Live Blog: Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting at Berkeley

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BERKELEY -- I'm settling into a large auditorium at the University of California-Berkeley for the 4th Annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium . Not to sound too snooty, but it's an exclusive event that's run by Lowell Bergman, professor of investigative reporting at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Of course, Bergman is most famous for his work at "60 Minutes." Plus, he was played by Al Pacino in "The Insider." Each year, the symposium picks a theme, and brings you panels on that theme. This year's theme: "The State of Play: Collaboration, Consequences, and Cash."

Right now, Neil Henry, the dean at UC Berkeley, is getting things started by talking about how admissions to the J-school are up, despite the overall challenges facing the news business. He's pointing out that there's still a passion among these students to do journalism, albeit in new forms and in new venues.

Lowell Bergman: He's explaining the theme this year is a nod to the Russell Crowe flick of the same name. The investigative reporting at Berkeley has been expanding, thanks to some solid funding. That's allowed the program to bring students back for fellowships to work on interesting stories. From the beginning, the fellowships have been about collaborative reporting. They focus on stories that can run on the Web, on TV and in print.

Through the program, they realized that many organizations, like public media and traditional media, were not really prepared to collaborate. So they recruited some attorneys to work pro bono to help deal with some of the legal complications.

Bergman was also discussing the history of the Markoff Award, funded through a donation by NY Times reporter John Markoff. The money came from a settlement the Times reached after Hewlett Packard was caught spying on some reporters, including Markoff. Richard Logan and Daniel Logan won the award this year.

A New Era Of Collaboration?

David Boardman, of the Seattle Times, introduces the panel. As you know, the world of journalism is changing, more profoundly than at any time in my career. When ASNE canceled its annual meeting last year, it reflected the feeling that a bomb had dropped on our industry. Tens of thousands of journalism jobs were lost. Fear and trepidation prevailed.

Today, people have stopped wringing their hands. And now are forging new partnerships that would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago. The emergence of new non-profits investigative centers have fueled excitement. But there are still concerns over resources and funding. There are big questions about sustainability. Many still have small audiences and rely on Big Media for distribution. And details of collaborations are still being worked out.

Boardman is asking each panelist about their greatest collaborative successes and faliures.

Collaboration Panel

Mark Katches, Center for Investigative Reporting: They work through the non-profit California Watch, and the model there continues to evolve in terms of the size of partners and the types of relationships, from big media to hyperlocal sites. Currently, they have about 56 partners.

The first story about the anniversary Sept. 11 ran on 25 front pages and one TV station. CW is trying to work with a broad range of outlets. But CW is too new to talk about failures. The biggest challenge is working in competitive markets. Says in the Bay Area, the San Jose Mercury News has been concerned CW is doing more with the SF Chronicle.

One challenge is making changes. When CW wants to changes to a story, it requires tweaking dozens of versions. The Sept. 11 story ran on the CW site. But they created 15 custom versions. The version on the CW site ran at 105 inches. Many news organizations took a 50 inch version.

Susanne Reber, NPR: Years ago, working in Canada, she was working in radio and discovered some pictures of interest. She wanted to share with other outlets (since they didn't have a Web site at that point) so they could be published. But editors weren't sure about whether to do it, as there has been little experience with sharing with other outlets.

Radio has been growing its audience over the past decade, including NPR. It creates an opportunity for investigative reporting that has an impact. Radio offers an intimacy that heightens that impact. In one case, going up against Taser international, there's no way they would have been able to do it on their own given the potential litigation. Collaboration on that story gave them more resources and confidence to take them on.

Paul Steiger, ProPublica: Our goal is very focused. We want to shine a light on corruption. And then get that information to the right outlet to have an impact. We've found collaborations work with all kinds of media: newspapers, magazines, radio, websites.

Recently, Ira Glass of This American Life came to ProPublica came to them to help do the next stage of their financial meltdown reporting. So ProPublica assigned two reporters to work with TAL for six months, and in the process, developed a deep, long, 5,000 word text piece. Glass produced a 30 minute radio segment that included a wonderful metaphor involving "The Producers." (We'll get rich by producing a failure.) Glass produced a song for the segment that has gone viral and given the reporting even more attention.

More recently, ProPublica is putting up a map of people who are having trouble refinancing mortgages. They had done some stories. But put the map out there, and then invited local reporters to contact them to get in touch with these folks.

The failures so far have been shortlived. Some reporters they have not been able to get that they couldn't. There have been "heated words" exchanged in some collaborations. But no one they wouldn't work with again.

Linda Winslow, PBS News Hour: For the NewsHour, which has gone through a very big transition, we're trying to create one produce on the air and the Web. That meant we needed more reporting. So the idea of collaboration is improve the quality of the journalism. But need to find people who share the goals and vision.

The one that has been most successful has been recent, involving three entities that came together through previous relationships. Alan Davidson of Planet Money pitched a piece on Haiti to someone at NewsHour and FrontLine then got involved. So Davidson went down to Haiti with a videographer from FrontLine.

Ann Derry, The New York Times: Have done a lot of collaborations around television and video. One tip: Need to have incentives for collaborations. Times doesn't had much video experience, so was looking for a partner. And that continues today through the Web and documentaries. There's less need for a print partnership.

One thing we've learned: It's all about the people involves. It's about the personalities. We work with ProPublica, CNBC and others. But it still comes down to how those teams work together. Both sides need to get and give something. We haven't really had a bad experience.

You run into things where timing is a problem on different platforms. But there hasn't really been issues about the journalism.

Steiger: Notes that there was plenty of shouting with a single organizations doing big stories, like the Wall Street Journal. There's a chance there will be more of that when two or more organizations work together. And there can be arguments about where it will appear first. But if the story is good and has an impact, then everyone is happy in the end.

Reber: Had heard that "NPR doesn't play well with others" when it comes to collaboration. I've been a NPR for four months. But I've told my staff we will be working with other organizations. And if a journo doesn't like it, they shouldn't join our team.

If you're working on a team, either you are a team or you're not. You can't hold back notes one day, and then share the next.

Katches: Collobartion is a process, and it takes a long time. And when you add different layers from different organizations, you add more complexity.

Steiger: The Wall Street Journal didn't do a lot of collaboration when he was there because it didn't have to. The changed economic environment has changed lots of attitudes. The NY Times doesn't have to collaborate with us, but the do, because their perspective has changed. The WSJ is under new management, and they don't need me to tell them what to do. Not expecting them to propose collaborations any time soon.

Question from audience: Can you talk about process for developing story ideas?

