Combining journalism and advocacy to effect change

by Rachel Glickhouse (@riogringa)

Clarence Eckerson of Streetfilms spoke to our class this week about his experience with journalism, advocacy, and film-making.

He explained that he became involved with the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives in the 1990s, and began videotaping bike rides he took with friends. Later, he ran a cable access show about biking in New York, and then created a video about a car-free Central Park in 2004. After screening the film before a crowd of nearly 700, results came just weeks later, with seven park entrances closed and speed limits reduced in the park.

In 2005, Eckerson founded Streetfilms, and for the past decade he’s been making videos about bike and pedestrian advocacy, Vision Zero, and other transportation issues in New York and around the world. Eckerson noted that by putting his work on Youtube, it lets people use the videos as they see fit, sharing it with elected officials and with different advocacy groups.

Eckerson considers himself a filmmaker, an advocate, and a journalist all in one. “As long as we tell the truth and try to correct what the media gets wrong all the time, there’s nothing wrong with being an advocate,” he said. “There’s a big responsibility to make sure you get it right.”

However, funding is a challenge, Eckerson acknowledged. He depends on a primary funder as well as donations, but due to cut-backs, he lost his two co-workers. He also gets grants to do international projects.

Eckerson noted that a key to his success is creating evergreen films, which have value for years on end. He explained that transportation-related videos can often be technical and full of jargon, so his goal is always to make videos that put concepts in simple terms that are accessible to all. Ultimately, the goal is to figure out ways to make people’s lives better or to give them tools to make their lives better, he said. He also stressed the importance of keeping videos short and sweet–under 4 minutes.

While Eckerson considers himself a journalist, his first measure of success comes from changes in the community. He cited a pedestrianized Times Square and pedestrian plazas in Queens as positive results of his work. “Success is seeing your message get out there easier,” he said. Pageviews and comments are important, but are secondary to actual change in the community.

When it comes to distribution, Streetfilms uses a Creative Commons license that prohibits derivatives or selling the videos, but it allows people to make copies and distribute the content to reuse and repurpose it. “I just want to get the word out,” he said. He also prefers for media outlets to ask for permission to use his footage, since one time it was used without any credit or attribution.

“In my heart, I’m always going to be an advocate,” concluded Eckerson. “I can only do my best to throw stuff out there and hope people use it.” But at the same time, he holds himself to a strict journalistic standard. “I can’t put something out there that’s not true.”

During the rest of class, we discussed everything we’ve explored so far this semester, from design thinking to business models to qualitative research. We talked about externally focused vs. internally focused journalism, and whether we will use one or both to work with our communities. In other words, are we telling the world about our community, or are we focusing on communicating only within the community itself?

We also touched on dealing with telling people what they don’t want to hear. We talked about how in traditional journalism, objectivity protects and distances you from a community, while collaboration–critical to social journalism–is key to building a relationship with your public, though it also makes you vulnerable.

Here’s my question for the week: Do you think externally focused or internally focused journalism will work best for your community? Or is it both? In your work, will you need to tell your community things it doesn’t want to hear? If so, how will you handle that challenge?

23 thoughts on “Combining journalism and advocacy to effect change”

  1. I think the bet thing for my community is to enable the members to reach a large audience. But they also need to be informed about general news that can affect their community. Recently, VMWare, the leader of virtualization software provider, has announced to its resellers it will rise the price of its licences. The consequence for the tech industry in New York city is huge since most of the developing projects are using cloud-based platform, hosted on VMware product (virtual machine).
    I’m not sure to understand what sort of news stories my community would have a hard time to hear but I would consider that it might be important for them to understand the impact of using excessive amount of energy to maintain their infrastructure working. In April 2012, Greenpeace published the report , a survey on the energy consumption generated by datacenters. Nowadays, most of the tech companies in New York city host their back-up information system and some of their middleware on the cloud – datacenters managed and owned by an outsourcer like service provider or telco companies- for cost effectiveness reason.
    But the new mode of IT consumption has a impact on the global energy efficiency. In October 2014, Digital NYC was launched, sponsored Bill de Blasio and IBM, promoting tech start up and tech ecosystem in the city. One of the main interests of this projects for developers and tech entrepreneur is to benefit audience, investment opportunity and tech resources (provided by IBM). In Greenpeace report form 2012, IBM used 39% of coal energy to run its datacenters. If I can provide this information to the tech community, some members would be interested to advocate for a better and cleaner energy use from their service providers.

