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.

DIY websites for journalists

Here’s what my site looked like in 2002. My first site went live in 1997.

Luckily, setting up a website has gotten a lot easier than when I set up my first website. Back in 1997, I had to print a form downloaded from the Web, fill it out and mail it in with a check to retain my domain name. That domain name purchase was made from the agency that became Web giant Network Solutions, which today manages  more than 7 million domain names.

By the early oughts, I was tapping into the sharing power of the Web by connecting with the Tech world, women’s networks, nonprofit community and others through a scrollbar on my site.

After purchasing my domain name, I then had to find a company that could “host” my domain on the Web- basically make it “live” on the Web. For a Web host, I selected  a company called Pair Networks, which ultimately became too expensive for me. The  first recorded image of in the Internet Archive was in August of the year 2000. By then I had learned rudimentary HTML, was a member of the International Webmaster’s Association and was reporting on venture capital and technology.  I had ambitions to set up my own domain registrar for NPOs. Didn’t succeed or I’d be a millionaire now.

Now that I’ve told you all that, forget it.

DIY for journalists
Setting up a site so you can retain an archive of your articles is 1000% simpler today. Although there are many ways to set up a portfolio online with live links, I believe the best approach for a  journalist is to set up an archive just like I have here in my WordPress site. I learned fairly quickly that I am not a Web designer and WP, SquareSpace and others take care of that shortage of talent.

Here’s what you need to know. Buy your domain name from a registrar.  Also know that you are not actually “buying” your domain name. You are “renting” it for a period of time. Mosts registrars give you a discount when you rent for a number of years so that is what I’d recommend if you can afford it. Here’s the list of the largest domain name registrars from WebHosting.infoLargest_ICANN_Registrars

The largest on this list are GoDaddy, Enom, Network Solutions, Tucows and Schlund+Partner. This list says nothing about price or reliability. I have had personal experience with GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Tucows.

These days, the larger domain registrars are also hosts. And many of them offer an easy user interface with WordPress, which is basically what your “design” on the Web will look like – no hand woven bad html design for lucky you! You can have an interface that looks like this site you’re reading on, which I’ve set up on, the commercial imprint of Word Press. Here’s a sampling of what the bare bones designs look like.



The basic designs are free but many folks choose to jazz them up by hiring a great designer to assist. My feeling is that site design for us sole proprietor/journalists is less important because the quality of information is what is important. And with the way  information is read and distributed on the Web, I think less and less about my site as a destination. In fact, many journalists are experimenting with site-less news models these days.

One-stop shops aplenty
It’s easy to find a one-stop shop that provides domain registration, Web Hosting and WordPress interface. But buyer beware. A company like GoDaddy seemingly makes it simple to buy your domain name and put it on the Web. But I ask at what cost. Me, I dislike GoDaddy.  Their early marketing was offensive (it was like Hooters) and they nickel and dime you for every little service you need. As your use and sophistication grows you might find yourself disgusted pretty quickly .

A couple of years ago I moved to MediaTemple. The $250 per year fee plus the cost of my domain name rental seemed like a good deal for me since I “play” on the Web a lot with various domain names and often establish and run sites and social media for clients. I’ve been pretty happy with them and their services. But now that Media Temple has been purchased by GoDaddy, I am preparing to flee if the extra fees get onerous. One option I have been considering is Bluehost, which is often played off against GoDaddy in articles like this from a site called (which by the way offers lots of useful info for those of you getting started.)

The important thing for a journalist to get from one of these services is 1-click set up for WordPress, which MediaTemple, BlueHost and GoDaddy all have.

Added kudos for Bluehost
When I asked  my friend, colleague and digital expert Courtney Hunt who she would recommend for Domain registration and hosting, she said she is leaning toward BlueHost.    “I typically recommend Bluehost (one of 3 recommended specifically by WordPress). I have clients who use GoDaddy (trying hard, but not the best option) and InMotion (seems to be good) as well,” she said.

I hope this is helpful. Courtney and I are discussing doing a joint session for journalists moving to the Web. Let me know what you’d like to learn about at SallyDuros AT and we’ll see what we can do for you.


Chicago Chamber of Commons


Here’s an intriguing idea I’d like you to join me in exploring.

The idea is to create a Chicago Chamber of Commons.

The Chicago Chamber of Commons recognizes, supports and highlights the green shoots of Chicago’s budding Generative Economy.

We see signs of it everywhere but we’ve not been using a framework to understand what we are seeing so we can better support it.

In her book, “Owning our Future,” Marjorie Kelly discusses the Generative Economy.

Continue reading Chicago Chamber of Commons