Katches: We have people who have specialties that they mine for stories. The best stories bubble up from working in those areas and developing those ideas. Editors are at their best when they're helping to elevate those stories.

Question: Where does the impetus to collaborate come from?

Derry: We're always looking for things that we think might make a good video piece, something that our partner organizations would be interested in. And then we call them up.

Katches: When one of our reporters starts working on a piece, we might see that there's a geographical nexus, where the story will be a bigger deal to one area or another. And we'll call them up.

Steiger: Most of our ideas start with us and bubble up from within. But TAL partnership came from the outside.

Question: If story triggers a lawsuit, who is responsible?

Steiger: We have our partners' attorneys vet stories. Our GM is also a first amendment lawyer. In a recent libel suit, he worked with local paper, which had its own counsel.

Katches: We have a first amendment lawyer who works pro bono. But we have an idemnification agreement, where if there's something we did wrong, it's our responsibility. But if a partner makes a change that causes a problem, it's on them. That's created an awareness that if a partner does want to make a change, they need to run it by us.

Question about how the business model works?

Katches: We charge a fee, though a low one, for running our content. And that might change depending on how much work the partner does in the collaboration. But the content is intended to produce revenue for us. Ultimately would like to see the model move to subscription.

Steiger: We give it away.

Question: What impact does collaboration have on speed? And have you figured out a way to do this faster?

Steiger: Well, we produce thousands of stories. When you have a big project, and it has multiple moving parts, you sacrifice efficiency to get the right partner, to get more leverage. So it's worth taking more time to make it happen. One story we did got 60,000 page views on our site. It got over one million on our partner's site. The impact makes the extra work worth it.

The Consequences of Investigative Reporting

Moderator Brian Ross, ABC News: This panel is going to look at some of the legal issues involved in investigative reporting. I was sued by Wayne Newton once. It bankrupted him. Cost ABC millions. And we lost. But won on appeal. Taking on the powerful will always has risks.

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Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters: I have no journalistic training. In Nigeria, don't ask me why I go there. I'm officially barred. I can't go through the airport. In 2005, I was trying to avoid arrest while getting in, I was arrested by customs who thought I looked like a smuggler.

One source tried to sue me by claiming we didn't really have an interview, it was just a man-to-man discussion.

Ari Berman, The Nation/Medill Innocence Project: When I was a senior at Medill, I took a class focusing on wrongful prosecutions. I was assigned a case of a guy convicted of murdering a security guard. My professor has begun investigating this case, and I was part of the third group of students looking into this. We spent a lot of time talking to people in South Chicago. Six more teams after us would also work on this. Witnesses recanted. My group found an alternative suspect who said he was involved in the murder.

Then prosecutors went after Medill team, claiming they were at fault. And have been involved in long-term case that's still happening against state of Illinois.

Dana Priest, The Washington Post: The good thing about covering the CIA is that they don't want to take you to court. I had been on the Pentagon beat for several years. And had been building up information about secret prisons. One important lesson: Give sources heads up that a story is coming. Don't surprise them.

So when secret prison story was coming out, the big hoopla: I got death threats and terrible messages left on the phone from the public, and hate mail. No one was calling up and saying, "Great job!" except some human rights groups. Congress started calling for investigations of the Post (not the secret sites).

I had hoped it would blow over and the Bush administration would have to deal with me. But that didn't happen. Instead, they had surrogates drumming up anti-press sentiment. And they marched one CIA out the door for allegedly being my source. Message: There would be a cost for dealing with the media. That created a chill. Caused a quandry for me. So I decided to stop doing this reporting for awhile.

That led to working on the Walter Reed Hospital stories. But it was upsetting.

Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times: I don't think about the idea that I'm taking on a drug lord. I'm just pursuing a story and get the information out. There are subpoenas for me in Mexico. But biggest threat came from Pres. Bush who once threatened to sue me during an interview.

But anytime a truck with tinted windows slows down next to me, I get nervous and wonder who it is. And we've had reporters in El Paso kidnapped. And I have colleagues in Mexico who have not been so fortunate as me. And I've thought about getting a concealed weapons permit.

John Smith, Las Vegas Review Journal: (He's been forced into bankruptcy by one ongoing lawsuit): Las Vegas is a place that likes to bury its history. My challenge as a columnist for 20 years is to bring my institutional memory to the columns. There are a lot of people in this room who have tangled with rough customers. But I've found no one tougher to deal with than the legal gaming industry in Vegas. They go through background by the state, but the state won't share them.

I've gotten some of that information through sources. My first big lawsuit was from by profile of Steve Wynn. He said publicly he wanted to bankrupt the publisher and take my house. He filed the suit in Kentucky. It was a nuisance lawsuit, filed because I had embarassed him. We tangled. I was dismissed early on. My publisher litigated for nine years, and it did drive publisher into temporary bankruptcy.

I continued to write books and write for the story. Later, my daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I wrote about that, while also writing a book on the founding of Las Vegas. In this book, there was a chapter on Sheldon Allison. I was sued over that. Between legal and medical bills, I had to file for bankruptcy. Fortunately, a pro bono lawyer stepped up and mopped the floor with the other guys. They dropped the suit. The stress it put on my family is hard to describe. My daughter is alive, and uses a wheel chair to get around. But knowing the stress put on my family, out of simply meanness, is hard to talk about.

Then Allison offered me $300,000 to write a public apology that I could use for my daughter's medical treatment. But I couldn't say where it came from. I turned him down.

Question from Ross: After suffering this blowback, can you still report on these subjects and still be objective?

Priest: I think that in some ways that's what they're hoping will happen. But you do see how these people or institutions really work.

Sowore: I was sued in Texas, my first litigation in the U.S. I didn't even have a job. My lawyer called and said who sued you? My pro bono attorney asked for deposit of $50,000. But I got lucky. The judge hearing the case was sued for sexual harassment. So it was moved to another judge and was dropped.

But I couldn't figure out why I was sued in Texas about something I wrote about Nigeria. Then I learned the guy who sued me in Texas got a contract for business with the Nigerian government a few weeks after the suit was dropped.

Valdez: Objectivity, what good does it do given all the things I know about what's going on? You have to be professional. You have to be fair. But that's it. We must tell the story for those who can't but have been victimized. I don't feel that my objectivity has been affected. More so, I feel duty bound to do this. And I can't keep my sources from contacting me and giving me information.

As long as there is something I can help advance, I fell obligated to do it.

