by Nina Carduner
What is the future of journalism? Has it truly died with the death of many community and city papers? Will mass media take away the voice of democracy? Can community blogs offer credible unbiased news? Where can journalists and the public come together to serve their communities?
These were the questions on the block at the recent Journalism That Matters conference held at the University of Washington. The conference brought together a diverse mix of former and current journalists, civic organizations, and participants in both the realms of mass media and the blogosphere.
Former Seattle mayor, Norm Rice, famed founder of the West Seattle Blog, Tracy Record, and photographer/social activist Chris Jordon, opened the conference by discussing the future of journalism and the place of media in our contemporary plugged-in societies. Each respective veteran mirrored the diversity of the attendees with their messages to the media community.
Norm Rice urged journalists to engage and listen to the needs of the individuals in the communities they serve. He explained, “when communities feel engaged, they are more willing to stay engaged.” Part of the equation is building consensus around the aspirations, hopes, and goals of every stakeholder in our communities. Social media is helping to build those bridges between the media and the public, he said, but identifying the long term aspirations of these connections will be key to the future of journalism.
Tracy Record made an open appeal to the public to ask questions and send them straight to their neighborhood blog. Record said, by asking questions, the public can engage directly impact the quality of journalism and reporting they wish to see in their communities. At the West Seattle blog, many news items come to the table by way of reader’s emails to the blog. As a veteran of mass media, Record explained that many of these stories, though important to the community, would never gain coverage in the wide scope of traditional mass media. Neighborhood blogs and social media may be the new platforms for public engagement in creating news and content via Twitter and Facebook, she said, but mass media remains a touchstone and should be remembered when breaking important stories to a wider audience.
Chris Jordan brought emotion and passion into the discussion by daring journalists to throw off the journalistic templates of the old guard and connect with readers and issues as one “authentic human being to another authentic human being.” He encouraged journalists to reconnect to their hearts after observing that in the world, Americans are “the culture that is the least connected to what we feel.” Jordan proposed, “if we connect to the pain of realizing what’s wrong with our world, maybe we can solve the problems in our world.”
Overall, the atmosphere was filled with optimistic energy to kick-start the four days of open-ended discussion and brainstorming in the hopes of connecting new ideas to action.
Nina Carduner is an actor and activist living in the Pacific Northwest. She is also a first year MBA student at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute for sustainable business. You can find her blog at greenergoose.com.