There is no Fake News; there are only False Stories

Posted Nov 30, 2016 @ 10:39 am by
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Election 2016 saw the rise of a new meme: “fake news.” This label was used to refer to patently untrue stories put out mainly by pop-up foreign sites looking to monetize gullible U.S. voters, and spread via Facebook and right-wing sites eager to promote the Trump campaign.

Post-election, however, the label “fake news” increasingly is being used to smear independent news organizations, especially those rooted in progressive values. Unfortunately, such efforts–including lists of “fake news” sites–are being picked up and spread by media outlets, academics and others who are usually considered trustworthy.

We call on every stakeholder who cares about journalistic integrity to stop spreading these lists. Recognize that those who formerly used false stories to support the Trump candidacy now are working to support the Trump presidency by accusing others of generating false stories. These attacks on the integrity of independent news organizations signal the rise of a new McCarthyism and must be stopped.

We strongly urge all news outlets to adopt the following guidelines:

1. Stop using the term “fake news.” If a story is fake, it isn’t news. Instead, use “fake stories,” “false stories,” or propaganda.

2. Call out any media that brands an outlet producing journalism with the “fake news” label.

3. Be transparent about HOW your own outlet puts together your news stories. Emphasize the work that you put into fact-checking. Talk about your methods with your stakeholders.

4. Define journalism as the American Press Institute defines it: a methodology based on fact-finding.

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Our Response to the New Trump Era

Posted Nov 18, 2016 @ 2:42 pm by
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Here at the Media Consortium, we thought the next president would be a neoliberal feminist; instead, we awoke on November 9 to a race-baiting, sexist president-elect with fascist tendencies, a solidly Republican Congress and what we expect will soon be a right-leaning Supreme Court. Now more than ever the country needs a progressive press!

The Media Consortium exists just for this fight—as a network we can and will work together to grow the role of a journalism rooted in progressive values. Engaging with diverse communities, we will produce fact-based accountability and solutions-oriented stories that will empower our viewers, listeners and readers to make positive change happen.

Our goal is to transform the media sector entirely, centering the voices of members of the public, and decentering the voices in corporate suites. We look to a day when individuals will actively engage in news because that news arises authentically and directly from the facts of all of our lived experiences.

As we enter this new era, the Media Consortium is working on a multi-prong strategy:

1. Protect freedom of the press–from physical attack, from legal attack, and from surveillance by partnering with legal and advocacy organizations doing this work;
2. Bring the voices of rural and exurban communities to national, coastal audiences by partnering with local news outlets and possibly through creating a pool of freelancers;
3. Engage, integrate and amplify the voices of communities of color from around the country by bringing on more TMC members working with such communities and partnering with a wide range of non-traditional outlets;
4. Seek to fix a broken distribution system.

Each one of our outlets has taken a distinct approach to the election results. You can check out some of their responses below.

Jo Ellen Green Kaiser
Executive Director, The Media Consortium

TMC Election Stories
(Many TMC members have published multiple pieces on the elections results—since we can’t fit them all, we only chose 1 piece to profile from each outlet)

AlterNet, http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/death-democratic-party-death-liberal-media-and-way-bernie-would-have-won

The American Prospect, http://prospect.org/article/trump-victory-exposes-weakness-liberal-political-infrastructure

Belt Magazine, http://www.refinery29.com/2016/11/130147/rust-belt-trump-voters-election-media-issues

Bitch Magazine, https://bitchmedia.org/article/donald-trump-white-people-problem
Care2.com, http://www.care2.com/causes/10-things-you-can-do-to-fight-a-trump-presidency.html

Chicago Reporter, http://chicagoreporter.com/trump-victory-rooted-in-democrats-failing-the-working-class/

Colorlines, http://www.colorlines.com/articles/trying-times-some-songs-healing-and-persevering

Dissent, https://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/donald-trump-victory-tomorrow-fight-socialism

Democracy Now! (FSTV), http://www.democracynow.org/2016/11/9/just_like_after_reconstruction_trump_vote

FSRN, http://rewire.news/article/2016/11/10/we-must-take-trump-supporters-seriously-literally/