Berman: In my case, I think they're just trying to shut the Innocence Project down. They don't want to keep getting these stacks of files on their desks raising all these questions about people already convicted. When you are convinced of the innocence of someone who has been in jail for 31 years, it's heartbreaking. You think you'll be there the day they walk out of jail, and I still hope that. But to see the state respond with a supboena, it's eye opening.

Question: How do you explain to your family why you keep going in the face of this?

Smith: It's challenging. Especially when you've got a child who doesn't understand why your hours have doubled. But it's meant to beat you down and make you quit. When you go against people who take pleasure in your pain, it takes its toll. But I wouldn't change it.

Priest: If any of these things had happened (referring to the other panelists), it would have received a lot more attention if it had been at the Post. I'm in a privileged position.

Question from audience: Reporter says he's at the Philly papers said he's being sued and working at a paper in bankruptcy. Is the current economics of news organizations going to make it harder to get proper legal protection?

Smith: My paper is okay, but it's harder to find book publishers who want to take these risks.

Question from audience: What is the best thing that has happened as a result of what you've done?

Berman: Freeing people from jail. Also, with the subpoena, more people know about your story. More people know about this guy's plight. And more people know what the state's attorney is up to.

Smith: When you challenge the powerful, it makes the community more normal, more American. It's hard to be normal in Las Vegas. It makes society a better place, a place where they can speak their minds.

Question: Has controversy benefited your career?

Smith: I didn't even get a $10 raise. But it does open some doors.

Question: What about collateral damage to others from story?

Valdez: Everything has been an eye opener. And I always try to be more careful each time.

Priest: You do learn, as a national security reporter, you do learn that there is some things that don't go in the paper. CIA argues that disclosing countries involved in secret prisons would be terrible, and so we didn't include that.

Question: Have editors ever tried to stop, saying this was too dangerous or not worth the blowbacks?

Valdez: I was taken off the border beat once, and it upset me. But when a new editorial regime came in, I was put back on it.

Surprise Guest: Bill Marimow, editor of the Philadelphia Enquirer

Marrimow said he was asked to speak about his experience working at a paper in bankruptcy. Paper was investigating charter schools for 18 months. Found out head was getting paid outrageous sums. Leaders pleaded guilty. One killed himself. Parent who wrote a letter said their child would not being thriving today if it had not been for the reporting to expose the problems.

The critical factor to publish stories like that in bankruptcy is having a publisher who understands that dynamic. I believe the people who purchased the Daily News and Enquirer did it for public service. I believe they truly cared about the state of journalism and democracy in the Philadelphia. Also, probably somewhat for status and ego.

The debt forced us into bankruptcy. But since then, I think we've done work every bit as good as when Gene Roberts was editor. Just last week, sister paper at Daily News won a Pulitzer for stories about cops planting evidence and abusing women. One of those reporters was laid off from the Enquirer. Publisher found a spot for her at the Daily News.

My strong belief is that if your news organization makes itself indispensable, with a publisher who believes in strong journalism in a multimedia world, you will flourish.

Who's Going To Foot The Bill?

Moderator Jack Shafer, Slate, is introducing the panel.

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Shafer: Cites a bunch of anti-non profit news quotes from Jonathan Weber, who is now editor of the Bay Citizen, the SF Bay Area non profit news organizations. Has Weber been brainwashed?

Lisa Frazier, The Bay Citizen: No. We're in an era where you have to try everything. I don't know that he changed his mind. I think months after he wrote that, things had changed.

Question: Possible business ideas: Create national fund for local news proposed by recent Columbia Journalism Review article. Pick ones most doable...

Len Downie, Arizona State University: Local foundations stepping up, and many already are. San Diego Community Foundations has been giving money Voices of San Diego. We know many others are starting to do this, or at least talk about this.

Also, public radio and TV should cover more local news. Most don't right now. Local news reporting only goes on in a few markets around the country. And Corporation for Public Broadcasting are funding experiments with local reporting around the country. CPB ought to be re-chartered by Congress, with requirements to fund local reporting, and given more money.

Also, universities are starting get student involved.

Our most controversial suggestion was the national funding for local reporting. Like CPB, funnel taxpayer money through "independent" organizations. That's the hardest one to do, but could have most impact.

Alan Mutter, Newsosaur: (Question: What do think of Downie's six proposals?) There's nothing wrong with anything that Downie is talking about. Some are more or less practical. But the non-profits, despite being good, are boutique operations. They're not going to replace all the feet on the street that are being lost by the commercial press. Today, it's seriously crippled. So we're looking at "point" solutions, and there's no doubt they will do some good. But they are not going to replace what's been lost.

And there's no business model that will replace what will be lost. The government does not fund most public broadcasting models. It comes from companies and foundations. And there's only so much they can or will do.

University students? We have a lot of great ones here at Berkeley. But they don't have the institutional memories of long-time beat reporters.

But all of these will help push back the forces of darkness, but they're not a replacement.

Downie: I'm not saying they will replace everything. We want to strengthen the new parts of the news ecosystem to compliment the traditional newsrooms, which will continue to exist, but be smaller.

Question from Shafer to Mutter: Tell us your ideas for the future of commercial journalism...

Mutter: It's going to be a matrix of revenues. Live events; some limited online subscriptions; help local businesses manage their Web presence; help local businesses do customer relationship management; sell hard physical producs (DVDs, books). There won't be a single thing. So people need to be more creative. They need to search around the cushions for loose change. There are lots of ways to fund the news.

John Thornton, The Texas Tribune: What Alan's talking about, you've got to have "revenue promiscuity." You've got to go after everything you can, as often as you can. The problem in thinking that the capability to do all those revenue things, the cost of having the skills do those things probably outweighs the potential revenue. The venture model, looking at the highest return, isn't going to funnel money to news organizations.

We think journalism is better served through a non-profit structure.

Robert Rosenthal, Center for Investigative Reporting: Our staff has gone from 7 to 26 in the three years I've been here. And I'm funding a huge amount of interest from funders in this area. It's been amazing, though California Watch, to see our ability to get stories out grow.

All those years at the Philadelphia Enquirer and then the SF Chronicle, I never had a conversation about being an entrepreneur. Now, we're always thinking about that at CIR. I think it's a really exciting place.

Frazier: We're not talking about technology yet. It can make reporters more effective and efficient. We need to invest in that.

Question: What programs are in place at your organizations to do grassroots fundraising?

Thornton: This is what keeps me up at night. Before we launched, we managed to raise a lot of money. But when site went up, people stopped giving. Content is the enemy of fundraising. So how can you translate public radio pledge drives to the Web? We're going to do that this year. But you don't have drive time radio to hammer people.

