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

Chicago news hounds have put enough skin in the game

Originally published in Huffington -Post
Show us the money.

“Us” being the new newsrooms.

The whole world has weighed in on solutions: Combine online with newsprint, news blogs with legacy investigative reporters, news aggregation with editorial curation, then crowd-fund, throw in some Google analytics, and subscription and accessibility fan clubs.

I’m not making this stuff up. To make your head spin do a Google or Twitter search on future of news or follow my Twitter stream @saduros.

Newspapers are meeting “secretly” and Google, Yahoo and other Web whizzes are conjuring new delivery systems.

I’ve talked at length with Tom Stites, who has worked at the Sun-Times, the Tribune and the New York Times. He has some great ideas for the future of journalism as a co-op that he’s laid out at the Banyan Project.

But as he says:

“The revenue model for making money from online journalism is a Rubik’s Cube that somebody’s got to crack the code on.”
It’s going to happen so let’s be ready.

Ideas float about like so many soap bubbles. It’s time to stick pins in a few and see which ones don’t pop.

There’s been little talk about the “m” word. The real dirty little secret that it takes time (and money) to report and write news.

Finally the respected Jon Margolis, formerly of the Tribune, weighed in gently May 12 on the “m” word and how it relates to professional journalists vs. citizen journalists.

“That doesn’t mean there’s no place for the devoted, or even obsessed, advocate. But let’s save a place at the press table for the professional journalists, careerist though they may be (and those citizens are not? Gimme a break). Not the worst trait, careerism. Wanting to get ahead by doing the job right helps one…do the job right.
“And it is a job. Jobs in our society do and should come with paychecks, bringing us back to our basic questions: How big should the paychecks be? Who or what will finance them?”

As I write, Senate Bill 0239 creating L3Cs (a low-profit limited liability company that can accept grants) is awaiting Gov. Quinn’s signature. Upon its signing, any social entrepreneur will be able to create an L3C in Illinois.
It’s way past time to stop quacking and launch some new newsrooms for Chicago.

Let’s get everybody who has a stake in Chicago’s news world into a room to advocate and put to laptop their brightest ideas. Then let’s launch a competition to seed the most promising among them for start-up or, if they are already going, sustainable growth.

Let’s create an L3C seed fund for new-style newsrooms. And maybe we’ll find a few hardy news-web entrepreneurs who want to go the L3C route, too.

Come on Chicago. Let’s be bold. We gave the United States its first African American president. Why stop there? Paradigms are made to be shattered.

When I say “Let’s” and “We,” who do I mean? I mean Chicago’s philanthropic community, like the Chicago Community Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the McCormick Foundation. I mean family foundations who care. In the L3C, they take on the greatest risk that they will not receive a financial return. Also in the mix should be local businesses that would find an audience for their advertisements on these news vehicles — they represent the second tier of investment.

But I’m betting the seed fund will get a return, maybe some slow money, but money nonetheless. I’m betting the dozens of local entrepreneurs who have so much skin in the game won’t let anybody down.

Let’s build something new that works.

I say this because I have heard enough and seen enough dimness in the news business to last two careers.

Will the light bulbs over the heads of editorial types ever light? Do they really need to be told why their newspapers are sinking faster than slabs of concrete?

On May 21, yet another group of veteran journalists debated the future of news at the IFC Media Luncheon at the Newberry Library. A smart group of good people including my former boss, Don Hayner from the Sun-Times and Carl Bernstein, yes, he of toppling Richard Nixon fame. The end result? Poetic, eloquent mumblings about what used to be and little understanding of future direction, except for this nugget of wisdom that has been thrown at me twice: duck and cover if you are a journalist over the age of 35.

I asked the panel a question. Are there lessons to be learned from the way big businesses have run their newsrooms that could be useful in the future?

The panel response: blank looks.

This in the town where robber barons sucked the Sun-Times dry and Sam Zell is playing monopoly with the Tribune.

Lessons to be learned? No.

No. Of course, no.

For nearly two decades, newspapers have been challenged to evolve into knowledge-based organizations capable of adapting to the innovations of the Web. Instead of progressing, they’ve been traded as chits in a greedy money-grab game by short-sighted media conglomerates. Their mismanagement has buried the papers with debt and forced record staff layoffs.

The big-time editors have got to know this. Likely they don’t want to publicly admit to the corrosive effects of their industrial-age bosses that view newsroom staff as “things” to cut rather than “knowledge workers” to invest in.

Their policies have resulted in what Jane Stevens so rightly calls Zombie newsrooms.

“Definition of a zombie newspaper: a skeleton staff operating in an organization that provides them little support and no room to make a complete transition to the Web, holding a death-grip on the paper instead of modernizing it.”
Our dwindling newsroom staffs and move to wire copy has had an unintended consequence. In response to the dearth of relevant local news, a new ecosystem of Chicago blogs and news aggregators has developed on the web.

Web journalists operating out of passion found it easy to find stories to report.

There are a million stories in the naked city. And there are a million ways to report them on the Web. We are entering a golden age for journalism — right now.

Chicago has brilliant lights like Adrian Holovaty, who with his partners has created Everyblock, which is a digital age “aha”! How does data delivered by Everyblock — crime, zoning, businesses — change the job description for reporters and editors? Chicago is also home to the much-publicized online non-profit newsroom — the Chi-Town Daily News.

Other sites like those I recently wrote about, LISC’sNewCommunities, and the BeachwoodReporter are run by journalists committed to telling the local stories that the legacy newspapers haven’t had the capacity — or the mission — to report. You can see an extensive list of these types of sites at Community Media Workshop’s site.

As I write, all of these valuable newsrooms — and more –are looking for cash to sustain themselves.

These under-reported and neglected areas of coverage are the bread and butter of tomorrow and many of them are running on vapor.

High-quality local information — which is what readers demand– is something the legacy newsrooms have lost sight of as they have jettisoned staff. News is not throw-away wire copy to wrap around ads but real information that provides insight and history. Editors know this, but what to do when papa corporation needs to pay the shareholders? Look at the collective shrug at the IFC event to understand the answer to that.

A lot of smart people have been sitting round the table at the Chicago Community Trust trying to understand how Chicago’s foundation community can assist. Many of us believe that we must evolve a new way to finance newsrooms and we are looking with hope to the new social enterprise hybrid, the L3C.

As Dean Stackman writes in the Columbia Journalism Review on the failure of the business press to cover its beat and alert the public to the systemic Wall Street’s boiler rooms that led to this “economic winter:”

“Never, ever underestimate the importance of editorial leadership and news ownership, for in them rests the power to push back against structural conflicts and cultural taboos fostered by industry, to clear a space for … journalism to do the job it is clearly capable of, the one job that really needed doing.”
Newsrooms are all about mission, and mission is set at the top.

When newspapers start charging for online news they’ll need to recalibrate their value system. And they’ll need to understand their added value.

The added value for newsrooms online and in paper is local news. Local news that serves the audience. And advertising that delivers information to the targeted audience — and that is local advertising. The businesses that own and operate our new newsrooms will have to understand those values.

There’s a conference June 16 in Minneapolis on Economic Models for News, and several local conferences on Chicago’s news future. You can learn more about these on my blog at

Carl Bernstein, Chi-Town Daily News, Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Media, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Community Media Workshop, Don Hayner, Everyblock, Future Of News, LISC New Communities, Macarthur Foundation, McCormick Foundation, News Blogs, Newspaper Industry, Newsrooms, The Banyan Project, The-Beachwood-Reporter, Tim Stites, Chicago News