Tag Archives: Matt Waite

Strengthening North Carolina’s media ecosystem, from the ground up


Fiona Morgan and Ryan Thornburg issued a call to arms for citizens to become the media in today’s Raleigh News and Observer. Thornburg expanded the idea with a list of steps that communities can take to fill the gaps in news as legacy institutions operate with smaller staffs.

The call to action is remarkable in these respects: It comes from two people in academia, without financial interest in seeing more citizen participation in the media, and it calls for journalistic thinking from ordinary people. It also focuses on North Carolina and local civic news.

When news organizations, local governments or new marketing websites ask for participation from ordinary people these days, many folks react with cynicism:

“Oh, they just want free content.”

And for coders who can help parse data, the cynicism is even greater. These folks get paid to code, and we’re asking them to work for free?

But the call to action from people outside the media shows the civic pain at a time when distrust of institutions runs high. Morgan and Thornburg also bring theory down to specifics.

Their ideas echo projects proposed through the Knight News Challenge as well as the mission of the newly named Knight School of Communication at Queens University in Charlotte.

What I don’t want to see from their call to action: Yet another conference. We have plenty, even in North Carolina, planned for 2011.

What I would like to see: Specific projects or small meetups, with cross-discipline teams, aimed at small slices of the news ecosystem that are uncovered now.

Demos, not memos. Or even blog posts.

At the same time, we have to find ways to pay ourselves for the work. Foundations and nonprofits can jump-start projects, but finding business models is part of the challenge.

Fiona Morgan’s study of the news ecosystem in the Triangle. The report is long, but worth at least skimming for an understanding that news comes from a complex system rather than one place.


Mark up stuff for the thing

Matt Waite at Wired Journalists relayed a memorable quote from the recent Atlanta 3G conference, from Mitch Gelman, senior vice president and executive producer at CNN.com:

“We put stuff on the thing.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter what stuff, and it doesn’t matter what thing.
For the web, CSS enables that work with standards-based markup.
What if we did that for print media as well? Many news organizations have moved that way, with standard tags or markup to be shared eventually among different publications. Those tags are defined by function, not typography.
What if we took it to another level, with markup that said, “I want to do something here. I’m just not sure what, or I want it to be different in different places. I’ll use another tool or script to define that later.”
That’s what CSS can do, at places like CSS Zen Garden. Surely we can figure out a way to do that for print.

A journalist hero is something to be

Matt Waite, a journalist turned data guy, has a new job as a “news technologist” in St. Pete. He’s one of the people behind Politifact.

For more on his work, see Innovate This.

The point is this:
Learning new technology is not just about advancing your career or keeping your job. It’s about using all the available tools in order to make a difference in the world.

(Dec. 3 note: The post at Innovate This originally held an embedded YouTube video of Green Day singing, “A Working Class Hero Is Something To Be.” However, the post then began to give a “We’re sorry, the video is no longer available” message. I’ve seen the same message recently on another site. So instead of offering you something that’s not there, the link is now gone. My apologies. If you want the music, search sorry YouTube. They’re not the only media without permalinks, I know, and it is indeed sorry.)