stearns (@jcstearns) six part series Lessons from the Local News Lab.

Reading these pieces will take you about a half an hour and help you focus on your  contribution to Chicago’s independent media ecosystem and your On The Table 2016 conversation.


  • Look over the Host Kit. That will help you understand how to guide your conversation.
  • Sign up for an On The Table training session, if you like.
  • Share names of others you think might want to participate.
  • Read the online description of the On the Table 2016, independent media circle.

Beginning criteria



savingsWhat are the criteria to be considered independent media for On the Table 2016? 



Adapted from Michele McLellan’s work with the BlockbyBlock News Network and with Michele’s List, these criteria provide a starting point and will evolve as this project does.

The journalism maker is devoted primarily to original news although the outlet may provide commentary on content from other outlets.  In addition, we are interested in Chicago focused-journalism reporting on a beat, a neighborhood or serving an audience in a media desert.

The content demonstrates a desire and an effort to practice accuracy, transparency and fair play.

The site demonstrates a desire and an effort to promote civic engagement or an ethic of participation.

The news is updated weekly – preferably three times per week – unless it is investigative, broadcast or beat. Investigative, broadcast and beat reporters and sites often distribute news and information less frequently, and through commercial partners.

Independent media who are non-commercial as well as commercial are developing a variety of revenue streams as they seek sustainability, including advertising, foundation funding, memberships, crowdfunding and events.

On The Table 2016: We are Chicago’s Independent Media






Are you an independent media outlet / journalism maker who reports on Chicago issues? If so, this message is for you.

The Chicago Community Trust is using its May 10 On the Table 2016 event to better get to know Chicago’s independent media outlets and start-ups. The intelligence gained from your OTT discussions will be a critical asset in June, when the Trust is planning a collaborative ecosystem design session for Chicago’s independent media.

A new crop of media activists are stepping up. Acts of journalism are proliferating. Fresh approaches to journalism are taking hold. The goal is to reach as many independent media voices as possible on May 10 and collect some information through a special survey that will inform a special strategic session in June.

What happens on May 10?
You invite  some media friends to a meal, drinks or coffee to talk about what’s important to you. You and your guests —  publishers, information gatherers,  media friends and community members — are united in caring about the issues, policy, and action that activate Chicagoans, our neighborhoods and our leaders to make Chicago a better place. 

The Trust will foot the bill with a $100 gift card (Supplies are limited to those who need it.)  We’re looking for independent media outlets whose focus is civic, government and community life. Here’s our beginning criteria.

On May 11 ….
You’ll be emailed a survey to share what you discussed and  that will include several questions tailored to independent media. The Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE) at University of Illinois is helping us develop the survey.

When you record your conversation and take the survey, you’ll share how you work with your audience and colleagues as well as which services you’d find most valuable and least valuable for your operations and sustainability. In addition, the Chicago Community Trust wants to hear your ideas for sustaining independent media.

The outcome
The intelligence gained from your  OTT discussions will be a critical asset in June, when the Trust is planning a collaborative ecosystem design session for Chicago’s independent media. Take good notes and share them in the survey!

How does it work?
— Go to On The Table and sign up to host.
— Fill out the simple online form.
— Choose “Independent Media”  as your  partner  organization.
— You’ve joined the custom network for Independent Media OTT 2016!
— Complete registration by inviting your guests via the email interface.

NOTE: If you are hosting a conversation about your outlet, you can still choose “Independent Media” as your partner.

Ready to sign up? Read about next steps and check out some reading about media ecosystems.

QUESTIONS? Contact We’ll get back to you.

Dec. 3 : What is this Commons Transition anyway?

For Dec. 3 — If you’re stretched for time, you can read this abbreviated version by Michel Bauwens with a focus on the Main Points.

Are you a Steward of the Chicago Commons? Are you uncertain what that means? Do  you want to  learn more so you know whether you are?

Join us for a discussion of a Chicago Chamber of Commons and understand more about the Commons transition at Sulzer Library Dec. 3, 2015. We’ll be reading and discussing the Commons Transition: Policy Proposals for an Open Knowledge Societya free downloadable e-book, featuring  three newly updated Commons Transition plans by Michel Bauwens, John Restakis and George Dafermos. For a short introduction read notes from Bauwens talk at Cooperation 2015,   my blog post on the Chicago Community Trust On the Table event and notes from the Oct. 10 event.

Dec. 3, 2015
7:00pm  to 8:30pm
Sulzer regional Library

4455 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago IL 60625
(312) 744-7616

Millions of voices spotlight the problems facing our world while collegial visionaries join forces to create systemic solutions to these problems. Our intention is that the Chicago Chamber of Commons will honor and support these stewards doing this essential work in our home town.

A group of us who met recently to discuss the idea of the proposed Chamber have agreed that it would be helpful to bring people together to understand exactly what the Commons Transition is, how that dynamic is underway here in Chicago and where a proposed Chamber of Commons might fit within that dynamic.

A report from our October 10, 2015 gathering at the Institute for Cultural Affairs shows a draft timeline of steps toward formation of a Chamber. Among the initial and ongoing steps is a map of the many Chicago organizations who are doing important and essential work around the Commons. The Chamber of Commons asks the question — What do these stewards need so their work can continue unabated and uninterrupted? The follow-up question is — How can a proposed Chamber of Commons help to meet those needs?

We anticipate that reading and discussing the Commons Transition Plan will help us understand the strategic need for a Chicago Chamber of Commons within the landscape of Chicago’s stewards’ needs.

It’s a time of year when  we know that everybody is busy with their own family, work and play so we’d be honored if you’d join us. Once again, here’s the link to the free e-book for your reading convenience.

Please register here so that we know who’s coming.