Question from Shafer: The Len Downie I know has been bodysnatched. You advocate collaboration. But you didn't at the Post. What happened?

Downie: Well, we did do collaboration at the Post. Mostly we stick with our own resources. But in some cases, we pair reporters with other people to do things we can't on our own.

Shafer: Okay. I have $3 million in my pocket. I want Lisa and Robert to make a pitch as to why I should give it to me?

Frazier: Give it to both of us. We do different things. It's on us to explain better about what's being lost. We don't know what we need to know anymore. We need a new model to support that news gathering. It's important not only that we cover local community, but also do investigative reporting like CIR.

Rosenthal: Let me tell you about a story we want to do. I had a few calls from people looking into murders from the civil rights era. I went to Mississippi, and met with some folks to talk about this story. Met a guy who runs a small, weekly paper. He talked a guy who was firebombed years ago. Never solved, and he recently wrote about it. While people came in and gave him flak. But one guy thanked him, and told him about his three sisters who were killed. And killers are still walking among us.

Those are the kinds of stories we want do. We're getting funding lined up.

Shafer: Okay, I'm prepared to write a check.

Shafer: I'm an optimist. Let's remember the Washington Post was purchased in a bankruptcy auction. And I do think American reporters do want to read investigative reporting. Investigative reporting books are being published and bought. It's like we're serving people bad medicine. They want to read these things.

Question from audience: Is the Post model (owning Kaplan testing which subsidizes the company) one that others could try?

Downie: News side still lost millions. You'd need an owner willing to let that happen. And the owner couldn't be out buying lots of organizations, getting in debt.

Question from audience: Lots of media will go on sale in the next decade? Who will buy them? What if Saudi Arabia buys them up?

Mutter: It's entirely possible newspapers will get bought by rich people for ego reasons, or to be used to attack their enemies. But most newspapers still have good profit margins. They have higher cash flow margins than Wal-Mart. There has been a big drop of revenue. But profits down in the teens. The problem is that too many companies borrowed too much money. The biggest problem is having too much debt.

Many are shedding that debt through bankruptcy, mostly the private ones. The public ones have not, and are struggling to pay debts.

Thornton: I disagree that the leverage was the problem. "It was just the last drink at the bar." The problem is the revenue divided by the assets deployed. When profits were 30 percent, they could attract investment. The size of the assets deployed is not worth the revenue possibilities.

Mutter: Long term, newspapers can't afford their print versions. Most will probably will be out of print in 10 years. Still have advantages, like brand, and feet on street, that if gathered up and used wisely, still give them an advantage.

Question from audience: Is the Bay Citizen really out to replace the SF Chronicle?

Frazier: The Bay Area has lost about half its journalists in the past decade. We want to bring back beats in the core civic areas. The amount of content being reduced is way down. We can't fill that void. Our role is to bring others together, and create collaboration. So the Bay Area has the ability to get the information it needs to make decisions about their communities.

Question from Shafer: Are non-profits hurting the journalism organizations that still exist?

Thornton: I think state level coverage has only gone up since we started. I think the newspaper biz is competitive. So when you put good product out there, you raise everyone's game.

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Collaboration Deepens at Logan Symposium on Investigative Journalism

BERKELEY -- I'm settling into a large auditorium at the University of California-Berkeley for the 4th Annual Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium . Not to sound too snooty, but it's an exclusive event that's run by Lowell Bergman, professor of investigative reporting at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Of course, Bergman is most famous for his work at "60 Minutes." Plus, he was played by Al Pacino in "The Insider." Each year, the symposium picks a theme, and brings you panels on that theme. This year's theme: "The State of Play: Collaboration, Consequences, and Cash."

Right now, Neil Henry, the dean at UC Berkeley, is getting things started by talking about how admissions to the J-school are up, despite the overall challenges facing the news business. He's pointing out that there's still a passion among these students to do journalism, albeit in new forms and in new venues.

Lowell Bergman: He's explaining the theme this year is a nod to the Russell Crowe flick of the same name. The investigative reporting at Berkeley has been expanding, thanks to some solid funding. That's allowed the program to bring students back for fellowships to work on interesting stories. From the beginning, the fellowships have been about collaborative reporting. They focus on stories that can run on the Web, on TV and in print.

Through the program, they realized that many organizations, like public media and traditional media, were not really prepared to collaborate. So they recruited some attorneys to work pro bono to help deal with some of the legal complications.

Bergman was also discussing the history of the Markoff Award, funded through a donation by NY Times reporter John Markoff. The money came from a settlement the Times reached after Hewlett Packard was caught spying on some reporters, including Markoff. Richard Logan and Daniel Logan won the award this year.

A New Era Of Collaboration?

David Boardman, of the Seattle Times, introduces the panel. As you know, the world of journalism is changing, more profoundly than at any time in my career. When ASNE canceled its annual meeting last year, it reflected the feeling that a bomb had dropped on our industry. Tens of thousands of journalism jobs were lost. Fear and trepidation prevailed.

Today, people have stopped wringing their hands. And now are forging new partnerships that would have been unthinkable even just a few years ago. The emergence of new non-profits investigative centers have fueled excitement. But there are still concerns over resources and funding. There are big questions about sustainability. Many still have small audiences and rely on Big Media for distribution. And details of collaborations are still being worked out.

Boardman is asking each panelist about their greatest collaborative successes and faliures.

Collaboration Panel

Mark Katches, Center for Investigative Reporting: They work through the non-profit California Watch, and the model there continues to evolve in terms of the size of partners and the types of relationships, from big media to hyperlocal sites. Currently, they have about 56 partners.

The first story about the anniversary Sept. 11 ran on 25 front pages and one TV station. CW is trying to work with a broad range of outlets. But CW is too new to talk about failures. The biggest challenge is working in competitive markets. Says in the Bay Area, the San Jose Mercury News has been concerned CW is doing more with the SF Chronicle.

One challenge is making changes. When CW wants to changes to a story, it requires tweaking dozens of versions. The Sept. 11 story ran on the CW site. But they created 15 custom versions. The version on the CW site ran at 105 inches. Many news organizations took a 50 inch version.

Susanne Reber, NPR: Years ago, working in Canada, she was working in radio and discovered some pictures of interest. She wanted to share with other outlets (since they didn't have a Web site at that point) so they could be published. But editors weren't sure about whether to do it, as there has been little experience with sharing with other outlets.

