By Andrew Humphrey, CBM
Founder and Co-Chair, NABJ’s Digital Journalism Task Force
Thursday, January 7, 2010:
The journalism conference entitled JTM Seattle: Re-Imagining News & Community in the Pacific Northwest began Thursday afternoon. Two hundred largely local journalists, civic organizers, educators and techies gathered in Haggett Hall on the main campus of The University of Washington.
Journalism That Matters (JTM) is organizing JTM Seattle, and they said its main purpose is to explore “what is possible when news and the community come together.” The discussions and workshops focus on what is emerging in the local news ecology and what that means for societies large and small.
Things started with conference-goers getting to know each other. An exercise paying homage to Native Americans was used to do this, and it’s called “The Wind Blows For”. Without saying their names, individuals spontaneously stood up one-by-one and announced “The wind blows for” followed by their job or area of interest. Then other people who identified with their saying stood for a few seconds. This happened repeatedly so folks could get a better idea of who was attending for what reason and to see others with common interests. Here’s video of an example:
After dinner, we heard from three featured speakers: Norman Rice, Former Seattle Mayor and current Seattle Foundation CEO, Tracy Record from West Seattle Blog, and Photojournalist Chris Jordan.
Mayor Rice (left) emphasized the importance of constant engagement with ones audience. Tracy discussed the success of The West Seattle Blog with an anecdote about their ground-breaking work investigating the theft of a community’s totem pole. Chris made the argument for advocate journalism with a slide show of his photographs depicting dead albatross on the Midway Island caused by humankind’s discarded plastic.
Afterward, we shared our thoughts about the speakers’ speeches and goals for the rest of the conference in a “world cafe” format. The two hundred member audience broke up into four member discussion groups. We conversed in these smaller groups five minutes at a time. After five minutes, three of the four people would move to another table and a new discussion would ensue.
In the twenty minutes of this exercise, I listened to conference goers who were moved by Chris’s alarming photos of pollution, amused by Tracy’s accounts of citizen journalism and inspired by Mayor Rice’s encouragement. Many were excited to meet like-minded individuals and learn from them. They were eager to share their personal experiences with technology and social media with their practice of journalism. Others had stories about their transition from “traditional” media companies to their current jobs because of downsizing or elimination of their organization (e.g., Seattle Post-Intelligencer) and finding ways of incorporating new storytelling styles and tools into academic curricula.