Introducing: The Watershed Media Project

The Watershed Media Project is an initiative to research and develop grassroots funding, production and promotional models for independent, public-interest journalism and media.

Watershed is a nonprofit, fiscally sponsored project of Independent Arts & Media; it is also a slow-media project that will eschew the frantic pace and expectations of today’s digital startup culture in favor of small, simple, incremental goals achieved over longer periods of time.

The “watershed” metaphor is inspired by Planet Drum Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit group that advocates for building human societies designed for sustainability at the watershed and “bioregional” level.

From an essay on mass media I wrote for their newsletter:

Information is like water. Our survival depends on it. It’s harmful or healthful depending on its origin, and on what people do to it before it gets in your system. Its use and availability is enormously profitable, and of the highest humanitarian and social concern.

From the community meeting hall and the local-news blog on up, the free flow of information is the water cycle of democracy, sustaining entire ecosystems of civic discourse and cultural exchange.

Just as estuaries and watersheds are vulnerable to industrial activity and unsustainable development, democratic institutions and processes are deeply influenced by commercial and financial interests. Mass media is a toxic mess, awash with false memes, fear mongering, destructive double-standards and routine ethical compromise. Media equivalents of Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon and Fukushima happen all the time. Pollution accumulates in the mental environment like mercury and PCBS in the water tables.

My first significant publishing gig, back in 1992, was as editor of Planet Drum’s annual journal Raise the Stakes — issue No. 22, which in retrospect was a somewhat prescient edition.

We dug deep on topics such as cultivating native food crops, seed saving for diversity, permaculture “food forests” that bear diversely all year long, community-sponsored agriculture (CSA farms), organic and least-toxic farming — topics that would in subsequent decades end up inspiring marketing and political campaigns alike.

That linkage — between ecology, sustainability, culture and history — has stayed with me over the years, and when Judy Goldhaft from Planet Drum asked me this past summer to write something for their print newsletter, the dots began to connect up.

Having just returned from the National Conference on Media Reform in Denver, I was impressed by how Planet Drum’s vision of sustainability had so much resonance with commonplace media-reform and future-of-journalism metaphors such as “information ecosystem” and “news ecology.”

These are easy metaphors, even seductive, and yet taking them seriously begins to compel questions. What, for example, are the funding watersheds that sustain these media-based ecosystems? How does one measure and ensure their health and sustainability?

The questions run deep, the terrain they open up is broad. Watershed Media will serve as home base for a few hopeful expeditions and surveys.

Newsdesk wins SPJ’s national Excellence in Journalism Award

I’m a bit dazzled to announce that won the Society of Professional Journalists Award for Excellence in Journalism for our multimedia series, “The Bay Area Toxic Tour: West Oakland.”

This is a national award given by the SPJ’s Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, which this year received over 1,300 entries from some of the biggest names in the business. We are honored, grateful and rather thrilled. Thank you to the SPJ selection committee for this wonderful acknowledgment of our work.

Hats off to the incredible team of reporter KWAN BOOTH and legendary photographer/multimedia-guy KIM KOMENICH! It was an honor to be your editor for this project. The awards ceremony is coming up in Las Vegas in October, where we will join other recipients, such as the Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Associated Press and ProPublica.

Deep gratitude is also due two others who won’t be acknowledged by the award: our Saint of Patrons, DAVID COHN of Spot.Us, for helping us raise the money to pay Kim and Kwan; and adviser VIRGIL WARD PORTER, for dreaming up the Toxic Tour idea with me almost 10 years ago during our commercial-newsroom days.

It was precisely the lack of opportunity to do this kind of rich public-health reporting that prompted me to leave my commercial-news day job and start in the first place.

Toxic Tour: Next Stop?
The goal of The Toxic Tour is to document the impacts of pollution on communities. This award is exciting not just because it recognizes our existing work. It also advances the cause of developing Toxic Tour reporting projects in other communities around the Bay Area and around the nation.