  2. Eckerson started off by saying how important it was to be open to change as anything can happen. He didn’t know his actions of filming bicyclists in New York City would get him to where he is today.

    This talk had me thinking a great deal about how successful ideas are usually about getting there first. For example, if you think of something – an idea or a product – that would interest other people you need to take action to get this noticed by others. If not, someone else may think of another variation of this idea and you’ll have missed out on an opportunity to make the idea or product a success. Seth Godin wrote up a pretty interesting blog post named “Scarcity and abundance in the digital age.” Within it he mentions, “the digital world doesn’t offer similar scarcity,” when comparing digital and physical goods.
    This struck a chord with me as remained to be a strong reminder that it’s difficult to find something completely new but there are ways to reinvent it. For so long, pencils were just pencils and then came a mechanical pencil. The idea was thought to have been contrived in the 1500’s but wasn’t patented until 1822 .

    I see all of us in this program working to look at journalism with fresh eyes. Not just journalism, but communication within our chosen communities. Sometimes this reinvention will be simple, taking a step back and looking at the holes missing in our communities for us to fill. Other times we might be staring at the community for quite some time before any real changes start to make an impact.

    Regarding Rachel’s question, I do believe that both externally and internally focused journalism will help my community. While many LGBT persons may be unaware of issues occurring in their community there are also many straight allies and people in general who are unaware of the struggles the queer community deals with. I’m constantly in the know of anti-gay bills being passed, threats to the community and discrimination in the workplace. This is because I’m searching for this information – I’m seeking it out. So much news happens in a day. As experts (in the works) we need to help spread important information surrounding our communities.

    A great amount of information regarding the queer community that I’ll be sharing won’t want to be heard. The stories I read, share and write may highlight unfortunate incidents of ignorance and hate. It’s something that is hard to understand and even more difficult to grasp that words of hate could be spoken about a group of people who just that – a group of human beings.

  3. I found that Eckerson’s approach, while social/advocacy journalism-minded in his goals, still looked like the one-way street of traditional journalism. He’s publishing what he thinks others need to hear about an issue, backed up by facts and expert interviews, and then just putting it out there. Maybe we just didn’t talk about his process enough for me to hear about his efforts to listen to what the community is looking for, though, and engage them after publication.

    I’ve been trying to fit Eckerson’s approach into the idea of “reciprocal journalism” we read about from Seth Lewis, Avery Holton and Mark Coddington. In their paper, they talk about the benefits and risks of direct reciprocity:

    “This sense of connectedness is best achieved through unilateral, or non-negotiated, forms of reciprocal exchange, as individuals give without expecting anything in return but nonetheless are likely to receive something of value in return.”

    We didn’t hear much about how the community contributes content to his work (though I think with the rise of people taking video on their phones, there could definitely be an opportunity for him to ask for B-roll from fans), but we did discuss funding. People who donate to Streetfilms likely don’t expect a specific item in exchange, but do donate in the hope that their neighborhoods and city may become safer over time because of the work Eckerson does.

    Streetfilms also used a technique that the Local News Lab article highlighted ProPublica using. Street films has a “Take Action!” page, offering people a way to respond to the videos and help achieve the greater goal. However, I think Streetfilms could benefit from doing more in “asking for readers’ knowledge, experiences and expertise,” not just asking for help sharing the video and funding its efforts.