High Country News, http://www.hcn.org/support/real-reporting-for-a-divided-country

In These Times, http://inthesetimes.com/article/19624/this-moment-demands-we-fight-harder-than-ever-before

IPS, http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/11/trump-the-symptom/

LA Progressive, https://www.laprogressive.com/working-class-democrats/

The Laura Flanders Show (also FSTV), The Day After the Election, http://lauraflanderscom

Making Contact and Greg Palast, http://www.radioproject.org/2016/11/greg-palast-on-voter-suppression-and-buying-democracy/

Mother Jones, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/11/bill-mckibben-climate-change-donald-trump

The Nation, https://www.thenation.com/article/mourn-resist-organize-2/

National Catholic Reporters, https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/pope-francis-reminds-donald-trump-not-forget-poor

New America. Media, http://newamericamedia.org/2016/11/i-occupied-the-freeway-last-night.php

Public News Service, http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-11-11/lgbtqia-issues/post-election-what-lies-ahead-for-lgbt-rights/a54915-1

Rabble.ca, http://rabble.ca/columnists/2016/11/there-are-lessons-canadas-elites-us-election

The Real News, http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=17635

Rewire, http://rewire.news/article/2016/11/10/we-must-take-trump-supporters-seriously-literally/

The Texas Obserer, https://www.texasobserver.org/its-time-to-blow-up-the-democratic-party/

Tikkun, http://nyti.ms/2eDyJP7

Thom Hartmann, http://hartmannreport.com/link/americans-wanted-revolution-and-clinton-only-offered-them-obama-20

Toward Freedom, http://towardfreedom.com/29-archives/activism/4398-it-was-the-democrats-embrace-of-neoliberalism-that-won-it-for-trump

Truthout, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/38338-the-real-trump-effect-down-ballot-disaster-for-democrats

Truthdig, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/revenge_of_the_deplorables_20161109/

Waging Nonviolence, http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/43323/

Washington Monthly, http://washingtonmonthly.com/2016/11/09/in-the-wilderness-progressives-need-a-campfire/

Yes! Magazine, http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/after-trumps-victory-stand-with-your-community-20161109

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Mass Media Has Failed Us –Once Again

Posted Oct 31, 2016 @ 5:56 pm by
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Today’s headlines about CNN commentator Donna Brazile’s leak of debate questions to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton underscore once again the entanglement of mass media with the institutions of power. Hiding behind “balance,” CNN instead pandered to both parties. Brazile was CNN’s link to the Democratic power base, while Corey Lewandowski has given them access to the renegade Republican, Donald Trump. Lost in this power grab was any attempt to provide news.

CNN stands out for its transparent attempt to partner with power centers. The embrace of power by other arms of mass media is less obvious but no less present. A striking case in point is the current fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

The Worst Mass Media Failure This Season? Standing Rock

If you only read mass media, you probably have not seen or heard anything about the Standing Rock story. Briefly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit to Energy Transfer Partners LLC to construct a pipeline designed to run from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a port in Patoka, Illinois. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has protested that the pipeline will pass through (and destroy) burial sites and other sacred grounds, as well as contaminate their reservation’s drinking water if it breaks. They are being joined by climate change activists who also protested the Keystone Pipeline, and are against any effort to increase production and use of fossil fuels.

In August 2016, the Standing Rock tribe called on Native Americans around the country to join them at a camp on their reservation. Over 1000 Native Americans arrived at the camp in September, joined by climate change protesters. On Saturday September 3, pipeline workers attacked protesters. On September 8, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman was issued an arrest warrant for criminal trespass in the course of her reporting.

Goodman’s arrest made news at mass media outlets, but only because they shrink from the arrest of any journalist. Despite that arrest, the protest has received almost no mass media coverage (except a CNN story that incorrectly suggests the majority of Standing Rock Sioux don’t want the protesters there).

Independent News Outlets on the Forefront

The mass media has failed to cover Standing Rock. Why? Is it because Native Americans don’t make up a large percentage of their viewing audience? Because North Dakota is an underpopulated state without a large market? Or because corporate and mainstream party political interests did not want media to draw mass attention to this protest in support of Native rights and against fossil fuels?

