Hardly Strictly Young roundtable: alternative Knight Commission recommendations

Data, context and engagement were the themes of the Hardly. Strictly. Young. event at the University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute this week, says Michael Maness, the Knight Foundation Vice President of Journalism and Media Innovation.

Also read a Columbia Journalism Review overview from fellow attendee, new friend and total asshole Craig Silverman, who takes the opportunity to poke fun at me. (I forgive him.)

The two-day conference meant for brainstorming alternative recommendations to implement a 2009 Knight Commission report was something of an idea-hackathon.

Though I arrived on Saturday to couchsurf in St. Louis first, the confab kicked off with a welcome dinner Sunday night and was made mostly of rotating groups of us 30 members discussing implementation ideas Monday and presenting those ideas Tuesday. The goal was to create real ideas for implementation.

The Knight Commission Report on Informing Communities, released in September 2009, was the broad culmination of a year of hearing testimony and collecting insight, featuring 15 recommendations on ensuring American communities are better informed and engaged.

This  week’s invite-only event was led by leather-jacket adorned, Spot.Us founder and current RJI fellow David Cohn, after he attended an Aspen Institute roundtable of media executives discussing how to implement the initiatives. Cohn felt perspective from a group of largely younger journalists, who are ‘creating their own centers of power,’ could be valuable. Despite the largely journalism-focused attendee list, it’s important to note that the Knight Commission report is more broad, including curriculum-based media literacy and universal broadband access.

Monday group sessions, this one led by Daniel Sinker and Greg Linch. Photo by Lauren Rabaino

Here are the primary nuggets from some of the proposals that came from the four rotating groups for each of the four recommendations that the event focused on:

‘Media’ Education at Various Levels

  • Orange Team (led by Linch and Sinker): Report for America initiative — a year-long intensive fellowship for post-undergraduate students of various academic disciplines
  • Red Team (Silverman and Lewis): Adopt a Wikipedia page — Have high school classrooms adopt relevant Wikipedia pages and update and monitor them for an academic year
Presentation room. Photo by Lauren Rabaino

Increase the sources of news providers

  • Green Team (Boyer and Bachhuber): Create local best practices fund — Bolster a fund for (1) events that connect entrepreneurial journalists together to develop and share best practices; (2) digitize local government documents and services, perhaps in partnership with Google, and (3) develop software solution to use Knight’s community information needs assessment guide.
Matt Thompson and myself fielding C.A.T. Signal-related questions. Photo by Lauren Rabaino.

Expand Local Media Initiatives to Reflect the ‘Full Reality’ of Communities They Represent

  • Blue Team (Thompson and Wink): C.A.T. Signal — Within a narrow test-case neighborhood or town, create a networked coalition of civic groups that will respond to a one-time-only request — a C.A.T. signal — granted to all residents. The scarcity and direct action will increase buy-in and solving problems will grow involvement. Yes, there is a website. Peep the slides here. Our rather smilingly self-indulgent trumpeting brought quite a bit of interest in the idea.


Ensure that Every Community has at least one Local Hub

Presenting the Webabago idea with Kim Bui. Photo by Lauren Michell Rabaino
  • Red Team (Rabaino and Yada): Local government publishing dashboard — Create a low-cost or no-cost open source toolkit of services that can be provided to local governments to create workflow and publish relevant data, information and local news. There are concerns around transparency, but this is a start.
  • Green Team (Bui and Wink): The Webabago — Using partner anchor institutions for promotions, credibility and location, launch an initiative of rurally-focused mobile internet-connected computer centers that offer (1) computer access, (2) media literacy and (3) media production training for an online hub that starts with a community calendar and moves toward news coverage. This is an expansion of rural book-mobiles and university extension services, as recommended by the Knight Commission. The foundational assumption here is that we cannot develop online hubs without in-person hubs first.
  • Webabago slides

  • (Amico and Lee) Expand Wiki tools — Like the famed Davis Wiki, local wikis can help smaller communities develop their own institutional memory and essential hubs. Chris Amico’s ideas of what an online hub is.

Take Aways

  • Great big thanks to Cohn, RJI, Jeff Beeson, Knight and everyone else who came: it was a great privilege, experience and opportunity
  • The Hardly. Strictly. Young conference name is a play off the annual Hardly. Strictly. Bluegrass outdoor concert in San Francisco and that while our cohort of mostly 20 and 30 somethings was younger than the Aspent Institute summit, that wasn’t the rule, says David Cohn.
  • Work with anchor institutions, bring the journalism to the people, don’t have the people come to the journalism.
  • What a great event for RJI to host, bringing 30 innovative journalism leaders to see its beautiful facilities, campus and its interest steps forward
  • ‘Nobody ever creates a cocktail at full bar” says Brian Boyer
  • It’s tough to do so with such a busy crew, but I think we all would have been more productive had we all fully read the Knight Commission report (I did on the plane there) as I believe there was some duplication
  • St. Louis rocks and Columbia, Missouri is a nice college town
  • David Cohn likes living there because there is a ‘nice, little bunny’ that lives under his porch