Indeed, the first thing Kim did upon hearing the news was to express hope that we can use this to jump-start further Toxic Tour coverage in the SF Bay Area — such as in Bayview-Hunters Point, with its factory effluent and irradiated shipyard, or across the Bay in Richmond, home to numerous chemical refineries and low-income housing.

And what about West Oakland? The issues there have hardly gone away. Wouldn’t it be an accomplishment to hang up a shingle there and really cover the situation in depth, over time?

And what about where you live? The EPA estimates there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States. And how many communities nationwide are adjacent to active industrial sites?

We have much more work to do. The Toxic Tour documents pollution and communities, and there are many more stops around the SF Bay Area and around the nation in desperate need of journalistic attention. Please support our public-service mission by making a tax-deductible donation today. Receives Major Grant

[Download a PDF of this press release], a program of Independent Arts & Media, has been selected by the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation to receive a $25,000 grant in support of the nonprofit, public-interest news service News You Might Have Missed (NYMHM).

The Foundation’s generous gift will be used to develop NYMHM as a daily service that can earn income through syndication; this will support the production and promotion of important but overlooked news, and help improve coverage of underserved communities.

A Vision for New Public Media
Syndication is at the heart of the LOCAL.NEWSDESK.ORG proposal to create new public-media infrastructure for local/regional journalism, at a time of crisis for the news industry.

Local.Newsdesk.Org is a 2009 finalist in the WeMedia/Changemakers “Pitch-It” contest. It envisions a network of independent but affiliated online news bureaus that put professional journalists to work, and connect them more effectively to their communities. The bureau network will function in some ways like a wire service, yet will also report and publish news at the community level, and add resources to the work of local and regional journalism partners.

Prototype: News You Might Have Missed
NYMHM has been published Wednesdays since February 2002, and examines national and global issues through the local and regional lens. Its rigorous, hard-news format drives an average of 25,000 unique visitors monthly to, on the strength of only one home-page update weekly.

With support from the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation, will recruit and hire a full-time Staff Editor to turn NYMHM into a daily service — the first step in developing revenue through syndication, in support of the Local.Newsdesk.Org vision.

Financial oversight is provided by Independent Arts & Media, a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor and “shared back office” for commercial-free media/culture programs and producers. Indy Arts services include operations and bookkeeping, promotions, networking events, and support with grant seeking, fundraising and strategic planning.

Contacts & Further Details:

Knight Foundation Silicon Valley: Innovation vs. “the Future”

(Roundtable #3: Technology & Innovation)


We’re blogging to you live from the future, and it’s very exciting here!

I mean, we’re having this meeting at Google HQ, in the middle of Silicon Valley — the place embodies much of the hope and imagination for the future of our democracy, our economy and our world.

It is — or will be — better here in the future. As soon as we can figure out what it’s all about. As soon as we can figure out how and why people use information technology, we can build the perfect device that will seamlessly integrate their information needs with hyperpersonalized delivery mechanisms — speaking of which, can’t you wait until the iPhone costs as much as a transister radio?! — then everything will be fine.

The economy will grow robustly and sustainably, because in the future it will all be running on clean tech.

Deepening efficiencies will drive down costs — which means all the lower-rung workers who have been effectively organized by Raj Jayadev to join unions will be earning the wages necessary to fully engage with the immersive mediaweb through affordable wireless technology.

That’s the problem with the future. It’s look-at-the-stars solutions are indeed thrilling, but it’s ankle-deep in the mud of today.


Forget about the future. The future is not where it’s at. In the future, we are going to be in the exact same place that we are now — Planet Earth — but things are going to be worse. The climate is changing, the oil wells are drying up.

We can’t be living in the future, when there’s so much that needs innovation today.

Living in and for the future can bite you on the behind.

Panelist Chris O’Brien notes that the ambitious Mercury News project to “blow up the newsroom” and reinvent how a print paper navigates the new media economy was canceled in January.

Most of the folks guiding the project have, in fact, been let go, he told me over lunch.

Was this a vision of the future that simply didn’t match reality? Or did the great powers of the Merc’s parent company get cold feet? Was the approach too topheavy, too sweeping, or too half-hearted?