Radio has been growing its audience over the past decade, including NPR. It creates an opportunity for investigative reporting that has an impact. Radio offers an intimacy that heightens that impact. In one case, going up against Taser international, there's no way they would have been able to do it on their own given the potential litigation. Collaboration on that story gave them more resources and confidence to take them on.

Paul Steiger, ProPublica: Our goal is very focused. We want to shine a light on corruption. And then get that information to the right outlet to have an impact. We've found collaborations work with all kinds of media: newspapers, magazines, radio, websites.

Recently, Ira Glass of This American Life came to ProPublica came to them to help do the next stage of their financial meltdown reporting. So ProPublica assigned two reporters to work with TAL for six months, and in the process, developed a deep, long, 5,000 word text piece. Glass produced a 30 minute radio segment that included a wonderful metaphor involving "The Producers." (We'll get rich by producing a failure.) Glass produced a song for the segment that has gone viral and given the reporting even more attention.

More recently, ProPublica is putting up a map of people who are having trouble refinancing mortgages. They had done some stories. But put the map out there, and then invited local reporters to contact them to get in touch with these folks.

The failures so far have been shortlived. Some reporters they have not been able to get that they couldn't. There have been "heated words" exchanged in some collaborations. But no one they wouldn't work with again.

Linda Winslow, PBS News Hour: For the NewsHour, which has gone through a very big transition, we're trying to create one produce on the air and the Web. That meant we needed more reporting. So the idea of collaboration is improve the quality of the journalism. But need to find people who share the goals and vision.

The one that has been most successful has been recent, involving three entities that came together through previous relationships. Alan Davidson of Planet Money pitched a piece on Haiti to someone at NewsHour and FrontLine then got involved. So Davidson went down to Haiti with a videographer from FrontLine.

Ann Derry, The New York Times: Have done a lot of collaborations around television and video. One tip: Need to have incentives for collaborations. Times doesn't had much video experience, so was looking for a partner. And that continues today through the Web and documentaries. There's less need for a print partnership.

One thing we've learned: It's all about the people involves. It's about the personalities. We work with ProPublica, CNBC and others. But it still comes down to how those teams work together. Both sides need to get and give something. We haven't really had a bad experience.

You run into things where timing is a problem on different platforms. But there hasn't really been issues about the journalism.

Steiger: Notes that there was plenty of shouting with a single organizations doing big stories, like the Wall Street Journal. There's a chance there will be more of that when two or more organizations work together. And there can be arguments about where it will appear first. But if the story is good and has an impact, then everyone is happy in the end.

Reber: Had heard that "NPR doesn't play well with others" when it comes to collaboration. I've been a NPR for four months. But I've told my staff we will be working with other organizations. And if a journo doesn't like it, they shouldn't join our team.

If you're working on a team, either you are a team or you're not. You can't hold back notes one day, and then share the next.

Katches: Collobartion is a process, and it takes a long time. And when you add different layers from different organizations, you add more complexity.

Steiger: The Wall Street Journal didn't do a lot of collaboration when he was there because it didn't have to. The changed economic environment has changed lots of attitudes. The NY Times doesn't have to collaborate with us, but the do, because their perspective has changed. The WSJ is under new management, and they don't need me to tell them what to do. Not expecting them to propose collaborations any time soon.

Question from audience: Can you talk about process for developing story ideas?

Katches: We have people who have specialties that they mine for stories. The best stories bubble up from working in those areas and developing those ideas. Editors are at their best when they're helping to elevate those stories.

Question: Where does the impetus to collaborate come from?

Derry: We're always looking for things that we think might make a good video piece, something that our partner organizations would be interested in. And then we call them up.

Katches: When one of our reporters starts working on a piece, we might see that there's a geographical nexus, where the story will be a bigger deal to one area or another. And we'll call them up.

Steiger: Most of our ideas start with us and bubble up from within. But TAL partnership came from the outside.

Question: If story triggers a lawsuit, who is responsible?

Steiger: We have our partners' attorneys vet stories. Our GM is also a first amendment lawyer. In a recent libel suit, he worked with local paper, which had its own counsel.

Katches: We have a first amendment lawyer who works pro bono. But we have an idemnification agreement, where if there's something we did wrong, it's our responsibility. But if a partner makes a change that causes a problem, it's on them. That's created an awareness that if a partner does want to make a change, they need to run it by us.

Question about how the business model works?

Katches: We charge a fee, though a low one, for running our content. And that might change depending on how much work the partner does in the collaboration. But the content is intended to produce revenue for us. Ultimately would like to see the model move to subscription.

Steiger: We give it away.

Question: What impact does collaboration have on speed? And have you figured out a way to do this faster?

Steiger: Well, we produce thousands of stories. When you have a big project, and it has multiple moving parts, you sacrifice efficiency to get the right partner, to get more leverage. So it's worth taking more time to make it happen. One story we did got 60,000 page views on our site. It got over one million on our partner's site. The impact makes the extra work worth it.

The Consequences of Investigative Reporting

Moderator Brian Ross, ABC News: This panel is going to look at some of the legal issues involved in investigative reporting. I was sued by Wayne Newton once. It bankrupted him. Cost ABC millions. And we lost. But won on appeal. Taking on the powerful will always has risks.

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Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters: I have no journalistic training. In Nigeria, don't ask me why I go there. I'm officially barred. I can't go through the airport. In 2005, I was trying to avoid arrest while getting in, I was arrested by customs who thought I looked like a smuggler.

One source tried to sue me by claiming we didn't really have an interview, it was just a man-to-man discussion.

Ari Berman, The Nation/Medill Innocence Project: When I was a senior at Medill, I took a class focusing on wrongful prosecutions. I was assigned a case of a guy convicted of murdering a security guard. My professor has begun investigating this case, and I was part of the third group of students looking into this. We spent a lot of time talking to people in South Chicago. Six more teams after us would also work on this. Witnesses recanted. My group found an alternative suspect who said he was involved in the murder.

Then prosecutors went after Medill team, claiming they were at fault. And have been involved in long-term case that's still happening against state of Illinois.

Dana Priest, The Washington Post: The good thing about covering the CIA is that they don't want to take you to court. I had been on the Pentagon beat for several years. And had been building up information about secret prisons. One important lesson: Give sources heads up that a story is coming. Don't surprise them.

So when secret prison story was coming out, the big hoopla: I got death threats and terrible messages left on the phone from the public, and hate mail. No one was calling up and saying, "Great job!" except some human rights groups. Congress started calling for investigations of the Post (not the secret sites).

