Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New Digital News Outlet from KALW

This week KALW is launching its new local digital magazine to complement their broadcast work.  The new site has a new way for community leaders to plug in and help them do a better job of reporting on the arts and other community events and issues.  Users can become "community correspondents".  Check it out, help them tell others about it and together we can do a better job of becoming the media we want to create.

Here's the magazine: http://www.kalwnews.org/

This is the community page: http://www.kalwnews.org/community

And here's their FB group to stay in touch: http://www.facebook.com/pages/KALW-News/195280839624

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ProPublica: Tools and Resources for Reporting the Stimulus

by Michael Grabell and Amanda Michel, ProPublica - July 13, 2009 2:00 pm EDT

Since launching the ProPublica Reporting Network and its first initiative – Adopt a Stimulus Project –we’ve been hearing from members and local reporters trying to keep track of how federal stimulus dollars are being spent in their communities. The stimulus is one of the largest spending bills in our nation’s history, ... more...

Citizen Journalism Publishing Standards

An essay on citizen journalism standards from Huffington Post.

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The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism

The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not Until You've Made 1000 Mistakes

I've often heard it said (most recently by Ira Glass) that you need to be bad at something for a long time before you can be good at it. Another version is that you need to make a lot of mistakes before you can be good at something. Yet another version is that you have make all of the mistakes before you can start getting something right.

With this in mind I'm proposing a new approach to coaching and training. Each trainee has to keep a book in which s/he lists mistakes as they are made. Rather than the usual approach of withholding a license or certificate until a certain number of hours are logged or tests passed, under the new system, you don't get your union card until you have made and logged a certain number of mistakes.

There's a danger, of course, that the method could generate folks who are simply really good at being bad. But more likely, I think, would be a transformation in which we'd be able to own our "mistakes" rather than trying to separate them from our biography (not the real me, not the me of now, not the me I'm trying to be). Rather than ripping the sheet of paper from the typewriter and balling it up in an attempt to symbolically annihilate our failed effort, denying that it ever existed, we could just roll it out of the machine and add it to our "nope" pile. If done without a wise-ass sense of irony (the way people collect rejection letters to soothe their dejection during the job search), it could get you back to a genuine appreciation of the actual process of creation and learning: lots of experiments fail, lots of trials are errors. My guess, as a teacher (and as an observer of myself), is that the terror of having mistakes, failures, and subpar performances attach to the existential self is a huge psycho-emotional current against which we swim most of the time.

The alternative title for this post would be something like "Hiding Failure as Bad Faith," using the term as Sartre did in Being and Nothingness -- denial of the facticity of one's biography or of the possibility of transcending it in future. Something peculiar and not entirely helpful is going on when our insistence on seeing achievement and expertise as indicative of inner worth that was always there makes us want to hide the process of achieving or shames those who are in the process of learning. It's very hard to harness the full power of the self if, at the same time, you have to put energy into denying that it's actually you who is struggling with a new skill.

So get out your notebook and start logging your mistakes.

Cross Breeds

So, this can start out in one of two ways. It could be a joke: so, sociology and journalism get married and have a kid, what do they call it? Or, it could be a philosophical puzzle: sociology and journalism meet in a bar -- what would they talk about and what are the chances they go home together?

Actually, I'm not sure I mean only sociology (let's allow it to be social science in general for the moment) and I'm not sure how narrowly or broadly I'd want to define journalism here (shall we just say "media"?). In any case, here's the point: these two could, I think, use each other. In the best sense of "use," of course.

On the one hand, the social sciences offer a lot of insights about how humans behave and organize their worlds. There's a lot that's non-obvious (at least until it's pointed out) about how we do stuff that the best social science brings to light. But word doesn't much get out. Social scientists are often not so good at telling what they know in a compelling and interesting manner. On the other hand, this is precisely what the best "media folk" are good at -- they know how to tell a story in a manner that makes folks want to listen and want to come back for more next week.

So far, that sounds like the social scientists could certainly use the journalists, but what's in it for the latter? At the risk of injury to toes or feathers, it seems to me that sometimes "media" are oriented toward the unusual, the outlier, and in the worst cases the sensational as a way of generating "interesting-ness." That's not, at first, a problem -- something can be empirically interesting simply by virtue of the fact that it does exist and most folks have never encountered it. The rub comes when things glide toward suggesting (advertently or inadvertently) that the unusual is noteworthy because its actually more widespread than the reader thinks even though the story at hand is based on an N of 1 or 2 or 3 or 4.

This is what I call the "denominator problem" -- suppose I find 5 graduates at yesterday's graduation who are terrified that they'll never find a job. Could make a compelling story. But what if 95 other graduates have great job offers? It takes me over an hour to get some hot tape of graduates describing their panic. But what do five great quotes really say about the world. That's something that social scientists have spent a lot of time thinking about. Their business is basically this: how can you turn observations into information about the world and how can you be sure of how much faith to place in that information? For the social scientist, fact that it's hard for me to get five sources is data too.

Let me stop for a moment and assure the reader that I am not proposing one of those "I'll stop the world and melt with you" relationships. Alone time is important and there's certainly a place for activity at both ends of the continuum (with pure social science at one end and pure media/journalism at other). But there is, I think, a middle zone where some productive promiscuity* might occur. The purpose of this project is to explore that zone.

*Maybe not quite the right word. The dictionary definition includes "consisting of parts, elements, or individuals of different kinds brought together" which is what I mean. It adds, alas, "without order" and "without discrimination" which in the long run I don't mean. In the short run, though, maybe some disorderly experimentation would not be a bad thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Two Feeble First Attempts

In the spirit of having to be bad at something before you can be good at it, the first entry on my list.

Socialism in America

Being Bad Now So You Can Be Good Later