It would be fascinating to delve into the conflicted internal process that led to both the newsroom reinvention project and its cancellation.

The Merc’s misfire brings to mind the same sort generalized ambition but inadequate ground-level implementation that makes KQED — so well-financed and connected — paradoxically so out of step with the majority of the Bay Area’s diverse communities.

The problem is that these top-down enterprises, guided by the strategic goals and profit expectations of Wall Street and its satellites, may not be appropriate to the new media economy, which is massively decentralized, multisourced, and generally, from a content-production and -consumption perspective, non-cooperative with the monopoly production model.


Chris also noted that news media thrives when it is a center of innovation — which demands the question of what, exactly, are the conditions that encourage innovation?

Independence, for one thing.

All of the successful strategies and scenarios described by the panelists emphasized the ability of media producers and consumers alike to post and access material spontaneously, without the barriers erected by the traditional gatekeepers.

This is not about technology — it’s how people use it. It’s about the social phenomenon of technology. And therein lies the keys to innovation.

Danah Boyd, one of the Knight commissioners, noted the amazing success of local blogging and text-messaging around Hurricane Gustav in New Orleans, an unmediated phenomenon that occurred in an open information architecture without interference from monopoly gatekeepers.

She further elucidated the point by noting advocacy campaigns around specific legislative issues, in which interest groups mobilize their constituencies via cellphones and text messaging to spark a flurry of calls, emails and faxes aimed at key elected officials.

Holmes Wilson of the Participatory Culture Foundation is singing a similar tune with his Miro project, an online video platform that aims to “eliminate gatekeepers” and make everyone a content producer.

We are already seeing what this can do on the blogosphere — the achievements of which are considerable, and matched only by its excess.

As Amra Tareen of notes, most blogs don’t get read, which hearkens back to the initial panel’s concerns about the information glut — something that at once distracts from access to meaningful information, and fragments dialogue around it.

Her solution is to opportunistically merge media (Web, SMS, email, etc.) to produce up-to-the-minute coverage of news across the world.

Using some cool widgets, triangulates on topics, pulls together a variety of coverage, and represents it dynamically on a world map on the site’s home page. Click on an indicator, and you’ll wind up with a cluster of related stories and blog postings

This approach places all its eggs in the crowdsourcing basket, and it’s good that they’re taking the chance on it.

Whether it’s the solution remains to be seen — but it’s encouraging to see the money behind the media warming up to the idea of empowering producers and audiences, and appreciating them as interchangeable.


This is a key concept — that producers and audiences together can successfully guide access to and creation of relevant community information.

The relationship between the audience and the media outlet has inverted, also, to the detriment of the ad-sales department.

Mike McGuire, a research VP at Gartner and a mainstream media guy, pointed out that content really is king, and if so, why are the content producers the ones getting the short end of the stick?

Why not start cutting sales staff at the failing media outlets instead of reporters and editors?

He asked this and grinned, and the audience laughed, as well they should.

But it’s a serious question that has yet to be answered satisfactorily.

The State of the News Media 2008 report noted that increasingly, the newsroom is the place recognized as the wellspring of innovation in media companies — and the ad-sales departments are the ones most bogged down by the failed assumptions of the past.

What sort of innovation is required to make a future we can all live in?

Knight Silicon Valley: Communities & Fragmentation

The initial panel was broadly focused on the topic of “unmet community information needs,” and showcased a diverse set of speakers, from local union and community organizers to city strategists, academics and community foundation leaders.

Chava Bustamante, a former SEIU coordinator, opened the discussion with a telling, if informal, experiment to identify where people are from.

“How many of you here were born in another country?” he asked. A handful of hands were raised — his own included.

“Howbout from another state?”

This time the response is overwhelming. Every hand, virtually, is raised.

“Now,” he says, with a bit of a grin, “How many of you are from here, from Mountain View, and went to the local high school?”

Not a hand was raised. Bustamante, a 40-year resident of the area, admitted that he himself was born in Mexico City, and came to America pursuing a dream of a better life.