I had hoped it would blow over and the Bush administration would have to deal with me. But that didn't happen. Instead, they had surrogates drumming up anti-press sentiment. And they marched one CIA out the door for allegedly being my source. Message: There would be a cost for dealing with the media. That created a chill. Caused a quandry for me. So I decided to stop doing this reporting for awhile.

That led to working on the Walter Reed Hospital stories. But it was upsetting.

Diana Washington Valdez, El Paso Times: I don't think about the idea that I'm taking on a drug lord. I'm just pursuing a story and get the information out. There are subpoenas for me in Mexico. But biggest threat came from Pres. Bush who once threatened to sue me during an interview.

But anytime a truck with tinted windows slows down next to me, I get nervous and wonder who it is. And we've had reporters in El Paso kidnapped. And I have colleagues in Mexico who have not been so fortunate as me. And I've thought about getting a concealed weapons permit.

John Smith, Las Vegas Review Journal: (He's been forced into bankruptcy by one ongoing lawsuit): Las Vegas is a place that likes to bury its history. My challenge as a columnist for 20 years is to bring my institutional memory to the columns. There are a lot of people in this room who have tangled with rough customers. But I've found no one tougher to deal with than the legal gaming industry in Vegas. They go through background by the state, but the state won't share them.

I've gotten some of that information through sources. My first big lawsuit was from by profile of Steve Wynn. He said publicly he wanted to bankrupt the publisher and take my house. He filed the suit in Kentucky. It was a nuisance lawsuit, filed because I had embarassed him. We tangled. I was dismissed early on. My publisher litigated for nine years, and it did drive publisher into temporary bankruptcy.

I continued to write books and write for the story. Later, my daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I wrote about that, while also writing a book on the founding of Las Vegas. In this book, there was a chapter on Sheldon Allison. I was sued over that. Between legal and medical bills, I had to file for bankruptcy. Fortunately, a pro bono lawyer stepped up and mopped the floor with the other guys. They dropped the suit. The stress it put on my family is hard to describe. My daughter is alive, and uses a wheel chair to get around. But knowing the stress put on my family, out of simply meanness, is hard to talk about.

Then Allison offered me $300,000 to write a public apology that I could use for my daughter's medical treatment. But I couldn't say where it came from. I turned him down.

Question from Ross: After suffering this blowback, can you still report on these subjects and still be objective?

Priest: I think that in some ways that's what they're hoping will happen. But you do see how these people or institutions really work.

Sowore: I was sued in Texas, my first litigation in the U.S. I didn't even have a job. My lawyer called and said who sued you? My pro bono attorney asked for deposit of $50,000. But I got lucky. The judge hearing the case was sued for sexual harassment. So it was moved to another judge and was dropped.

But I couldn't figure out why I was sued in Texas about something I wrote about Nigeria. Then I learned the guy who sued me in Texas got a contract for business with the Nigerian government a few weeks after the suit was dropped.

Valdez: Objectivity, what good does it do given all the things I know about what's going on? You have to be professional. You have to be fair. But that's it. We must tell the story for those who can't but have been victimized. I don't feel that my objectivity has been affected. More so, I feel duty bound to do this. And I can't keep my sources from contacting me and giving me information.

As long as there is something I can help advance, I fell obligated to do it.

Berman: In my case, I think they're just trying to shut the Innocence Project down. They don't want to keep getting these stacks of files on their desks raising all these questions about people already convicted. When you are convinced of the innocence of someone who has been in jail for 31 years, it's heartbreaking. You think you'll be there the day they walk out of jail, and I still hope that. But to see the state respond with a supboena, it's eye opening.

Question: How do you explain to your family why you keep going in the face of this?

Smith: It's challenging. Especially when you've got a child who doesn't understand why your hours have doubled. But it's meant to beat you down and make you quit. When you go against people who take pleasure in your pain, it takes its toll. But I wouldn't change it.

Priest: If any of these things had happened (referring to the other panelists), it would have received a lot more attention if it had been at the Post. I'm in a privileged position.

Question from audience: Reporter says he's at the Philly papers said he's being sued and working at a paper in bankruptcy. Is the current economics of news organizations going to make it harder to get proper legal protection?

Smith: My paper is okay, but it's harder to find book publishers who want to take these risks.

Question from audience: What is the best thing that has happened as a result of what you've done?

Berman: Freeing people from jail. Also, with the subpoena, more people know about your story. More people know about this guy's plight. And more people know what the state's attorney is up to.

Smith: When you challenge the powerful, it makes the community more normal, more American. It's hard to be normal in Las Vegas. It makes society a better place, a place where they can speak their minds.

Question: Has controversy benefited your career?

Smith: I didn't even get a $10 raise. But it does open some doors.

Question: What about collateral damage to others from story?

Valdez: Everything has been an eye opener. And I always try to be more careful each time.

Priest: You do learn, as a national security reporter, you do learn that there is some things that don't go in the paper. CIA argues that disclosing countries involved in secret prisons would be terrible, and so we didn't include that.

Question: Have editors ever tried to stop, saying this was too dangerous or not worth the blowbacks?

Valdez: I was taken off the border beat once, and it upset me. But when a new editorial regime came in, I was put back on it.

Surprise Guest: Bill Marimow, editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Marimow said he was asked to speak about his experience working at a paper in bankruptcy. Paper was investigating charter schools for 18 months. Found out head was getting paid outrageous sums. Leaders pleaded guilty. One killed himself. Parent who wrote a letter said their child would not being thriving today if it had not been for the reporting to expose the problems.

The critical factor to publish stories like that in bankruptcy is having a publisher who understands that dynamic. I believe the people who purchased the Daily News and Inquirer did it for public service. I believe they truly cared about the state of journalism and democracy in the Philadelphia. Also, probably somewhat for status and ego.

The debt forced us into bankruptcy. But since then, I think we've done work every bit as good as when Gene Roberts was editor. Just last week, sister paper at Daily News won a Pulitzer for stories about cops planting evidence and abusing women. One of those reporters was laid off from the Inquirer. Publisher found a spot for her at the Daily News.

My strong belief is that if your news organization makes itself indispensable, with a publisher who believes in strong journalism in a multimedia world, you will flourish.

Who's Going To Foot The Bill?

Moderator Jack Shafer, Slate, is introducing the panel.

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Shafer: Cites a bunch of anti-non profit news quotes from Jonathan Weber, who is now editor of the Bay Citizen, the SF Bay Area non profit news organizations. Has Weber been brainwashed?