While mass media was silent, independent and community media have stepped up. Local indigenous media outlets including CBCNews, Indian Country Today, and Red Power Media were early to the scene, telling their own stories. What must become better known is how well independent news has covered the Dakota pipeline story, starting before the current protest even assembled.

Truthout has covered the Standing Rock reservation since 2011, with stories on the tribe’s housing shortage as well as its efforts to revitalize the Lakota language. Starting in May 2016, Truthout has published 79 stories on the Lakota efforts against the Dakota pipeline.

Democracy Now! has a long history of covering Native American movements. They first reported on Standing Rock on August 18, 2016, and Amy Goodman went on site by September 4.

Yes! magazine got on the story in August 22, 2016, with 3 Reasons the Standing Rock Sioux Can Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. They have since published 36 stories on the protest, including several from Lakota leaders.

In These Times started publishing original reporting on the Dakota pipeline in August. On October 17 they came out with a six month investigation into police killings of Native Americans, a related story that underscores the continued abuse of Native peoples as well as Native lands.

Along with these outlets, there has been terrific reporting on the Standing Rock protests by Colorlines, AlterNet, High Country News, Mother Jones, Grist, Earth Island Journal, The Real News Network, The Progressive, The Laura Flanders Show, Free Speech Radio News,Public News Service, Generation Progress, Bitch Magazine, LA Progressive, The Hightower Lowdown, Care2, Rewire, Mondoweiss, New America Media, Waging Nonviolence, and The Nation, among others. You can find an ongoing collection of stories on #StandingRock on the Media Consortium’s Tumblr.

The Power of Independents

Independent news outlets cover stories like Standing Rock because they don’t owe anything to corporate owners or advertisers. They don’t need to prop up the major political parties because they have no favors they need granted from politicians. All independents need is support from their communities.

For that reason, independents are on big stories far sooner than mass media, stay with them longer, and often go deeper. They prove that journalism has a strong future—if we are willing to support it.

If you care about journalism, stop getting your news from Google and Facebook, from cable TV or corporate radio. Instead, seek out a couple of independent news sites that cover stories that interest you. Read/Watch/Listen to them, tweet them, and give them your support.

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#WhoCounts?

Posted Jul 25, 2016 @ 2:14 pm by
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Media Consortium Launches Who Counts? A Reporting Project Centering Immigrant Voices on Voting Rights

Come to one of our events!
WhoCounts Chicago: October 5
WhoCounts NewYork: October 8
WhoCounts Durham: October 14

The Media Consortium, a network of progressive independent media organizations, announces the launch of Who Counts? – a project that centers the voices of marginalized immigrant communities who seek the same rights as all other U.S. citizens. The project will focus on these fundamental questions:

  • Who counts as an American?
  •  Whose vote counts?   And just as important,
  • Who is doing the counting?

While the dominant media narrative has amplified the voices that inflame nativism and racism during this charged election season, independent media is harnessing the transformative power of journalism to tell stories by the people most directly impacted by the political debate on immigration.

“The current political conversation falsely casts recent immigrants as “Others” who want to take away “our” life, liberty or property. By centering the voices of immigrants seeking to participate fully in US political life, we aim to shift this conversation away from immigrants to focus on those who are undermining the American dream: those working hard to deny citizenship and take away voting rights from the newest Americans.”—Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, Executive Director, The Media Consortium

As part of this project, the Media Consortium will hold a series of town halls that will put journalists from our network in conversation with immigrant advocates, local leaders in voting access and racial justice, and the media that serve immigrant communities.

Follow #WhoCounts on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to find stories from this project.  See the first story on the #WhoCounts Tumblr blog: The Impact of Islamophobia via Rethinking Schools.

Contact: Manolia Charlotin, The Media Consortium manolia@themediaconsortium.com, 646-770-2687

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TMC Impact Awards 2016

Posted Apr 12, 2016 @ 1:45 pm by
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2016 Impact Awards Recipients

“This year, what stood out for us was the sheer number of edgy, sustained, and deeply relevant pieces of investigative journalism included in the award submissions. To be perfectly honest, we were a little bit on edge ourselves in settling on our final choices, and so we offer these awards with appreciation not only for the quality of those who did make the cut, but also with more than a nod to the accomplishments of everyone who put their work forward.” 

