Vote for the Banyan Project WeMedia Keynote

I received this note from colleague and friend Tom Stites, who has been envisioning creating the Banyan Project for some years now as an answer to good community-relevant journalism. He has been nominated as a Community Choice finalist for the 2010 We Media Game Changer Awards.

The winner presents a keynote talk at the We Media Miami conference, March 9-11 in Miami. All of the Community Choice finalists will be honored there, along with award winners selected by the We Media team.

I like Tom’s vision of a mission-based journalism collective to truly serve our Democracy and I intend to vote for him. I hope you will take a look at The Banyan Project and be moved to vote for him, too.

To vote, head on over to We Media.

Dear Friends — I’m always hesitant to ask big favors, but I’ve received news in which so much is at stake that I’m chucking my hesitancy and casting a shameless request far and wide.

First a bit of background: As you may know, I had a long career in major newspapers and ended my formal career as the editor and publisher of a magazine. Since my 2007 retirement I’ve devoted my energy to helping ensure that, despite the crumbling of legacy media, the quality journalism so crucial to democracy can thrive in the digital future.

What started as a hand-wringing conversation among concerned senior journalists has become a serious venture — I’ve just sent the Knight Foundation an expanded version that it requested of our $1.9 million grant request for launching community-level Web journalism pilot sites in three cities. I am honored to be the president of this venture, which has become known as the Banyan Project.

Now the news that inspired this email: Because of my Banyan role I’ve been selected as a candidate for an Ashoka Game Changer Award. It will be presented in March at the WeMedia conference in Miami; the winner will get to present the conference’s keynote address to a hall full of influential journalism people and — most important — foundation executives including the top people from the Knight Foundation. So winning the award would give our not-for-profit startup a huge boost in its search for funding.

The winner will be determined by on-line ballot, so let me start by asking for your vote (it only takes two clicks, see below). That’s just a request. Now, here comes the shameless request:

To win, I not only need to activate every friend I can to cast a vote but also to do everything I can to activate my friends’ friends to vote for me as well. If you can spare some energy to round up more votes from your own networks it could make a huge difference. Families, friends, coworkers — whoever might be a prospect! Please note that this is urgent: Voting ends tomorrow night.

Why should people vote for me, other than because you’d be doing the asking? Simple: At a time when newspapers are dying, the Banyan Project will exemplify democracy:

Banyan’s journalism will be tailored to meet the distinctive needs of the huge public of less-than-affluent Americans, the everyday citizens so ill-served by mainstream news media. It will thus squarely meet a significant but rarely addressed issue: the economic injustice inherent in today’s top-down journalism, which aims almost entirely to serve affluent people with discretionary income to spend in the stories of their upscale advertisers. Overcoming this is a major part of what drives the Banyan Project.

Voting takes only a few seconds: Go to and click the button next to my name in the ballot on the right side of the page. If possible, as soon as you’ve voted, please forward this to your network. If you or do Facebook or Twitter, or blog, please post something.

Thanks for anything you can do to help Banyan —


P.S. If you want to know more about the Banyan Project, just click on


Tom Stites