Journalism Thinking: a lightning talk at Ignite Philly

Geographically-focused acts of journalism are powerful. Professionals are increasingly rare because the business model that supported most of them has been supplanted. No one is doing the hard work of combating that. Let’s change it.

Following my journalism thinking essay, I’ve been looking to develop a more general-interest way to deliver the message. On Oct. 16, I gave my first try, at Ignite Philly, a local, volunteer-run outpost of a global confederation of big-idea events. (I spoke there in 2011 and 2013)

Find my notes and slides below, and I’ll add the video here when it’s eventually posted.

At the simplest here’s what I said in my 20 slides, each of which auto-forwarded after 15 seconds, resulting in a fast-paced five minute pitch:

  1. Hi
  2. Journalism is the act of helping people understand themselves
  3. Commercial versions of news gathering began 500 years ago as subscription businesses. As we developed newspapers, they became advertising-business monopolies.
  4. Publishers assumed that if lasted for 300 years, some silly computer thing wasn’t gonna change it.
  5. But then software adapted so quickly that things like Facebook Ad Manager showed us the power of data-powered ad models.
  6. Newspapers as advertising alternatives were toast.
  7. And that’s happened far faster and more dramatically for local newsrooms, which have the same fixed costs as national or global publications but with fewer of the web-powered scale-friendly business solutions.
  8. Yet most Americans still think local newsrooms are doing fine financially.
  9. The result is we have more coal miners than local journalists in the United States.
  10. This matters because journalism is (a) the first draft of history, (b) a mirror to communities and (c) a crucial alarm to ring for various problems
  11. So we care more about the outcomes of journalism than journalism itself.
  12. If we know it matters but we don’t know there’s a problem and don’t want to solve it, this is a climate change kind of problem
  13. To change that, journalism practitioners have to understand we don’t have an industry, we have a strategy to solve problems
  14. I take a lot of inspiration from design thinking, a movement of ideas, not a set business model
  15. Even more than design thinking, journalism thinking has norms and culture and ethics.
  16. We’re trying to do this with Technical.ly, where we want to solve talent acquisition problems in tech communities with more honest dialogue
  17. And with our sister site Generocity.org, we want to help nonprofit professionals navigate and advance their career with our events and services
  18. For now, it looks something like local organic farming. We need to keep pushing the model but to get there, we’ll need buy-in from people like you
  19. Meanwhile, journalism practitioners need to go out and solve problems for our communities.
  20. That’s what our team is doing. Thank you

Here are my slides.

Find the video below.