    Anyway, onto the question for the week.

    I think there are opportunities for both internally and externally journalism for my community. I think there’s a lot they would like to learn from each other, especially as people experiment with new platforms and face new challenges. But I think there’s a certain level of frustration within my community that could be served by doing some external journalism focused on explaining to those outside the community about what social media and engagement editors do all day (and how they’re not just “Twitter monkeys”).

    I may need to tell my community things it doesn’t want to hear, I’m not sure yet. I’ve already felt the pull of wanting to build a relationship with the community but fearing that my accurate quotes and examples in my articles may alienate those I talked to if it doesn’t portray them in a positive light. I think it will be hard for me to be critical of the community, especially this early in the relationship-building process. I hope it will be easier once I’m more accepted and have established a voice in the conversation.

    1. Good point, Julia. We probably should have probed that more in the questions we had for him.

      I think you are also right that explaining to other journalists what exactly social journalists and social media editors etc. actually do is important. There is still a lot of confusion out there, and sometimes, though it’s frustrating, the only way through that is with a lot of repetition.

  4. Clarence Eckerson of Streetfilms came to Community Engagement class with a headful of first-hand accounts and documentary vision relating to New York City’s Streets Renaissance. As an independent video producer and editor working in a documentary style, his films have been recognized internationally as important and influential tools in campaigns for safer streets. Eckerson has participated and documented everything from the Car-free Central Park Campaign to the visceral and deeply personal Families for Safe Streets rallies(Families for Safe Streets is an organization consisting of those who’ve lost their loved ones to traffic violence.)

    There were 3 personal values that Eckerson was able to bring to class.
    The freedom to work without oversight.
    The opportunity to give voice to those without one.
    The chance to actually change culture.

    He began as the Chair of the Brooklyn committee of Transportation Alternatives when Bill DiBlasio was a neighborhood guy and first time council member. It was before pedestrian plazas and the hip-ness of cycling. The community of safe streets activists had an agenda that included expansion of bike networks and an increase in public spaces. In the twenty-five years he as been documenting New York City, there have been massive successes. Eckerson noted a video he had done of Times Square long before it became a pedestrian space. This video has hundreds of thousands of views and was used at many a community board meeting and civic outreach event.

    He has been able to enjoy the success of seeing the goals he and his community set forth years ago, come to fruition. He has become an iconic part of a movement that quietly built and built until the community itself was recognized as changing the actual ‘built’ environment of NYC. Hard to believe, but it’s possible to see New York as a small little town of neighborhoods, do-gooders, cranky bitties and politicians of every stripe. It might not sound like the New York you know, but Clarence is able to speak as one who looks at the community internally first with the documentary eye that makes a lot of street priorities clear to the audience that needs to be reached.

    In the process of documenting the safe streets movement, Streetfilms has aggregated a lot of content. By using Creative Commons licensing, which prohibits derivatives or selling the videos, but allows them to be shared and distributed he is able to avoid chasing many legal issues and staffing up with a someone to coordinate requests to use his content.

    This appeals to me. As advocacy and outreach journalism face struggles with funding issues and business models that are outside them norm of click through, CPM’s and embedded content. Social journalists are not too far removed from entrepreneurial journalists who are carving out niche funding and cash-flows for endeavors public and private. More so, we are seeing sponsored content all over internet platforms these days, and there just may be more transparency in the grant and private funding model than there is in sponsored content.

    His participation in the community engagement class validates that.

    My community is also within safe streets advocacy. Though I‘ve known and utilized Eckerson’s work for many years, Make Queens Safer formed only in November 2013, and doesn’t have the backing of a parent organization. Similar to Eckerson, our group rejects the idea of traditional advertising. I’ve found that being pretty much unfunded has created a level of autonomy and credibility that would be threatened by financial ties at this early stage. Make Queens safer is basically a social movement kickstarter, and the hope is to mobilize existing community groups to incorporate a safe streets agenda.