“We are all strangers,” he said, and despite our individual and collective achievements as resettled natives of other places, his comment makes me wonder: Have we truly become natives of this new place, the San Francisco Bay Area, where we all live together, if we barely know each other?

This theme comes up again and again as all the other speakers take their turn.

There are neighborhoods, there are families, there are subgroups and subcultures and special interests — but what is it that brings us together?

More specifically, how can we engineer a communication infrastructure that can unite the divergent communities of Silicon Valley and the greater Bay Area ?

Emmet Carson of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation spoke frankly on the overabundance of information sources — “too many,” he says — that enables people to pick and choose news and information according to their interests, and in doing so cut themselves off from relevant information outside of their specific “personalized” daily news feed.

“What’s useful to the individual is not always good for the common good and for all of democracy,” he noted.

While he expressed fondness for the an earlier era, when there were fewer, more narrowly focused news sources that spoke to a more broad civic agenda, he acknowledged that the old information economy did systematically exclude so many voices, including women, immigrant communities, etc.

“How do we blend and link all these diverse information channels?” he asked.

Abundant information technology is fine, but it requires us to conceive of new ways to “validate it and create discussions around it.”

He notes that this conversation is not something that takes place solely in the virtual environment, but rather, “it’s a place of personal participation.”

This theme of non-virtual engagement — of people coming together directly, in real life and outside of the technological circuit, and crossing the fragmented boundaries of our self-selecting, self-segregating information society — came up repeatedly.

In other words, what’s needed are physical gathering places to anchor the diverse conversations and inquiries of the many communities that make up a city, a county, a neighborhood, an geographical region.

According to Judy Nadler, one of the Knight panelists and an ethics fellow at Santa Clara University, that gathering place is the public library, which she described as “the new community information center.”

It was a resonant comment that anchored the high-flying ideals of the technological utopians to an earlier ideal of the public sector as a wellspring of civic engagement.

Public libraries embody both local commitment to public participation and access to information, and, thanks to Mr. Andrew Carnegie, are rooted in older American tradition of philanthropy in support of civic engagement and information self-sufficiency.

It’s unlikely, however, that libraries alone can heal the fragmentation between and within our communities — but the panelists have plenty of ideas about what else will be required.

Matt Hammer of People Acting in Community Together (PACT) spoke of the importance of getting “understandable information in the hands of lots of regular people, to help seemingly intractable problems get resolved.”

Kim Walesh, the chief strategist for the City of San Jose, described a variety of innovative municipal programs focused on engaging the “under-35 set” … and “connect the dots between young people and civic issues.”

The conversation turned at one point between media that “pushes” at people — direct mailers, for example, or traditional broadcast — and one can’t help but wonder about the value of some of that push media, which is often focused on advertisements and commerce, rather than civic information needs.

That tension, between “pushing” information at people, and “pulling” them towards civic information they need to see, remains a strategic challenge.

Each speaker presented such a diverse array of needs, methods and ideas about building and serving community, one can’t help but recall Emmet Carson’s dilemma of having too much information in the first place.

How do the threads come together? What is the weave by which we knit together this diverse, divergent democracy of ours?

Writing on the Edge … of the San Andreas Fault

Wow! Here I am at this amazing writing residency at the Mesa Refuge, which is a LOVELY facility perched directly on the edge of the San Andreas rift zone.

(Actually, I’m in the local public library using their wifi; there’s no Internet or phone at Mesa … they want you to concentrate on the writing there, with no distractions.)

How to summarize this remarkable experience so far? I’m sharing a spacious, very well-appointed house with two other writers — Andrea Godshalk, from Amherst, who’s writing about urban farming, and Tram Nguyen, the former editor of Colorlines Magazine, who’s developing a book about immigration and its connection to a variety of hot-button issues.

They are both tremendously fabulous individuals, and I am honored to call them colleagues. They’ve already taught me so much about their topics of interest, and my own writing endeavor. I hope I can offer them the same.

We each have private writing suites, and the place is packed with books, writing supplies, comfy couches and excellent food.