— Zakia Henderson Brown, The New Press

 

Texas ObserverDeath on Sevenmile Road, by Melissa del Bosque

“Melissa del Bosque’s almost unbelievably intrepid and dogged reporting stood out for our judges in this case.  Here is a prime example, we remarked, on how the time and effort put into gathering human stories, connecting dots, forcing authorities to cough up documents, and really good writing can take what would have been a hidden crime and tragedy and blow it up into a genuine news story.”

Mother JonesThe True Cost of Gun Violence in America, by Mark Follman, Julia Lurie, Jaeah Lee, and James West

“Our judges were impressed in this case not only by the number of impact measures tallied by the submission — clearly a major accomplishment — but also agreed with MoJo’s larger claim about how this piece has helped shift the debate away from Second Amendment issues and toward the public health consequences of gun violence and the costs society incurs as a result. Both the argument itself, and its effective packaging (graphics, interactives, video, etc) helped to create a vector of influence that very clearly achieved an impact in the media, and in key and influential policy circles.”

High Country NewsWhen Our River Turned Orange, by Jonathan Thompson

“Jonathan Thompson’s reporting on the pollution of the Animas river was a riveting piece of journalism in its own right. But what stood out for the judges was the role that Jonathan himself played after the piece was published — whether fact checking other testimony and media coverage, providing expert, fact-based opinions about the causes of the spill, and educating the broader public about what could be done.   This seemed to all of us a really stunning example of the role that journalists should play in their communities (if only they had the commitment and depth of knowledge of the reporters at HCN).”

Earth Island JournalTeflon’s Toxic Legacy, by Sharon Kelly

“As editors of long-form narratives, we were all struck by the power of the historical arc included in this stunning account of DuPont’s deception in manufacturing this dangerous product, and many of us found ourselves discussing this story in disbelief in the days and weeks after reading it. For us, this is an example of a news story with legs: one that raises critical questions about industry and regulation, makes a sharp impact in its own space, and that will continue to ripple out into the broader media over time.”

The American ProspectCecile Richards: Grace Under Fire at Planned Parenthood, by Rachel M. Cohen

“We were all delighted to learn about Cecile Richards’ noteworthy professional background in organizing and advocacy, and how she’s used that sensibility to grow, fortify, and sustain Planned parenthood. More, this expertly researched profile uncovered Richards’ role in critical coalition building among progressive organizations over the last two decades. We valued the way this piece moved beyond topical coverage of Planned Parenthood to highlight how Richards turned one of the most important healthcare organizations for women and families into a political juggernaut.”

The Demise of the Dailies–and the Rise of Independents

Posted Dec 17, 2015 @ 11:06 am by
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Margaret Sullivan at the NYTimes wrote that the demise of the regional dailies has led to a dearth of investigative reporting in the United States. The problem with her analysis is that she only got the story partially right.

Independent news media throughout the United States are doing an amazing job of investigative reporting. Especially at the local level, there are rich resources going to investigative reporting. In fact, there is an entire organization, INN, that is dedicated to investigative work. The independents in the Media Consortium, the alt-weeklies–like the much-mourned Boston Phoenix–as well as community, ethnic and hyperlocal outlets all have broken stories as a result of their investigative work. We need to turn the “spotlight” on these outlets, who are the canaries in the coal mine of the news media.

At the same time, we need to be honest: independent, alternative, hyperlocal and community news can not fill the gap left behind by the regional dailies. The regional dailies had the kinds of resources few independents have. They also were able to translate local issues into issues of national prominence, and vice versa.

Spotlight is a good example. The Phoenix broke the story of bad priests. But the Globe was able to dedicate 4 people for 6 months to deepen the original investigation, and turn the story about a few bad apples into a national piece about malfeasance at the highest levels of the church. The Phoenix would have done that story if it had had the resources–the reporters had the “chops.” The immediate problem for the Phoenix was a resource problem. Yet, I believe that the film is also correct that another barrier for the Phoenix was its limited reach. The Globe simply had a bigger reach nationally than the Phoenix.