    Both the internal and external facets of engagement are of equal importance at this stage of our development. The community is still being defined, and important community members have yet to step up and participate at the level we need them. This requires creating a space for their skills and interests. We try to diversify the activities we offer from hard-core outreach to fun family events. This is true of our social media presence as well. We’ve posted on important NYPD data releases as well as opportunities to be a part of the conversation. As we build, we see the strata become more developed. When I approach a new or different location, I have preceded my entrance with lots of social research into the existing conditions there.

    Is it journalism? Well, Make Queens Safer is taking a journalistic approach to finding sources, working in the public interest, and dispatching information that a community needs. Being the source sometimes, and requiring outside sources other times seems to be the major differentiator from traditional journalism.

    1. Good points, Cristina. I’m impressed by the work you do before approaching a new or different location – I think that’s really important. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “Journalism” of the capital J variety myself, but I would say that it uses a lot of journalistic skills.

  5. As I’ve said before, one of the coolest things about this program is the different lens that each of us takes toward our community. In my personal experience, I’m looking more to explore a group a people that I partially identify with and want to learn even more about. Keeping this in mind, let’s get to Rachel’s question.

    In terms of writing scope, I think I need to take a more internal focus. I’m unique in that I’m looking into this degree more for academic study, but there are also many points to explore. Growing up, I always identified with the Irish community, but since undertaking this project and degree, I’ve uncovered the complexities and layers of Irish life in America, including a number of immigration problems that are not normally associated with Western European ethnic groups. The majority of my work is done with an internal focus on the way the Irish think and perceive this country, but I also think I need to take an external look to make my work land.

    A great many of the people reading my work are Americans of Irish stock, which despite the seeming similarities in interest, are a far different group in terms of the types of media they consume. When I post more Irish-centric stories (written about goings-on on the other side of the Atlantic), they don’t seem to do quite as well as ones that are accessible to both groups of people. I don’t necessarily think there are things my community doesn’t want to hear, but there are publications (like that do a good job of catering to both sides of the demographic. My goal is to function as a storyteller for this community and study their lives in this country; but a great many of the people I’m telling the stories to are on the American side of the demographic.

    1. Yes, there’s certainly a balance there to think about. Any thoughts about how this week’s talk applied to your community?

      1. I think it helped me zero in on the process of running an ethnic publication. Despite the fact that my community is nearly 100% English speaking, the ability to bring news from two parts of the world and marry them together in one cohesive publication is a challenge. The Polish language paper is probably the closest thing to my main publication of focus, the Irish Central. It covers news from Poland, but admits that it’s reader base is in the United States and has to bring advertising and content from this side of the sea as well. The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, but these immigrants came here to become Americans, and I’ve found that many of these publications need to reflect this.

  6. Do you think externally focused or internally focused journalism will work best for your community? Or is it both? In your work, will you need to tell your community things it doesn’t want to hear? If so, how will you handle that challenge?

    I am lucky enough to know one thing: I am heavily invested in my community, internally and externally. Or perhaps I am unlucky? Jeff Jarvis always asks: Where do we draw the line? Well maybe its just me but I believe we must forget about the line completely. I am not interested in reporting as much as I am in helping. I am still trying to figure out how to do this because ultimately I know I am wrong, there must be a line….(or maybe not? ha ha!)

    I think we need to be involved externally and internally. If we really want to help and serve, if we really want to understand and collaborate and empathize – we can’t just observe from the outside, we have to know these people, know what they’re like, understand what they need….(design thinking anyone?) I mean, maybe it’s easier for me because soccer has been a part of me since I could crawl. What connects us is something I love. I mean, that’s why I chose my community – because I am involved externally and internally. I have created great bonds and relationships with my community and so they have earned my TRUST….and this is the key word here. TRUST. It all begins with trust. If they trust me they will appreciate things they don’t want to hear. And vice versa. I think, that if they trust you and you trust them, you can tell them almost anything because they know, ultimately, that you’re not criticizing them, you’re trying to help.