And it is truly a GORGEOUS setting. The house looks out over Tomales Bay and its broad tidelands, with a seaward ridge riding opposite. The fog and sun interact to spectacular effect, the hawks float about on currents of air, hummingbirds dart everywhere, and the place is exploding with flowers.

I don’t mean to lay it on too thick, but, a writer can feel truly valued and validated here.

My work here is focused on public media, and its iterations in the Internet era. There are several documents I’m working on, including an essay I hope to sell to someplace fancy like Harper’s, as well as a “final report” on the May 3 Innovations in Journalism Expo (which was a big success, BTW).

I also updated an essay I wrote (“Arts, Culture & the Crisis of Democracy”) for a grant proposal to the Haas fund for Independent Arts & Media’s arts program. We got the grant, but the essay is strong and deserves wider circulation. It’ll be appearing on the new Indy Arts Web site (thanks, Bosco!), so stay tuned for that.

I also hope to get some work done on two short stories.

One, as-yet untitled, is being written for an anthology to be published by Marina and Jason of fave SF guitar band The Rabbles, on the topic of the twice-as-big-as-Texas mass of plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The story is turning out to be a bit macabre. It was originally going to be about a guy who starts collecting plastic trash on the street, in an attempt to get it out of the ecosystem and waste stream. I then realized that the petroleum byproduct accumulating in his basement was going to consume him and destroy him, as it will our own green-blue orb, someday.

The other story is very sad, about a scientist who, in an effort to create a nanotech mechanism for facilitating flower pollination after the rampant spread of the bee-killing Colony Collapse Disorder, winds up accidentally creating something much worse. It is entitled “Morte Verde,” and takes place in Brazil in the near future.

It is a thrill and a privilege to be a part of the Mesa program, and a thrill and a privilege to be alive and kickin’ on this Earth of ours.

Let’s make the most of it, and leave things better off for those who come after us!

May 3: Innovations in Journalism Expo

[ Here’s an event I’m producing via Indy Arts for the local SPJ chapter. Hope to see you there! ]


“Creating a Brighter Future”

Saturday, May 3, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

A showcase for breakthroughs in business, technology, media and democracy

The Domain Hotel, 1085 East El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA



— — — — — — — — — —

PRE-ORDER your tickets today, prices increase at the door:

$12 admission (pre-order only) for members of SPJ-NorCal, Independent Arts & Media, the Maynard Institute, AAJA, NAJA, NAHJ, BABJA,, and other Expo sponsors.


Speed-career counseling; reserve your space now — deadline April 28

SPONSOR the Expo and gain promotional benefits. Call 415/677-9877, online at:



The Innovations in Journalism Expo is a unique, one-day event showcasing cutting-edge work that combines journalism, technology, new business models, and philanthropy. Come and participate in lively discussions that will bring truly fresh perspectives and new ideas to the table regarding the “future of journalism.”

Featured panelists include GENEVA OVERHOLSER (“On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change”), JON FUNABIKI (SFSU professor, former Ford Foundation officer), DAVID TALBOT ( founder), REESE ERLICH (international print and radio freelancer), DAVID OLMOS (former Los Angeles Times health editor), ROSE AGUILAR of Your Call Radio, SANDIP ROY of New America Media and many more.



The Expo is produced by the Society of Professional Journalists-Northern California and Independent Arts & Media, in conjunction with NewsTools2008/Journalism That Matters-Silicon Valley (April 30-May 2 @ Yahoo), and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

— — — — — — — — — —


9:00-9:45 a.m. WELCOME! Set up and Settle in
Join us for bagels, coffee and socializing. This is also the time for Expo sponsors to show up and set up.

9:45-10:00 a.m. Opening Remarks
Welcome comments from Linda Jue, president of the Society of Professional Journalists-Northern California.



10:00 a.m.-11:15 a.m.: KEYNOTE — “New Money, New Media, New Hope”

ROSE AGUILAR hosts the daily public affairs show Your Call on KALW-FM. Her forthcoming book, “Red Highways,” will be out in September. The book collects political interviews with people living and voting in so-called “red states,” and calls for a more thoughtful and productive dialogue in the media and between people with differing views. She will speak about what the public wants from journalism, and what it gets.