And that is what we are missing with the death of regional news: resources and reach.

There have been a few solutions suggested for this problem:

  1. Prop up the remaining dailies. This is a losing strategy. The public doesn’t want them.
  2. Pour resources into a few national independents like Mother Jones, ProPublica, etc. that can take the place of the dailies. I’m all in favor of this, but I don’t think these outlets can replace the regionals precisely because they are not local. What’s missing is the local-national connection.
  3. Create a network linking local independents to nationals. Local outlets are there getting the stories. We do have national outlets like Mother Jones, ProPublica etc with the resources to fully explore these stories. What we don’t have is a way to link the locals to the nationals in a relationship of partnership and trust. That’s what I want to build.

Imagine if the Phoenix and Globe had worked together on their story, with the reporter from the Phoenix on the Globe team, and simultaneous publication. I’m guessing the story would have been even better than it was!

The technology now exists to link together local and national outlets in an editorial and marketing network. I envision a network in which local outlets that realize they are on top of a big story will be able to reach out to national partners to provide them with the resources and reach to tell the story. Such a network would also have an advantage the nationals and regionals never had before–the nationals could crowdsource personal narratives from locals as they work on big national stories, providing such stories with deeper resonance from multiple communities.

The key to building such a network is not technical. The key is trust. Locals must be able to trust nationals not to steal their stories–and also to get the resonances right, especially around racial and ethnic representations. Nationals must believe that locals are valuable partners.

The Media Consortium has begun this work by building strong relationships between our member organizations, which include both national and local members. We have begun reaching out to sister organizations–including AAN, ACM, NAM, CCEM, NFCB, INN, LION and others to begin building those relationships across the independent sector.

The dailies were not built in a year. Nor will our network be. However, I envision that in 5-10 years we will have a fully functioning local-national network of independent and community news that will surpass the power of the old dailies in its ability to tell the stories that matter.

–Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, Executive Director, The Media Consortium

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Letter to the Future

Posted Nov 19, 2015 @ 12:10 pm by
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From the dystopian to the optimistic, from college students to Pulitzer Prize winners, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE went live at 12:01 am, Thursday, November 19, 2015. LettersFuture_logo_square

A national effort to encourage people from all walks of life to write six generations into the future about climate change, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE has so far exceeded the expectations of the project’s organizers and generated original reflections on what has been called the greatest challenge facing the planet.

The campaign (with hundreds of letters from the public continuing to be posted at letterstothefuture.org) puts a spotlight on the importance of world leaders agreeing to a global climate treaty in Paris. Dozens of celebrated public figures joined in drafting letters to future generations of their own families, predicting the success or failure of the Paris talks.

In an unusual coordinated effort, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE is a media project involving alternative weeklies and other media across the United States that will publish in print select letters over the next three weeks, potentially speaking to more than four million readers in print and 15 million unique viewers online. The national rollout of the project began today. The project was orchestrated out of the offices of the Sacramento News & Review and sponsored by the Association of Alternative Newsmedia and The Media Consortium.

The precedent for LETTERS TO THE FUTURE was the occasion of The Kyoto Project with the Association of Alternative Newspapers (AAN). Fifty alternative weeklies across the country published the shared climate crisis articles around the 10-year anniversary of the Kyoto Accord. Readership for The Kyoto Project numbered in the millions.

To date, LETTERS TO THE FUTURE has attracted letters from all over.

…From writers across North America
Jane Smiley, Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner
“West America was once a beautiful place—not the parched desert landscape that it is now. Where you see abandoned, flooded cities, we saw smooth beaches and easy waves.”

T.C. Boyle, Author, Winner of PEN/Faulkner Award, Finalist for the National Book Award
“At least you don’t have to worry about abattoirs, piggeries, feed lots, bovine intestinal gases and the like—or, for that matter, the ozone layer, which would have been long gone by the time you started walking on two legs.” (T.C. Boyle wrote his LETTER TO THE FUTURE to… rats.)