    1. It definitely makes it a lot easier when you are as connected with your community as you are. Any thoughts about how the talk or readings applied to your work?

  7. My community already has the goal of reaching a larger audience. As I always say, black social media activism is a community that knows it exists and how it functions. But there’s always room for growth in getting certain messages out and pushing coverage beyond only what media forms decide to focus on.

    I think communities like mine are both external (for the reason listed above), but also internal because it’s a community. That’s the point. There are going to be things that only the community relates to, no matter how external they are in their reach. They have shared needs, interests and relationships. So there are going to be times when inclusion of only the community is warranted. I even saw on Black Twitter, much earlier in the program, someone tweeted posers and haters to get off their forum, advocating for exclusiveness. Therefore, there are going to be times based on relation and safe spaces that communities might want to be internal.

    1. I think you are right…but this is also complicated. Your community isn’t monolithic. And doing a good job of communicating its goals to the external community is also something that requires a lot of thought as you consider how to contradict misinformation. Any thoughts on how the readings or the talk informed your work?

  8. Good questions Rachel. I’ve been really trying to pinpoint what will work best in my community – externally or internally focused journalism. I know there are several websites where independent artists and fans can discover new music, commentary, reviews and find music news. There’s Pitchfork, NPR Music, Noisey and Spin to name a few. However, connecting in person is a big part of what makes my community stand out. There’s something special about being a music lover who attends live shows and watching an artist who performs in order to connect with the fans. There seems to be a desire to share knowledge with other music insiders in person or online, but it is more internally focused in my community’s case since it is so specific.

    To be fair I have tested what it’s like to have externally focused journalism, but it’s tough to engage audiences outside of my community. If people aren’t interested in music (and specifically indie artists) it’s tough to engage and connect with them. What I found interesting about Streetfilms is that Clarence Eckerson really has his hand on the pulse when it comes his community’s needs. I think is extremely valuable. He’s not just covering the community, but he’s also a part of the community. They trust him. He’s built relationships and I belive it’s made him a better journalist.

    In the article “If we build relationships, we build relationships” ( Michael Lanauer speaks about thes importance of relationships before and after publication. He mentions a “player-coach” model where we can bring readers in as non-professional writers so that their voices can be heard, but where we facilitate in order to create professionally produced pieces. It’s about engaging with the audience, but also maintaining journalism standards. He says, “we will need to make decisions with them at the center of the discussion. We will need to use data to learn more about what they want, need and expect. And we will need to develop new tools to elevate the good discussion and spotlight the interesting stories people have to share.”

    I believe once I have built a more familiar brand or name for myself within the community there will be some great internally focused journalism opportunities to explore. Joy Mayer discusses the three kinds of engagement: outreach, conversation, collaboration in this article –

    She spells it out nice and clearly. Outreach includes sharing ourselves and content with the community. “Taking the content to the audience, rather than hoping they’ll find us. Identifying information needs, catering our products to meet them and distributing them in a way that makes sense,” says Mayer. Conversation means listening as well as talking. She says, “It involves: Hosting discussions in person and online on topics that matter to the community.” And finally she touches on collaboration, which is the highest form of engagement. She says it’s “valuing the role the users play in reacting to and sharing our content. Recognizing that we can accomplish things with the cooperation of the community that we could not do alone.”

    I couldn’t agree more with Mayer’s words. In fact, I plan on engaging my community in each of these ways in order to create content. My biggest challenge at this point is building relationships. It takes time to go out and meet people, something I love to do, but you have to make time. Follow-up is also important in order to maintain relationships and eventually create these collaborations. I do think collaborating will be my next step. I would love to bring other music fans into the picture so their voices can be heard. I also think it’s important to promote the artists and let them shine. However, I also want to feel that I can offer musicians something when they collaborate with me. Be it a music video, connecting them with live music venues or helping them build their online fan base. I’m working on exploring different options and what might be the best fit. I really need to hear from the artists want so that I can help. I also want to connect with music fans more often. I would like to know what they would like to see more of. I’ve also thought about working with live venues more often as I think there’s some untapped potential there. So, next up is really going out and building these relationships within the community.