Lisa Frazier, The Bay Citizen: No. We're in an era where you have to try everything. I don't know that he changed his mind. I think months after he wrote that, things had changed.

Question: Possible business ideas: Create national fund for local news proposed by recent Columbia Journalism Review article. Pick ones most doable...

Len Downie, Arizona State University: Local foundations stepping up, and many already are. San Diego Community Foundations has been giving money Voices of San Diego. We know many others are starting to do this, or at least talk about this.

Also, public radio and TV should cover more local news. Most don't right now. Local news reporting only goes on in a few markets around the country. And Corporation for Public Broadcasting are funding experiments with local reporting around the country. CPB ought to be re-chartered by Congress, with requirements to fund local reporting, and given more money.

Also, universities are starting get student involved.

Our most controversial suggestion was the national funding for local reporting. Like CPB, funnel taxpayer money through "independent" organizations. That's the hardest one to do, but could have most impact.

Alan Mutter, Newsosaur: (Question: What do think of Downie's six proposals?) There's nothing wrong with anything that Downie is talking about. Some are more or less practical. But the non-profits, despite being good, are boutique operations. They're not going to replace all the feet on the street that are being lost by the commercial press. Today, it's seriously crippled. So we're looking at "point" solutions, and there's no doubt they will do some good. But they are not going to replace what's been lost.

And there's no business model that will replace what will be lost. The government does not fund most public broadcasting models. It comes from companies and foundations. And there's only so much they can or will do.

University students? We have a lot of great ones here at Berkeley. But they don't have the institutional memories of long-time beat reporters.

But all of these will help push back the forces of darkness, but they're not a replacement.

Downie: I'm not saying they will replace everything. We want to strengthen the new parts of the news ecosystem to compliment the traditional newsrooms, which will continue to exist, but be smaller.

Question from Shafer to Mutter: Tell us your ideas for the future of commercial journalism...

Mutter: It's going to be a matrix of revenues. Live events; some limited online subscriptions; help local businesses manage their Web presence; help local businesses do customer relationship management; sell hard physical products (DVDs, books). There won't be a single thing. So people need to be more creative. They need to search around the cushions for loose change. There are lots of ways to fund the news.

John Thornton, The Texas Tribune: What Alan's talking about, you've got to have "revenue promiscuity." You've got to go after everything you can, as often as you can. The problem in thinking that the capability to do all those revenue things, the cost of having the skills do those things probably outweighs the potential revenue. The venture model, looking at the highest return, isn't going to funnel money to news organizations.

We think journalism is better served through a non-profit structure.

Robert Rosenthal, Center for Investigative Reporting: Our staff has gone from 7 to 26 in the three years I've been here. And I'm funding a huge amount of interest from funders in this area. It's been amazing, though California Watch, to see our ability to get stories out grow.

All those years at the Philadelphia Inquirer and then the SF Chronicle, I never had a conversation about being an entrepreneur. Now, we're always thinking about that at CIR. I think it's a really exciting place.

Frazier: We're not talking about technology yet. It can make reporters more effective and efficient. We need to invest in that.

Question: What programs are in place at your organizations to do grassroots fundraising?

Thornton: This is what keeps me up at night. Before we launched, we managed to raise a lot of money. But when site went up, people stopped giving. Content is the enemy of fundraising. So how can you translate public radio pledge drives to the Web? We're going to do that this year. But you don't have drive time radio to hammer people.

Question from Shafer: The Len Downie I know has been bodysnatched. You advocate collaboration. But you didn't at the Post. What happened?

Downie: Well, we did do collaboration at the Post. Mostly we stick with our own resources. But in some cases, we pair reporters with other people to do things we can't on our own.

Shafer: Okay. I have $3 million in my pocket. I want Lisa and Robert to make a pitch as to why I should give it to me?

Frazier: Give it to both of us. We do different things. It's on us to explain better about what's being lost. We don't know what we need to know anymore. We need a new model to support that news gathering. It's important not only that we cover local community, but also do investigative reporting like CIR.

Rosenthal: Let me tell you about a story we want to do. I had a few calls from people looking into murders from the civil rights era. I went to Mississippi, and met with some folks to talk about this story. Met a guy who runs a small, weekly paper. He talked a guy who was firebombed years ago. Never solved, and he recently wrote about it. While people came in and gave him flak. But one guy thanked him, and told him about his three sisters who were killed. And killers are still walking among us.

Those are the kinds of stories we want do. We're getting funding lined up.

Shafer: Okay, I'm prepared to write a check.

Shafer: I'm an optimist. Let's remember the Washington Post was purchased in a bankruptcy auction. And I do think American reporters do want to read investigative reporting. Investigative reporting books are being published and bought. It's like we're serving people bad medicine. They want to read these things.

Question from audience: Is the Post model (owning Kaplan testing which subsidizes the company) one that others could try?

Downie: News side still lost millions. You'd need an owner willing to let that happen. And the owner couldn't be out buying lots of organizations, getting in debt.

Question from audience: Lots of media will go on sale in the next decade? Who will buy them? What if Saudi Arabia buys them up?

Mutter: It's entirely possible newspapers will get bought by rich people for ego reasons, or to be used to attack their enemies. But most newspapers still have good profit margins. They have higher cash flow margins than Wal-Mart. There has been a big drop of revenue. But profits down in the teens. The problem is that too many companies borrowed too much money. The biggest problem is having too much debt.

Many are shedding that debt through bankruptcy, mostly the private ones. The public ones have not, and are struggling to pay debts.

Thornton: I disagree that the leverage was the problem. "It was just the last drink at the bar." The problem is the revenue divided by the assets deployed. When profits were 30 percent, they could attract investment. The size of the assets deployed is not worth the revenue possibilities.

Mutter: Long term, newspapers can't afford their print versions. Most will probably will be out of print in 10 years. Still have advantages, like brand, and feet on street, that if gathered up and used wisely, still give them an advantage.

Question from audience: Is the Bay Citizen really out to replace the SF Chronicle?

Frazier: The Bay Area has lost about half its journalists in the past decade. We want to bring back beats in the core civic areas. The amount of content being reduced is way down. We can't fill that void. Our role is to bring others together, and create collaboration. So the Bay Area has the ability to get the information it needs to make decisions about their communities.

Question from Shafer: Are non-profits hurting the journalism organizations that still exist?

Thornton: I think state level coverage has only gone up since we started. I think the newspaper biz is competitive. So when you put good product out there, you raise everyone's game.

