As dots connect, whole emerges for future of news

First published Huffington Post, June 12, 2010

The online dots are quickly connecting. Gov2.0 entrepreneurs are building a strong backbone for a hyperlocal new stream. And much of the innovation is seated here in Chicago.

Everyblock and SeeClickFix have formed a partnership.

Many Chicago alderman are signed up for SeeClickFix. We are forming new communication channels on the Web for talking to our governments, creating a crowd-sourced complaint system and measuring the quality of government’s response to our complaints and requests for service. [I’ve embedded it here on my website – so give it a spin.] More to come on the feedback systems that could drive all this.

I haven’t talked with OutsideIn for a while but I see that the creators of the conceptual framework of the Emerging Ecosystem of News Delivery have a robust stream of information coming in from news blogs.

There’s no formula for bringing all this together and making it all work like a well-oiled machine. But – as was evident from a panel on models for news and the optimistic viewpoint of Steve Rhodes about revenue models at Chicago’s Community Media Workshop last week, we have many reasons to look brightly to the future.

We also have the “Big” thinkers now stepping forward and touting tools for getting the information you want, many of which James Fallows outlined in this June piece in the Atlantic Monthly. Give GoogleNews a spin – you’ll like it. Even the New York Times Magazine is taking notice of the plight of New Journalism Entrepreneurs in this May 10 piece by Andrew Rice “Putting a Price on Words.” It’s something I first noted in a ChuffPo post last year.

At this rarified high level of information exchange online, there’s much going on front stage and behind the scenes. There are more moving parts than can be counted.

I was reminded last week that all this blue sky can quickly go gray from the clouds cast by the lack of online access for underserved communities. Committed community news activists and journalists (no longer news-room bound) gathered in Detroit for “Create or Die” an open space on Journalism that Matters.

That’s a conversation that is continuing at a higher pitch and urgency June 24 at “From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information,” which Bill Densmore calls an action congress for trust, identity and Internet information commerce serving newspapers and beyond. Trust is our currency on the Web, and we’ve made much progress defining that since Pierre Omidyar made his first discoveries on eBay. Now even Omidyar has gotten the news bug and has launched Honolulu’s Civil Beat. Densmore hopes his “Blueprint” will dot the “i’s and cross the “t”s on the next phase of online trust. We’re hopeful and we will see.

As the Chicago News Cooperative continues to explore the idea of the low-profit limited liability, or L3C, business structure, the Pt. Reyes Light in Marin County says it is taking the plunge and will become a mission-driven newsroom.

As Steve Yelvington explained so well in this presentation last year at the University of Minnesota Economic Models for News, journalism has never had a business model of its own. My thinking is that it is about time it does, as I explained at Community Media Workshop panel last month. That’s why I am continuing to follow and braid the threads leading to a social enterprise news stream.

It can’t be long now before this all comes together, and when it does it will be in several robust forms that will provide access to volumes of information we’ve not had access to before. And it will be up to a diversity of journalists to do the job of helping to create, vet, sort and distribute these streams.

Hold on for a wild ride.

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Sally Duros on Chicago Tonight, future of news and what’s happened since

After I wrote a series of articles for the Huffington Post on the promise of a mission-based news room L3C and the struggles of Chicago’s nascent news blogosphere I was invited to serve on a committee hosted by the Chicago Community Trust. With our input, the Chicago Community Trust in conjunction with the Knight Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation decided to develop a seed fund to fortify the city’s emerging news streams.

I was fortunate to land some consulting clients later in 2009 that lined up my work life squarely with my passion. That passion, to bring journalistic writing standards to the web and to bring the Web’s innovations to newsrooms – has absorbed my life for the past 20 years. I’ll be writing about that in columns to come.

One of my new clients was Andy Shaw, former Channel 7 news reporter and new Executive Director for Chicago’s Better Government Association. Together we developed a strategy and series of proposals for the BGA’s online presence. The other client is LISC-Chicago, whose anti-poverty and community development work is stretching the boundaries of community based multimedia. LISC-Chicago is also working in partnership with other news rooms like that of the Chicago Reporter and Catalyst to build a hyperlocal news bureau.

It was a year ago [March 31, 2009] that the Chicago Sun-Times declared bankruptcy and I was on a Chicago Tonight segment discussing the future of news in Chicago, the L3C mission-based newsroom and the state of the Sun-Times newsroom. Much has happened since then. The Sun-Times was bought by James Tyree and a group of investors. The Chicago Tribune unveiled its Chicago Now blog group. The Chicago News Cooperative, a “possible” news co-op and “maybe” L3C was unveiled. And Geoff Dougherty’s flagship NPO newsroom, The Chi-Town Daily News, closed its doors.

I have traveled extensively researching new media trends and surfacing ideas. I am still at it. There is more to come. And I am excited to share.