    1. EXCELLENT use of the readings, Erica. You are really killing it with insight on those, well done.

      I think you are right on in a variety of ways, especially about the import of internally-focused journalism to your community. And yes…that’s one tricky thing about a year-long program…building community in a genuine way through developing solid relationships takes TIME. It’s not easy.

  9. Thanks Rachel, I’m disappointed to have been away from community engagement class last week, especially since I missed out on a discussion that has a lot of relevancy with my community in North Brooklyn and the environmental issues. I’m balancing my research and hoping for objectivity

    Greenpoint is facing a growing policy debate regarding the city’s previous closed-door decision to aerate: The pumping of air bubbles from the bottom of Newtown Creek (a toxic Federal Superfund site), which a recent studied shows that oil and fecal bacteria from the bubbles are being transferred to the air with unstudied health effects.

    As a Greenpoint resident, I’m not only externally focused on the North Brooklyn advocacy groups, such as the Newtown Creek Alliace and River Keeper, that demand DEC/DEP health studies on the air bacteria, but also internally focused as I could be exposed as I live only blocks from the creek.

    Eckerson’s lessons from starting Streetfilms to create “evergreen” video content are helpful. In 2007 VICE (then VBS TV) made a documentary, “Toxic Brooklyn,” regarding the new construction boom in Greenpoint and Williamsburg on land contaminated with oil: The two neighborhoods were home to the largest petroleum processing facilities in the U.S., employing thousands, up until the mid 1900’s. This documentary inspired me to research the neighborhood years ago that would become my home. Brooklyn is truly on the forefront of environmental justice and I think that many of the new residents do not realize the issues surrounding their “hip” neighborhood.

    There are new voices I discover everyday surrounding the topic. Professor Sarah Durrand at CUNY LaGuardia was awarded a $500,000 grant to install wetlands with the help of her students at the Newtown Creek Nature Walk. Wetlands not only clean the water and provide a home for marine life, they also do not transfer bacteria to the air and are much cheaper to install; wetlands are an obvious but unconsidered alternative to aeration.

    There is an entrepreneur Michael Heimbinder who invented Air-Casting, a wearable device that crowdsource particulate matter in the air; the product is soon to launch and will help North Brooklyn to do the job that environmental agencies should already do.

    From spending time with these people and organizations I’ve found a common thread in what they view as a major challenge to influence policy change: A large lack of awareness in Greenpoint, which rapidly gentrified from an enclave of Polish and Italian immigrants to a large number of creative and young people. A recent Business Insider article even named Greenpoint as the number one neighborhood in America for millenials to live, as the average age creeps lower every year and is just a subway ride away from nearly every type of job imaginable. The article does not mention that Greenpoint is per square inch, one of the most polluted areas in America.

    Should I advocate for awareness? As a reporting student I aim to achieve the goal of objectivity, but facts are facts as Clarence Eckerson said. I’m thinking of new ways to present the facts. Yes, I’ve written two stories on the matter which I’m hoping to publish, but I need to think unconventionally to truly make progress.

    One of my friends help to start “Raising the Bar” at Columbia, which brings prfoessors from NYU and Columbia into bars for casual academic talks. IT was soo successful and widely attended last year that the platform is spreading globally. I would like to bring some of the scientists together on the aeration topic and have an event in Greenpoint, beer makes most things more tolerable and we have lots of places to drink it the neighborhood.

    I’ve also started to aggregate environmental news with my page the Greenburg Post, to connect the dots on national and international environmental issues that have teleconnections to Greenpoint. Original “evergreen” video content would compliment this well, but I’m a grad student and time is precious. Hopefully I can start to make video content that is highly shareable, educational and interesting enough to engage a young community of artists.