PERSEPHONE MIEL is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at The Harvard Law School where she directs the Media Re:public project, examining the impact of participatory journalism on the information environment. Prior to joining Berkman, she spent more than 12 years with Internews Network, an international NGO supporting independent media around the world.

GENEVA OVERHOLSER is the newly appointed director of the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications. She previously held the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, in its Washington, D.C., bureau. She is a frequent print, broadcast and online media critic, and the author of “On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change.”

DAVID TALBOT, the founder and former editor-in-chief of, is also the author of New York Times bestseller “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.” He recently launched a media and entertainment company called The Talbot Players with his brother Steve, executive producer of PBS’ Frontline World. He is also helping develop the San Francisco Free Press, a nonprofit Bay Area news engine that aims to combine the best of professional and citizens’ journalism.

MODERATOR: CYNTHIA GORNEY is a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, U.C. Berkeley, a magazine writer (with regular contributions to National Geographic, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Oprah, Runners World and Harpers, among others), an occasional radio host of KQED-FM’s Forum, and the author of “Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars.”



11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. NEW CAREERS: Next steps, new opportunities

Layoffs, buyouts, cutbacks and consolidations have claimed the jobs of hundreds of journalists in the Bay Area, from the San Francisco Chronicle to the San Jose Mercury News. This panel will examine next steps for the casualties of the business crisis that’s currently devastating news media.

TOM BALLANTYNE, “career doctor” for journalists and others, on career changes and transitions for the many Bay Area journalists reeling from the recent layoffs at MediaNews publications and other properties.

REESE ERLICH reports regularly for National Public Radio, Latino USA, Radio Deutche Welle, Australian Broadcasting Corp. Radio, and Canadian Broadcasting Corp. Radio. He also writes for San Francisco Chronicle, St. Petersburg Times, and the Dallas Morning News. His first book, “Target Iraq,” was a best seller; his second book, “The Iran Agenda,” came out in late 2007 and he’s now working on a third, chronicling 40 years of reporting from Cuba.

LESLIE GUEVARRA is a transitioning media and communications professional with more than 25 years experience as a news reporter, editor and senior newsroom manager in print. She has also been a public affairs program host and associate producer in television, and a podcaster. Her leadership roles have included director of newsroom hiring and staff development and interim head of human resources for a newsroom of more than 500 people. She is a founding member of the Asian American Journalists Association’s San Francisco Chapter and most recently was a deputy managing editor for the Chronicle.

BRUCE KOON is news director of KQED Public Radio in San Francisco. He oversees a 20-person newsroom that produces regional news programming for Northern California and a statewide program, The California Report. Previously, he was executive news editor of Knight Ridder Digital. His online team contributed to the effort that earned the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the Biloxi Sun Herald coverage of hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. A founding board member of the Online News Association, Koon also has been an editor for the San Francisco Examiner and Oakland Tribune and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and National Observer.

FREE CAREER COUNSELING: Professional career coaches will be on hand Saturday afternoon for free 10- to 15-minute speed consulting sessions about career transitioning. They’re available for a quick critique of your resume or to provide tips on interviewing, networking and the right next steps for you. YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER so we have enough consultants on deck. To participate, pre-order tickets for the main event, and click the “Career Counseling Signup” option in the order form. SIGNUP DEADLINE: APRIL 28



11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. THE NEWSROOM: Growth, change, adaptation

What are the secrets of success for a newsroom in today’s economy? This panel examines both the realities of growing opportunities in segmented and hyperlocal markets, as well as the gap between what’s offered these markets and what they really want.

ANDREW FITZGERALD, head of Collective Journalism, Current TV’s Vanguard news division, is a graduate of the USC School of Cinema-Television where he studied alternative forms of documentary filmmaking. Prior to Current, Andrew worked for Channel One News, where he co-produced Channel One’s first user-generated project around the 2004 elections. He joined Current in August of 2005, quickly making his mark producing Current’s award-winning Hurricane Katrina coverage.

