Hardly Strictly takeaways

By now, you’ve surely forgotten the barrage of tweets and check-ins from 30 or so of us — the “Hardly, Strictly Young” David Cohn invited to the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute a couple weeks back for a round table Carnival of Journalism mission to gather alternative ideas about how to implement the Knight Commission’s recommendations.

We spent a full day in four rotating groups of around eight people, taking on one of the big Knight Commission questions at a time. Here are some mixed notes, with findings from various groups that still stick out in my mind, some key ideas tweeted, and associated other free associations.

The Four Questions

1. Town and Gown connections

Along with the standard j-school/local news organization mashups, we tried to dig a littler deeper into a goal of breaking down the barriers between a university and the community that surrounds it. One key bit of epigrammar: We need both Public Professorship and to learn from the Professorship of the Public.

At Matt Thompson’s lead, we even went so far as to imagine what a layer of 106 & Park-like hashtag trappings might look like when draped over a civic issue, as a tool to teach modern media literacy. Maybe even a local debate framed as an American Idol-style tournament of viewpoints, complete with SMS voting.

And then, there was Cody Brown’s media literacy in the classroom recommendation:

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2. Increase the number of news sources

This is one that was subject to a great deal of interpretation during the pre-conference Carnival of Journalism. At my table, we had the benefit of insight from #expertmode crowdsourcer Amanda Michel of Propublica, so we took the word “source” literally.

I walked away from the table with at least two excellent (you might even call them actionable) product development ideas:

  • Add a tip form to your 404 and/or empty search results pages. “Didn’t find what you were after? Tell us what we should be reporting on.”
  • Build yourself a source dashboard behind the scenes where you can connect a commenter or contributor to their Twitter and Facebook accounts (and blogs, etc.) even if they haven’t connected them to their public accounts, so that you get a holistic view of reliability, expertise, and behavior.

3. Expand local media initiatives to reflect the communities they represent

This was one I felt strongly about, as evidenced in part by my open Carnival letter to new Knight Foundation VP Michael Maness. I think our host might have remembered that, as I was denoted as one of two presenters on the topic for our table, along with Nieman Journalism Lab reporter Megan Garber.

I’ve posted the full notes from our group’s recommendations, but here are a few highlights of our three point plan to connect Knight journalism grant technology with community nonprofits and ethnic media organizations that are already providing community information needs, but could use a little push to expand their reach and build capacity:

  • Outreach: A recurring theme in recommendations on this topic: Find the existing community information providers that are already thriving, but need support for capacity building in order to expand their reach.
  • Pilot Grants: Having identified the key community information providers with a lot of upside, show up at their doorstep with small grants (preferably with quick turnaround times on approval, having already taken steps to establish criteria and identify potential grantees). The goal of these grants? Build their capacity, expand their reach.
  • Apply a generous layer of News Challenge technology: Given the community, the focus of each organization, and the pilot project, connect these new community information grantees with News Challenge (and other Knight journalism program) grantees. Apply KNC technology (and programmer/journalist resources) to the new grantee problems and challenges.

4. A local information hub for every community

The group I was in had a great deal of trouble finding a niche to work with here. The technology to make this available already exists, and in many communities, local news sources get this job in some form, too.

One successful model we weren’t alone in identifying? Local wikis, like Davis Wiki, and my personal favorite, RocWiki in Rochester, NY. The Davis Wiki team, matter of fact, is a Knight News Challenge winner, currently building out tools for building local wikis.

And my other favorite implementation idea, intended to bring Web access, literacy, and skills to areas where broadband coverage is still sparse, the Web-a-bago.

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