Kim Stanley Robinson, Author, Nebula and Hugo Award Winner
“Dear Great-Great-Grandchildren, I’ve been worried about you for a long time. But recently I’ve seen signs that we might give you a better result. At this moment the issue is still in doubt. But a good path leading from me to you can be discerned. ”

…as well as performing artists
Nitanju Bolade Casel, Member of the Grammy Award-Winning
Troupe Sweet Honey in the Rock “Please know that there were also visionaries who worked endlessly for positive changes in this world—changes to benefit the many, not just the few; you may have to do the same.”

David Harrington, Violinist, Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet
“All those who object to the unsurvivable situation humanity faces must mobilize every available resource to circumvent dire shortsightedness.”

…To those active in the world of politics
Annie Leonard, Story of Stuff and Exec Director, Greenpeace USA
“Paris … paved the way for an era of unprecedented innovation, as entrepreneurs and academics fine-tuned the best ways to harness the unlimited power of our wind, waves and sun.”

Jim Hightower, Author, Public Speaker
“Even a dead fish can go with the flow, and if the delegates don’t dare to swim against the corporate current, we’re all dead.”

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, United States Senator from Nevada
“You deserve a chance to experience the beautiful world that I grew up in. … The idea that our actions could jeopardize your future was simply unbearable.”

Bill McKibben, Author, Educator and Environmentalist
“By the time the great Paris climate conference of 2015 rolled around, many of us were inclined to cynicism.”

Sen. Kevin de León, President Pro Tempore, CA State Senate
“This fight is larger than me, larger than any industry, state or nation. It’s about you and the future of your family.”

…from young and old
Julia Brabenec, Retired Orchardist and Gardener
I want to tell you a story: It began in 1926 when I was born, and is near to being finished in 2015. The world that I was born in was not a perfect world. Not everyone had all they needed for a good life, to raise their children and enjoy the bounty of this earth. But it was a grand world, beautiful and filled with resources for its people. . . . . .

Natasha von Kaenel, Writer, recent college graduate
“It was easy to drive, fun to travel and the joy that comes from a steaming shower is so delicious, even in a state plagued by drought.” From an astronaut, who has seen Earth from far, far away….

Stephen Robinson, Astronaut (Retired), Research Scientist and Engineering Professor
“If you look at Earth’s atmosphere from orbit, you can see it “on edge” … And what you see is the most exquisite, luminous, delicate glow of a layered azure haze holding the Earth like an ethereal eggshell. “That’s it?!” I thought.”

Why the 2015 Paris Climate Conference is so important
Scientists have warned for decades that current greenhouse gas emission trends have put the Earth on track for calamitous storms, floods, droughts and rising oceans. But the world’s governments have yet to sign a legally binding agreement to do what it takes to avert climate disaster. The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 is humanity’s last best chance to finally get this done. Environmentalist and former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore has said, literally, that “the future of the world” depends on the outcome of the Paris talks.

Here’s the complete list of letters released on 11/18:

–Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley;
–Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks;
–Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jack Miles;
–T.C. Boyle, winner of the Penn/Faulkner Award;
–Bill McKibben, 350.org;
–MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Rebecca Newberger Goldstein;
–Senator Harry Reid;
–Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet, David Harrington –Kim Stanley Robinson, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards; –Michael Pollan, author, journalist, activist;
–Aisha Kahlil, Carol Maillard, Nitanju Bolade Casel and Louise Robinson, from the Grammy Award-Winning Troupe Sweet Honey in the Rock –Dr. Stephen Robinson, former NASA astronaut;
–Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff);
–Anti-coal activist Alexis Bonogofsky;
–Award-winning writer and filmmaker Donnell Alexander;
–Political activist and radio commentator Jim Hightower;
–Kevin de Leon, President pro tempore of the California State Senate;
–Author Pam Houston;
–Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council;
–Roxana Robinson, Winner, James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction; and activist and former legislator Tom Hayden.

LETTERS TO THE FUTURE will provide the letters to American delegates and accredited observers attending the conference to read, absorb and share them with COP21 Climate Talks in Paris. Letters continue to be written and posted online and, given the wide enthusiasm for the project, organizers for LETTERS TO THE FUTURE are discussing how to extend the effort beyond the Paris Climate Talks.