    1. Good, Aaron, and I especially like this “beer makes most things more tolerable.” 🙂 Ha!

      I’m glad you are finding so many useful and interesting sources in your community, and I do think Clarence’s experiences are definitely of relevance to your community/issue.

  10. Songs of the week:

    “The Bicycle Song”
    “Bicycle Race”

    Julia found that Streetfilm’s Clarence Eckerson’s method was more along the “route” of traditional journalism. In my opinion, Eckerson was directly creating his videos for activists, who were then utilizing them in important meetings with public officials to enact change. Cristina Furlong, ofMake Queens Safer,and our fellow classmate, mentioned how whenever there was an important event regarding transportation to be covered, she called him up to document it. This is the community that is in direct contact with Eckerson, and influences how he can make his films the most effective. The added bonus is that his work is then viewed by the public to influence decision-making and spread the message about the benefits of well designed transportation systems and better policies.

    For my community, I plan on integrating both internally and externally focused journalism. Not only am I aiming to create a platform that aggregates important news for the community, as well as provides a safe space to discuss meaningful topics, but a goal is also encourage more integration of Muslim women into the public sphere, which will involve an exchange of ideas within and outside the community.

    Topics will definitely arise that will be difficult to discuss. For example, an exhaustive study on the prevalence of FGM in America FGM in America indicates that at least one half million girls and women are at risk of or have had this terrible surgery in the U.S. Other difficult topics include honor killings, hate crimes and religious discrimination. However, the only way to enact change is to acknowledge the existence of these issues, and to brainstorm effective solutions, improving this diverse community’s quality of life.

    1. Betsy – Definitely. Those are difficult issues that certainly often require a great deal of thought and ethical debate to determine how to address with sensitivity.

  11. I’m trying to better understand how freelance journalists can use grants and fellowships to fund their work. So I’m actually dealing with two different stakeholders: the institutions that fund quality, not-for-profit journalism, and freelance journalists. Neither are “internally” defined as communities. Of course there are things like a “Freelance Community” within the Society of Professional Journalists and nonprofit associations, but I would characterize those people more like “groups artificially formed around interests” rather than “communities”. This is not nitpicking. The thing is: focusing too much on defining a community can consume time on working toward a more important goal of serving the public good, which encompass said community and others.

    For this project, I don’t see a clear distinction between internally and externally focused journalism in its origin – but I can see in its distribution. Every story that I eventually write on the subject will need a comprehensive examination of the actors involved. When talking with granters and grantees I will find new ideas for stories, and since my interests align with the “community” (I want more of nonprofit journalism to happen) I will probably focus in stories that will foster the strengthening of that “community”. I think this is basic good journalism associated with a “cause” of a particular interest. So it is both external (the original idea and motives) and internal (the actors that inform the journalistic process).

    I think it will be more “internally focused” when I focus the distribution among people familiar with the subject, like posting stories or curating links that are of their interest. And it will be more “externally focused” when I try to pitch the story for a bigger outlet. The end result would always be measured in the impact on the original “community” (or, in my case, in the awareness on the subject), so I’m having a hard time to define which is which.

    On the last question, I would say that working with/for journalists in this day and age is the definition of “telling things for people that doesn’t want to hear.” There is not much money floating around for funding quality journalism, the freelancing life is not very stable, there are issues of trust. So I think much of the news on this front today are kind of bad. So I won’t have a problem in telling stories that in some way contradict the interests of the group that I serve. I think others would have a harder time doing that. But I would say that even if we are advocates, we should always try to aim for the larger public good. And telling the whole truth is part of the role for journalists old and new.

    1. Hi Pedro, Good points. One thing I’m struggling with too in various dimensions is how we can think intelligently along these dimensions both in terms of listening AND in terms of distribution.

      News is often bad, but not always. Oy.

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