DAN GILLMOR, the founding director of the new Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, is also founder of the Center for Citizen Media, and an outspoken advocate for new media technologies, methods and funding models.

KOUROSH KARIMKHANY is vice president of corporate development at CondeNet, the online arm of Conde Nast Publication, where he has overseen the integration of, and Prior to that, he was General Manager of, the senior producer of Yahoo! News and Weather, and product manager at Yahoo! Games. He also has written extensively about technology for Bloomberg News and Reuters. He holds a BA in economics from UC Irvine and a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University.

TROY MAY, publisher of the growing lesbian/gay lifestyle publication ON Magazine (formerly OutNow Magazine), addresses the topic of good reporting and selling advertising, and the synergy between print and online publications.

CHRIS RAUBER, reporter for the San Francisco Business Times, notes that his parent company has publications in 45 American cities, and at a time of retreat for daily journalism is actually hiring. “Business journals are successful,” he says, “because they target a niche audience that is interested in the specific news they have to offer.”

MODERATOR: TOM MURPHY is CEO and Editor in Chief of, a national news site designed for readers over 40. Prior to that, Murphy was the founding Managing Editor of, a Bloomberg correspondent and the AP news supervisor in San Francisco.


12:45-1:45 p.m. LUNCH + PUBLIC SPACE
Take a break, circulate, shake hands, trade business cards, catch up, cool down, and generally propose, propound, present, pontificate and participate.




Panels, speakers and topics presented opportunistically based on NewsTools 2008 proceedings April 30-May 2



1:45-3:00 JOURNALISM BEFORE PROFITS: The Future of Public Media

Much heralded as the future of media, the Internet has proven much more difficult to monetize. Large corporations are learning how to implement the ad-driven model online, but still struggle, even as smaller sites and bloggers leverage Google Adwords to build small empires. But what else is possible? How can public media and TRADITIONAL media, such as print, blaze new trails in the New Media Economy?

TED GLASSER (professor of communication, Stanford University) focuses on media practices and performance, with emphasis on questions of press responsibility and accountability. His books include Custodians of Conscience: Investigative Journalism and Public Virtue, written with James S. Ettema, and The Idea of Public Journalism.

DAVID OLMOS, a former reporter, editor and Pulitzer finalist at the Los Angeles Times, discusses new models for specialized reporting. Olmos, the former Health Editor at the L.A. Times, is developing a project to produce explanatory reporting on health issues in California.

MICHAEL STOLL & JOSH WILSON: Two working journalists who have taken the plunge as nonprofit entrepreneurs, Wilson and Stoll are building a nonprofit, commercial-free infrastructure for serious journalism at the community level. Through their sponsoring agency, Independent Arts & Media, they are exploring new ideas for both online newsrooms ( and that cornerstone of community journalism, newsprint (The Public Press).

SANDIP ROY is an editor with New America Media and host of its radio show UpFront on KALW 91.7 FM. He manages New America Media’s immigration beat and writes regularly for mainstream and ethnic media including San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, India Currents, India Abroad and The Times of India. He is also a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition and has appeared on CNN International, This Week in Northern California and co-hosts Your Call with Rose Aguilar on KALW. He has received awards from the South Asian Journalists Association, Trikone, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, American Women in Radio and Television and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

MODERATOR: LOUIS FREEDBERG, a former editorial page editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, is the founder of the California Media Collaborative, which promotes dialogue among key representatives of the California media with leaders in key California constituencies, including academia, philanthropy and public policy and other nonprofit organizations in order to devise and implement new strategies for improved coverage of the state.



Is there funding for new public and independent media? What role does the philanthropic sector have in this formula? How do the strengths and disadvantages of the nonprofit model play out? Is the traditional public-media model even viable? How does the philanthropic sector simultaneously drive and need to adapt to new media realities?

DAVID COHN has written for Wired, Seed, Columbia Journalism Review and the New York Times, among others. He’s also worked with,, the expanding citizen journalism network Broowaha, and is developing an innovative new funding mechanism that’s been likened to “Kiva for Journalism” called Spot Reporting.

