Where (offline) are community conversations happening?

I’m spending a couple of days with community newspaper folks at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, and I led a discussion this afternoon about questions that make journalism more social.

I threw out a few topics to chew on, and one of them was this:

Where, offline and online, are people in your community talking to each other about what’s going on in town?

It’s easy to talk about online conversations (and boy, do I spend a lot of time doing that). But I also really love talking about what’s happening offline. Face to face, eyeball to eyeball. Over coffee, beer or sports. Over shared interests, shared geography or just an accidental shared location.

Wherever the public is gathered, journalists have an opportunity to be listening. They also have an opportunity to be distributing content customized for that specific gathering, situation or news need.

Here’s what I heard from community journalists today about where in their towns people frequently discuss community life. What would you add?

  • Lumberyards
  • Sports events (youth and high school)
  • Beauty shops and barbershops
  • Churches
  • Gyms
  • Coffee shops
  • Bars
  • Cultural events
  • Meetings
  • Post offices
  • Chamber functions
  • Grocery stores
  • Courthouses
  • Neighborhoods
  • Funerals
  • Work
  • Standing in line anywhere



Designers as user advocates: My talk at #sndstl

I’m thrilled to be speaking this weekend at the Society for News Design annual shindig in St. Louis. My topic is a really happy marriage of the two primary focuses of my career: design and community engagement.

Turns out, they’re not so different.

Designers have long been speaking up for the consumption of information. For making information clear, accessible and enjoyable. That focus on the user experience is what I’ve always loved most about design, actually.

I’ll put my slides at the bottom of this post (though I’ve never made the kind of presentations that make much sense without the accompanying words coming out of my mouth).

The main purpose here is to share links to some of the projects and posts I mentioned in my talk. Usually, I make a custom Delicious tag and url, and just share that. But Delicious isn’t working so well these days. So here you go, folks who were in the audience today. And for the rest of you who stumbled by? Good luck making sense of this collection of randomness!

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The future of community news is bright: thoughts from Block by Block 2011

Once again, I’m coming away from Block by Block, a gathering of primarily local news startups, with dozens of innovative ideas and thought-provoking philosophies to chew on. Kudos to Michele McLellan and Jay Rosen for enabling this community of passion to get together.

Here’s some of what I learned and want to take back to my community outreach team at the Columbia Missourian.

— Engagement efforts can’t be the frosting on the cake. They’re the meat and potatoes and should make up your basic approach to community interactions. Don’t report a story, then figure out how to share it. Have a specific audience in mind from the idea-generation stage, and go about your reporting in a way that figures out how you can make sure the people who most want and need the content will find it.

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Journalism + community at SXSW12

It’s PanelPicker time for South by Southwest Interactive, and I’m starting my dive into the craziness that is 3,232 proposed sessions for Interactive alone.

Typically, the sessions I get the most out of aren’t on the journalism track. Two years ago, I was teaching multimedia design and went to several design and interface sessions that rocked my world.

Last year, I focused on community, social media and influence. I blogged about Doreen Marchionni’s session on conversational journalism, my frustration with ridiculous claims about social media ROI, and my advice for SXSW presenters.

This year, as I apply my community learnings back in my newsroom, I’m going to start by looking for true innovation among the journalism sessions and expand from there. As I do, I’ll keep a list here of the sessions I most hope to see.

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Tom Rosenstiel’s Seven/Eight/Nine functions of journalism

I rely a lot on the research coming out of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, and I was thrilled this morning to get to hear Tom Rosenstiel himself speak to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies about the state of the media industry. It’s in New Orleans. At the Ritz. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

I was even more thrilled that his session was right before mine (which was about keeping the focus on the audience), because so much of the message I tried to get across was made more salient by the research he shared. In fact, I kept joking during my session that I was citing him too much! So Tom, thanks for the awesome intro you didn’t know you were giving!

Tom is one of the authors of “The Elements of Journalism,” a book that’s required for Mizzou journalism students. (I referenced it in a Nieman Reports piece this spring, adding my own obligation that I think journalists have to identify and attempt to connect with the audience.)

Tom shared some general observations about the changing culture of information consumption — nuggets of wisdom like:

— The power is shifting from journalists to their communities.

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At the crossroads of journalists and librarians, we find community engagement

I’ve been at an inspiring workshop the last day and a half. Beyond Books, sponsored by Journalism That Matters and RJI, among others, brought together librarians, journalists and activists. You can see the program, the session recaps and a list of attendees online.

The basic idea is that these groups of people share a common mission of improving their communities through information. Say all you want about journalistic cynicism and profit-chasing. I believe most of the journalists I’ve had the pleasure to work with would say they got into the news biz because they feel like it’s a way of making the world a better place, whether they’re doing that by improving democracy or building connections through storytelling.

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Data! About conversational journalism!

One of the struggles in talking about relationships between journalists and their audiences is that we too often stay philosophical and talk from our gut.

This morning at South by Southwest, Doreen Marchionni presented her dissertation research on how audiences perceive conversational news. I’ve talked to Doreen about her work before and have learned a lot from it, but I haven’t written about it. I apologize to her for the brevity of this post — her work deserves much more detail.

These are the variables that her research attached to the idea of conversational journalism, which she defines as a deeply collaborative relationship between journalists and audiences. Conversation consists of:

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Advice for SXSW presenters: Tell the truth, and lose the pitch

Selecting which sessions to attend at South by Southwest is an art. My general philosophy is to skip the ones that I think will tell me things I already know (including many of the journalism sessions) or that are led by people I talk to all the time. I usually pick something I think will open my mind or give me really practical takeaways, then I follow along on the Twitter backchannel for the rest, saving RSS feeds of hashtags I’m especially interested in.

I’ve been in some great sessions at South by Southwest this week. I’ve also been in some total duds. Some of the duds have been topics that just weren’t a good fit for me. But others were misrepresented or poorly run.

Here’s what I wish speakers would do:
Continue reading “Advice for SXSW presenters: Tell the truth, and lose the pitch”