Media contact: Dave Webb
LettersToTheFutureMedia@newsreview.com
530-400-1253
www.LettersToTheFuture.org

What is the Media Consortium’s Impact Project?

Posted Aug 26, 2015 @ 3:11 pm by
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The Media Consortium launched our Metrics Impact Project in 2012 with generous support from the Voqal Fund. The goal of the project is to learn if we can quantify the impact that progressive news stories have on audiences by measuring changes in sentiment.

In the metrics world, “sentiment” means “how someone thinks about a topic.” In short, if you publish a story about charter schools, does that change how the public thinks about charter schools?

The research is being carried out by Gary King, the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard, and by his two incredibly capable graduate students, Ariel White and Benjamin Schneer.

The project is guided by three core assumptions:

1) Change in sentiment is the right metric for measuring the impact of news. Specifically, the researchers are measuring changes in the sentiment of what they call “activated public opinion,” which are the views of people actively trying to change public policy or the views of others (vs. surveys, which measure the sentiment of the average American)

2) Measuring changes in sentiment on Twitter will closely match changes in the sentiment of “activated public opinion” more generally.

3) Editorial collaborations are more likely to produce changes in activated public opinion on a regular basis than individual stories by individual outlets.

How the Project Works

The way the project actually works is this:

  • Back in 2013, the researchers asked us to choose a few evergreen topic areas for this project. We chose: immigration, education, reproductive health, and recently added climate change.
  • The researchers have access to the full Twitter “firehose.” They looked back over the past several years of tweets on these four topic areas and established a baseline for different frames in which people were tweeting about them. Their analysis goes beyond keywords, using an algorithm that is modified by human beings in order to pull apart the nuances of positions like pro-charter schools or anti-charter schools.
  • TMC staff (Manolia and Jo Ellen) organize collaborations around the project topic areas. Each collaboration ideally includes at least two original pieces, and at least 3-5 outlets posting the pieces.
  • The researchers need to randomize the experiment to ensure that changes in sentiment come from your stories and not from world events. So we pick two possible publishing dates, and the researchers randomly choose one date.
  • Participants actively try to not publish on the same topic on the week not chosen.
  • The stories all publish on the designated date. Participants in the collaboration retweet each other’s stories, using a common hashtag (which lets researchers track the reach of the specific story). TMC also promotes.
  • The researchers measure sentiment on the topic, and compare the sentiment in the week after a story runs to the baseline measurement of sentiment to see if the collaboration had an effect.

What is the Benefit of this Project?

The Metrics Impact Project has short-term and we hope, long-term benefits for TMC outlets.In the short-term, participants have told us they have realized two benefits:

1) Marketing. Publishing pieces collaboratively has helped outlets extend their reach to new audiences, both in terms of social media and in terms of readers.

2) Editorial. Journalists involved in collaborations have told us that they have gotten more and better story ideas; when journalists from different outlets have worked together on stories, they tell us it has provided them with professional development and strengthened their skill set as journalists.

In the long-term, our aim is two-fold:

1) Provide quantitative proof to funders that news stories change sentiment. Being able to provide such proof has become increasingly important in the funding environment: for more, see this article by Ethan Zuckerman in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

2) Develop a tool so that news outlets can continue to measure this change in sentiment.

Where Are We Now?

What follows is a brief chronology of the project and next steps.

Year One, 2013. This year was spent mainly behind the scenes, gathering information and designing the experiment.

Year Two, 2014 We began the project in earnest, focused on testing the theory that collaborations change sentiment. With funding from Voqal Fund, we ran 9 collaborations. Each of these collaborations involved 5 or more outlets, and required reporters and editors to coordinate with each other. Researchers found a strong correlation between these collaborations and sentiment changes, but they realized that they would need up to 40 collaborative instances to get statistically clear data. At the same time, participants told us that these collaborations took a lot of staff time. They also took a great deal of TMC staff time.

