People to Pitch and the New News

Thom Clark at Community Media Workshop does a great job connecting non-profits with journalists and the new news landscape. Here’s a little piece on my philosophy CMW did a few months ago.

For fun, Sally Duros follows the “future of news”. A former reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, Duros has rebranded herself as a digital strategist “who provides insight and solutions to organizations.” At the height of the media downfall, Chicago industry insiders labeled the Internet as one of the threats to newspapers. Yet, Duros doesn’t think the Internet or social media technology is co-opting how news is produced and distributed but rather creating room for collaboration.

Community Media Workshop talked with Duros about social media and how nonprofits can utilize the technology to continue getting their stories to the public.

What kinds of shifts do you see happening with how information is being disseminated? Do you see competition walls coming down in the media?

It’s a really interesting issue—the issue of competitiveness. The word “compete” in my opinion is almost an oxymoron. Because you’re competing on grounds of trust and willingness to collaborate. So people who are willing to collaborate and people who are trusted sharers of quality information are the people who are going to rule. Journalists have a real advantage because historically, journalists are viewed as trusted information providers. But the grassroots perspective, the perspective of an NPO on the ground, the perspective of a citizen on the corner, around many of these issues are very valuable too. They’re going to learn additional dimensions of an issue from that point of view, and the real challenge for journalists is to incorporate all of those points of view in a new way into what they do.

When I can get all that information from a service, like Everyblock (or GOV 2.0 and, the journalists no longer have to deliver that kind of information. Reporters no longer have to collect that information. It’s being delivered thru systems like Everyblock. And that frees up the journalists to be able to understand patterns of these kinds of behaviors. Then working with citizen watchdogs who care about that corner of that block can create more than a story and help create action that could improve that block.

Is journalism heading to a place where there are no more gatekeepers? Is everyone a ‘gatekeeper’ and you’ve got be participating?

Well, there’s a need for vetting. I want to be clear—there is a need to vet information. There is a need for journalists to be curators. We’re just so much more sophisticated now…We just know all the information has a point of view and so there’s a really important role for journalists. Gatekeeper is probably too strong a word. The voice of the journalist as a moderator, as someone who is enabling good conversation, a credible conversation. I think that’s where journalism is going.

Well what about the situation with Shirley Sherrod? How does a nonprofit using blogs to get information out take precautious?

I think that if I were a nonprofit trying to communicate these days I would make sure that whatever I put out there was tested and right. I wouldn’t put any information in my stories or in my press releases that are not verifiable and true. When a journalist gets it and they look at it, they’ll say, “Oh yea this is right.” Then you’re building credibility. I would caution anyone who is blogging as an NPO or putting press releases out as an NPO or writing stories and distributing them online as an NPO to make sure that your information is bullet proof.

So in that [Sherrod’s] situation, I think that people get very, very excited to be the first one out with information. And I think with the Internet there is an incredible drive to be the first one out with information.

Could a nonprofit use, Everyblock and GOV 2.0 as additional support for making their stories 3-D?

They could use some of these tools to organize their people. If you lived in Uptown and you have an Uptown citizens’ group and your group thinks that there are too many potholes and nothing is getting done, you could put a call out to your members and say, “Hey if you know a nasty pothole on your block, go report it at SeeClickFix. ” When you report it at SeeClickFix you’re making a report with 311 and you’re also making a report with the alderman’s office.

I think the real challenge here is getting the city, the state, and the government entities to update their technology so that so they can deal with these kinds of issues.

How did you find out about this new technology, like SeeClickFix and how can nonprofits stay abreast of new technology that could help them stay ahead of the curve?

You could follow me on Twitter (@Saduros). I do try to report on new tools as I find them on my blog I follow the Internet and how it’s developing new tools for journalists. How do you follow that? We have quite a few smart people in Chicago, like Dan O’Neill, and (Brad Flora) Windy Citizen, which is a place where you could post a story and say “Hey we’ve got a great story and we’re going to put it here and please vote it up.” So those are all people I follow and you follow them and you follow the people who are following them. And before you know it everyone is smarter than everybody and we’re all building something new together.

Follow Sally Duros on Facebook at Sally Duros, on Twitter @Saduros and on her website at You can contact her via gmail at