So long, “Wizard of Oz” journalism. Let’s make margaritas!

Consider traditional journalism as a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” There’s a hint of some journalists I know in that statement. Don’t worry, audience. We know what we’re doing. We know what’s important, and we’re putting it out into the universe for you to consume and enjoy. Transparency, if we claim to practice it, too often means a weekly column from an editor, not processes that are truly open and viewable, and able to be participated in.

“Count yourself lucky,” the Great and Powerful Oz says. We’re here to serve you, but only in the ways we deem acceptable. We’re a bit afraid to ask what you want, because we’re afraid you want entertainment coverage. So instead we’ll use our professional judgment to tell you what you should know. “The Great Oz has spoken.” Too often, we’re proud of being uninfluenced — by sources, certainly, but also by consumer desire.

Continue reading “So long, “Wizard of Oz” journalism. Let’s make margaritas!”

What does “engagement” really mean?

If you go to OaklandLocal.com and click on “About,” you’ll find these phrases:
— democratize access
— partner with community organizations
— make their voices heard
— community service
— we teach
— we welcome all who wish to contribute

… along with these phrases:
— original investigative and feature reporting
— community news and information
— voice of independent journalism

As someone who’s spent my career in print newsrooms, I’m totally familiar with the second list. The first one looks interesting, but attaching it to the second one is a bold move — one I hope to explore this year as a Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow.

What happens when an organization’s mission statement sets out the goal of enriching a community, along with providing information? What if those goals conflict? What about journalistic independence and objectivity? Journalists have spent a lot of years fostering independence, taking pride in being uninfluenced — by sources, certainly, but also by readers. We’ve basically worked toward separateness, not togetherness. And that independence might still be valuable in some areas of journalism. But should it still be a central paradigm? (Sound familiar? Some of this echoes conversations around public journalism over the past 15 years. I’ll write more about that soon.)

Continue reading “What does “engagement” really mean?”