Year Three, 2015. In the spring of this year, we went through another design phase in response to what we learned in 2014. As a result, we changed the nature of the collaborations so that they are now more like co-publishing instances. Instead of asking outlets to work together from scratch on a set of stories, we are now asking outlets to co-publish stories they planned to run anyway. We also hired Manolia Charlotin to direct the project. Since May 2015, we have published 18 of these collaborations.

We are very excited that so far, the researchers are again seeing a correlation between each collaborative instance and sentiment change. In short, it looks like the theory works, and that we will be able to provide quantitative proof that your stories, at least when produced collaboratively, have a measurable impact.

However, we cannot publish this data until we have enough instances to ensure that the initial perception of the data is correct. Our next step is to run 20 more copublishing instances in 2015.

We expect to conclude the project by December 31, 2015. The researchers will present their preliminary findings at our annual conference in Philly in February 2016.

 

Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, joellen@themediaconsortium.com

 

 

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How We Support Reporting on #BlackLivesMatter

Posted Jul 22, 2015 @ 1:49 pm by
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Recognizing the need for better, deeper reporting on violence against people of color, the Media Consortium has created a program to strengthen and amplify the reporting of our member organizations.

At http://www.blackspringindymedia.org, a rebelmouse site we launched in May 2015 with the help of Kwan Booth at Making Contact, we are aggregating reporting on police violence and structural racism from all Media Consortium outlets. Our aim is to make this site a one-stop location for activists, policymakers, and journalists seeking the best reporting on this ongoing story.

To further amplify your impact, TMC staff are spending this summer traveling to BlackLivesMatter meetups around the country. Executive Director Jo Ellen Kaiser has attended the Allied Media Conference in Detroit; TMC project director Manolia Charlotin has attended events in Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans and Cleveland. At these events we are connecting with citizen journalists on Black Twitter, introducing journalists and activists to the work of Media Consortium members, and seeking partnerships between the two groups.

Media Consortium outlets have a long and proud history of reporting on police violence and on racial equity and justice. Yet even the most seasoned reporter can use more education in the structural causes of violence against people of color, and training on how to identify personal and cultural bias that may impact reporting. To that end, the Media Consortium has begun a series of trainings, “How to report on police violence.”

The first training was held June 16 and featured Rinku Sen, Executive Director of Race Forward and a nationally known organizer, speaker, and training on racial equity and justice. Rinku provided an audience of 20 reporters an overview of the factors that can impact reporting, drawn from their important new Race Reporting Guide. We will follow up in subsequent trainings with case studies highlighting each of these factors.

All of this work is currently unsupported—outside of our regular budget. If you would like to donate to support these important trainings, or know someone who would, please contact joellen@themediaconsortium.com

 

 

#JesuisCharlie

Posted Jan 7, 2015 @ 12:33 pm by
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January 7, 2015

The Media Consortium strongly condemns the attack on Charlie Hebdo, an independent magazine based in Paris.

Free speech is a human right. The ability to speak freely allows us to name ourselves and tell our own story. It allows us to say who we are—and who we are not.

Free speech can hurt—certainly, the brave cartoonists and writers of Charlie Hebdo intended their speech to be its own weapon. We dishonor their memory if we don’t understand that they used speech to fight a proxy war against Islamic fundamentalism. A number of us disagreed with Charlie Hebdo’s methods and objectives. Their murderers, however, chose the coward’s way out; they chose to end that argument by silencing the voices of Charlie Hebdo with guns.

What’s even sadder is that the writers of Charlie Hebdo are not alone. In 2014 alone, over 100 journalists were killed around the world for speaking freely about what they saw. Many more have been killed—both journalists and civilians alike—for voicing their opinions.

The shooting at Charlie Hebdo will only cause us to redouble our efforts as independent journalists to tell the stories we see; to speak our truths, no matter how controversial; and to refuse to be bullied.

We believe, with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, that speech will always eventually prevail over violence. The deaths of Stephane Charbonnier, Bernard Maris, Jean Cabu, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac and their colleagues will not have been in vain.

#JesuisCharlie

[Note: this op-ed was changed on 1/8/2015 to more accurately reflect Media Consortium members views]

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