JON FUNABIKI is a professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, where he works at the Center for Renaissance Journalism, a new interdisciplinary center on emerging opportunities for community, ethnic and other forms of news media. Previously he was the Ford Foundation’s deputy director of media, arts & culture.

SUSAN MISRA senior consultant at the TCC Group, manages the Challenge Fund for Journalism (CFJ), a joint grantmaking initiative of the Ford Foundation, James S. and John L. Knight Foundation, McCormick Tribune Foundation, and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. She has also provided strategic planning and evaluation services to a number of philanthropies including the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and Campion Foundation. Misra received a Master’s in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

MARC SMOLOWITZ, an Academy Award-nominated documentary film producer, is the Technology Circle Chair of the Full Circle Fund, an engaged philanthropy organization in the SF Bay Area. He is a member of the Full Circle board of directors, and a producer at the online video startup Tellytopia.

MODERATOR: LINDA JUE (President, SPJ-NorCal; Director, New Voices in Independent Journalism; Executive Editor, George Washington Williams Fellowship) is a longtime advocate of free and independent media, and was associate director and a founding staff member of the Independent Press Association. She brings insight into the challenges of both mustering funding for the independent press, and sustaining nonprofit media infrastructure.

4:45 p.m.: Closing Comments & Thanks

— — — — — — — — — —

SPONSOR THE EXPO … and get significant promotional benefits
Businesses, nonprofits, schools, community organizations and advocacy groups are invited to sponsor the Innovations in Journalism Expo. Spread the word about your good works to a select community of journalism leaders, educators, advocates and practitioners. Call 415/677-9877 for details.
Get Sponsorship info online:

Sponsor Benefits include:
Logo placement and link on Web site
Logo placement and contact info in Expo printed program and press materials
Advertising options in the May 3 Expo program
Individual promotional table at the May 3 Expo, with high-visibility exhibitor space
Discounted Expo tickets for your membership

For more event information, contact Josh Wilson, edit at, 415/677-9877 or Ricardo Sandoval, rsandovalpalos at, 916/321-1018.

Show Me the Money

So, how does an idealistic journalist fed-up with the failings of for-profit media put food on the table in the post-consolidation, post-merger, post-layoff San Francisco Bay Area?

Freelance, baby. And, sadly, it is not possible to pay a mortgage or support a family as a ronin journalist. The fees are laughably small. My breatkthrough coverage of polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the San Francisco Bay, written freelance for after I resigned, took a month to research and write and netted me a whopping $400. What a joke.

Currently, I’m writing and editing white papers for FAS.research, an Austrian social network analysis company that recently opened a branch in San Francisco. They develop campaign, marketing and communications strategies for globe-straddling corporations of various descriptions.

A headhunter has also been knocking recently, seeking to place me as a “social media editor” for financial services companies in San Francisco.

Modesty, already in short supply on these pages, forbids me from declaiming the fees I get for that kind of work. But suffice it to say, freelance journalism, and even the average newsroom staff position, doesn’t come anywhere near what these people offer.

And that’s the tragedy of American journalism in a nutshell.

New Radio Project Archives

As part of my work with Independent Arts & Media, I produce, edit and broadcast a half-hour radio programs based on Shaping San Francisco‘s marvelous Talks! series down at CounterPulse in SF.

The show airs on KUSF-FM on Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. Each half-hour episode features one or several panelists from a given evening’s talk, plus expansive, audience-led dialogue and inquiry.

You can access the first dozen episodes via our new audio archive:

  • Shaping SF Radio: Indy Arts home page
  • Learnin’ & Teachin’: The Future of Education (four parts)
  • The Green City (three parts)
  • San Francisco Land Grabs (two parts)
  • The Health Epidemic & Eroding Public Health (three parts)
  • Can San Francisco Feed Itself? (three parts)
  • Reclaiming Bay Area Military Bases (two parts)
  • What’s Natural About Natural Disasters? (four parts)
  • America & the Philippines (two parts)