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

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.

Follow Sally Duros on Twitter:

As dots connect, whole is emerging for future of news

Chicago Journalism Townhall
Chicago Journalism Townhall (Photo credit: sally garden)

As dots connect, whole is emerging for future of news

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

Continue reading As dots connect, whole is emerging for future of news

CMW panel on L3C and some thoughts on PRI-Makers Network

The Community Media Workshop held a panel May 7 on the future of news as a social enterprise and the L3C [low profit limited liability company] model.

The following Monday, I attended the bi-annual conference of the PRI-Makers Network. PRIs are Program Related Investments and they are posed at the center of the L3C model. A PRI is an investment made by a foundation — in various forms —  at below market rates. The foundation expects a return on the money – with varying degrees of rigidity. And this investment is “program related” because its is tied to the program areas funded by the foundations. Pretty simple concept!

I will be sharing more of what I learned during those three days in some upcoming posts. Meanwhile, some of my thoughts going in were confirmed: only a small number of foundations are making PRIS. PRIs are only a tiny percent — 1%— of total funding by foundations. As I say in the clip, PRI makers are similar to angels in that they seek and expect a dollar return for their investment.

Their money is, however, patient, [unlike venture capitalists] in that they are asking a below market rate return and will work with the social venture to ensure its success over time. Topmost they are expecting a return in social good for their investment. Foundations are typically working with many partners to make these deals work and there is a lot of haggling at the table over details as in any deal. Foundations themselves are going through a vast culture shift themselves over PRIs and how they fit into philanthropy.

I informally floated the idea of a journalistic operation as a social enterprise by a few PRI-Makers and the idea was met with interest, albeit reserved, as to be expected. More to come

Video 3 from Community Media Workshop on Vimeo.

L3C discussion at Community Media Workshop

I’ll be joining John Plunkett and Thom Clark in a discussion about the new L3C business structure and how it could be useful to new media orgs on Friday, May 7. Stop by and join the discussion.

I hope you’ll be able to join us Friday when The Chicago Community Trust’s Community News Matters program and Community Media Workshop host an informational session to discuss the L3C model and how it might benefit new news organizations looking for a more flexible method of organizing that differs both from standard business
incorporation and 501c3 nonprofit status.

When: Friday, May 7; Coffee at 8:30; program from 9-10:30
Where: Room 401, 600 S. Michigan Ave. at Columbia College Chicago

We’ll discuss what an L3C is and why some new news journalists have
been exploring it. Harborquest CEO John Plunkett, whose nonprofit
helped initiate the enabling legislation that created L3Cs in the
state of Illinois and was the first to use the new status, will talk
about how to take advantage of L3C status and how it fits into the new
wave of “social venture investing” in Chicago. Journalist and media
expert Sally Duros will talk about special considerations for news

We hope you’ll join us to find out more about the new L3C model.

This event is free but please RSVP by emailing Maggie Walker at

Vivian Vahlberg
Project Director
Community News Matters