Category Archives: research proposal

A New Deal for Journalism: A half-baked idea

Imagine a program like the Federal Writers Project or the Works Progress Administration for journalism.

Imagine an army of young people getting paid about $40,000 a year, with health coverage, to report, write, data-crunch, photograph and video the stories that are getting no coverage. Imagine the nonprofit and foundation money that is currently funding journalism experiments going into one pot, aimed at gathering and processing and digitizing the information that is going untold and un-analyzed now.

Imagine Teach for America for journalism. Is it too Big Brotherish? Can the information gathered be shared and give us work like that produced by writers and photographers during the Dust Bowl, working for the WPA? Imagine funding the next generation’s John Steinbeck, Zora Neale Hurston and Dorothea Lang. (She’s in the photo above).

Imagine digitizing, geotagging and then sharing with the public all the historic photos sitting in library basements and newspaper “morgues.” Imagine a program like the Historical Records Survey for newspaper images and clippings. Philadelphia has begun, partly funding their work with the sale of historic photo prints. One Knight News Challenge grant competitor wants to digitize too.

Imagine the Spangler Foundation giving $4 million to fund reporting and photography in Charlotte over two years. That’s how much the organization has pledged to Teach for America.

Admittedly, philanthropic money has its limits. Taking money from the government to pay for journalism has its limits. But without the WPA, the CCC, the Federal Writers Project and the Federal Art Project, imagine the history we would have lost or never have known.
And without Teach for America, thousands of young people wouldn’t get the insiders’ perspective on why education is important for everyone. Imagine thousands of young people getting that same experience in journalism.
This is a half-baked solutions idea for the class final paper. The main question is here. Ideas welcome.

A quote/citation with parallels:
“The main federal cultural programs of the ’30s were based on concern for a labor market: professional artists and others engaged in cultural work. The skyrocketing popularity of media like the phonograph, radio and movies had recently supplanted many thousands of live performers: some 30,000 musicians had been displaced by new mechanical modes of music reproduction; the government estimated that well over 30,000 theater workers were unemployed by the mid-’30s. With over 70 million movie tickets being sold every week, live theaters were closing all over the United States. The Loew’s theater chain boasted 36 houses offering 40-50 weeks of live entertainment each year before 1930; by 1934, Loew’s had only three such houses operating. These new electronic media resulted in “technological unemployment” for workers in the live media.” “New Deal Cultural Programs: Experiments in Cultural Democracy,” by Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard, at this place.

Photo courtesy of Dorothea Lang dot org.


Building sustainable and findable objective journalism online

Simple software has enabled the publishing of independent, local journalism cheaply online. The change has local and global implications, and allows those in niches to break geographic, economic and political boundaries. An explosion of grants and experiments is occurring in the United States and often reaching across borders, but it’s unclear what kind of filters society will create in order to cut through the online clutter. At the same time, some independent news sources are running into the same funding issues that traditional newspapers face.
It’s shakeout time in old and new media.
Traditional journalists, new citizen journalists and just plain citizens are wondering about journalism jobs, the ability to sustain the creation of news on a volunteer basis, and the credibility and value of what they read. Even those who surf online for amusing celebrity news want to go deeper at times, when issues affect them personally.
Who will they be able to trust to filter out the noise and find information of value? How will quality, independent, objective international reporting be funded in the future? Will advertising dollars only follow the pop culture “news,” or will nonprofit organizations shore up quality work and find a way to disseminate quality information broadly?
I’ve spent 25 years in newspapers, as a manager, designer, copy editor, systems designer and content editor. My micro-neighborhood blog, started in June 2006, has drawn an average of about 40 visits a month until now, where it’s spiked for reasons unrelated to content at 145 visits so far this month. With that background, I bring a unique perspective and strong interest in the future of online journalism.
Keywords: filtering, “citizen journalism,” objective, blogging, online, editing, sustainable, “trusted intermediaries”
Web sites I’ll explore:
Center for Citizen Media
Description: This is the site for an initiative aimed at encouraging grassroots media, and is affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University Law School. Dan Gillmor, an author and frequent blogger, has his blog at this site.
Online Journalism Review
This site is supported by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. It has commentary, links, how-to guides and discussion boards about online journalism.
This is the site for The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland. It’s an incubator for news experiments and takes an active role in using new technology to educate new and old journalists on skills needed for online journalism.
The Knight News Challenge
This is the site for those who are interested in making grant proposals for money from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The News Challenge will award as much as $5 million for digital experiments to transform community news. Those seeking grants can publicly submit their ideas and get online feedback from visitors at the site, and visitors can examine grant proposals to find inspiration.
Global Voices Online
This site is a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The international site is being translated into at least six other languages and has contributors and paid editors in many parts of the world. Site managers also have an agreement with Reuters to share information.