More Reading

Check out previous coverage of the Logan Symposium on MediaShift from 2008 and 2009.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the Philadelphia Inquirer as the Philadelphia Enquirer.

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What Do You Think of Ads on Your Mobile Phone?

There are two converging trends: 1) people are tired of seeing advertising everywhere, and 2) cell phones are becoming an entry place to the mobile web, meaning more ads are coming. Yet, even as our smartphones give us more features, we'd prefer to have no ads and not have to pay for apps. At some point, we might have to make the trade-off of seeing more ads on our mobile phones in exchange for free features and add-ons. And now that Apple announced its new iAds initiative to serve ads into apps on iPhones and iPads, we know the bombardment of ads is coming. So what do you think? Are mobile ads a necessary evil or something we can live without or something that's welcome when relevant? Answer the poll below or give us a more detailed answer in comments.


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How Film Festivals Use Twitter to Boost Attendance, Engagement

Action. Animated. Documentary. Experimental. These are four of the categories that film festivals program in their schedules. But they're also apt descriptions of the Twitter narrative that film festival organizers are weaving into their filmgoer engagement and marketing initiatives.

Leslie Feibleman, director of special programs and senior programmer for the Newport Beach Film Festival, said Twitter is similar to the film industry in that it's "dynamic, continuously emerging, and is infused with new talent, technology and ideas -- a place to discover and be discovered."

I connected with organizers, programmers and social media strategists working for the Newport Beach Film Festival (April 22-29), Phoenix Film Festival (April 8-15) and Wisconsin Film Festival (April 14-18) to gather insight into how they engage filmgoers and drive them from Twitter to theater.

Action: Inspire Interest and Attendance

"We find that followers respond well to giveaways, promotions and visuals," according to Feibleman.

Robert Aldecoa, marketing director of the Phoenix Film Festival, has used Twitter in a variety of ways to reach and expand the festival's audience.

"The largest efforts were initially geared toward announcing film screenings and directing users to the appropriate ticket page," Aldecoa said. "We tried to include a useful hyperlink in as many tweets as possible in an attempt to engage our followers beyond 140 characters. You really do have to provide consistent, useful information. It also helps to give your followers a reason to participate in your efforts -- whether it's to win some movie passes or see their name and user pic on a big-screen in the party tent. If people have a great time and talk about it, their friends wonder what they're missing and we'll see even more of their happy faces next year."

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But does all the content-sharing, contests and click-through opportunities result in a higher level of attendance? According to Gregg Schwenk, CEO and executive director of the Newport Beach Film Festival, the answer is yes. "The Festival has seen a 10 to 15 percent increase in pre-festival ticket sales between 2009 and 2010 due to social media, including Twitter," he said.

Animated: Have Fun and Show Personality

Most festivals screen more than 100 films over the course of a week, so they have a lot of content to talk about and share on Twitter. Equally important to some organizers is the ability to share a smile and showcase the festival's true essence.

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"Bring your sense of humor. Make it personal, not corporate. Respond," said Meg Hamel, director of the Wisconsin Film Festival. "Don't make it seem like you're only doing this only to sell tickets. Don't make it seem like you're doing this because somewhere you read that social media was the next big thing. And here in Wisconsin, people really do care what you have for breakfast, as long as it involves bacon."

Documentary: Tell the Real Story

People want to hear the true story. Hamel strives to integrate an authentic, insider approach for her followers, giving "the people reading those messages a realistic and unfiltered view of what it's like behind the scenes."

She continued:

It's helped those people interested in the Festival understand that this is an event assembled by real people who are passionate about what they do, work crazy hours to make it work, encounter unexpected obstacles and invent ways to move around them, and care deeply and authentically about the audience experience. The Wisconsin Film Festival is not an event organized to capture the attention of film industry people far away, it's homegrown specifically for the people of our state and for our friends and neighbors who want to enjoy an April weekend watching cracking-good motion pictures.

Experimental: Create and Pursue Opportunities that Add Value

For film festival organizers to transcend the expected and reach avant-garde status in social media, they understand the need to experiment with what they offer.

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Kelly Strodl, a social media consultant for the Newport Beach Film Festival, provided an overview of how they plan to do this.

"We plan to utilize a number of tactics -- hyper-syndication, mainly -- on our several blogs, our Facebook fan pages, and other posts. [These include] geo-location tagging, promos, retweets of filmmaker posts, video posting to 12seconds.tv, which posts quick clips to Twitter, and posts from YouTube," she said. "We're also going to try and connect filmmakers already on Twitter in possibly a tweet-up or simply an impromptu sit-down discussion of how social media, namely Twitter and Facebook, have influenced their ways of filmmaking and promotion."

The Phoenix Film Festival recently showcased the filmgoer conversation in visually compelling ways that brought the conversation to life.

"We're doing something pretty cool right now," said Aldecoa. "There are two big screens in the festival tent and an LCD in the VIP area that display a social media feed along with our sponsor ads. Each time a user mentions @PhoenixFilmFest on Twitter or checks-in via Foursquare, it shows up for everyone in the tent to see. It's pretty neat for festival attendees to [be able to] provide instant feedback on the films they see, and the fun they have at the parties."

There's one additional film category that matches Twitter's communication style: Short. While film festival organizers and programmers are limited in characters on Twitter, they've used the service to reach reach moviegoers who may be new festival followers and attendees. For the Newport Beach Film Festival, Phoenix Film Festival, Wisconsin Film Festival and dozens more, Twitter has emerged as a valued "reel-time" communications and promotions platform.

Twitter is now playing at a festival near you. Do you have a favorite film festival on Twitter? Share it in the comments, and follow some of the festivals listed below.

21 Film Festivals to Follow:

Atlanta Film Festival
Boston Film Festival

Chicago International Film Festival

Dallas International Film Festival

Florida Film Festival

Hawaii International Film Festival

London Film Festival (British Film Institute)

Los Angeles Film Festival

New Zealand Film Festival

Newport Beach Film Festival

Philadelphia Film Festival

Phoenix Film Festival

San Francisco International Film Festival

Sonoma Film Festival

Sundance Film Festival

Sydney Film Festival

Toronto International Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

Vail Film Festival

Vancouver International Film Festival

Wisconsin Film Festival

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital and social media engagement. He dreamstreams and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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Will ‘Telecentros’ Transform Cuba’s Internet Access?

It wasn't your typical keynote address.

Earlier this month, at an event held on the campus of Cornell University, a room of people gazed at a blank screen in rapt attention, listening to a woman speak over a weak cell phone connection originating in Cuba.

The speaker was Cuba's 32-year-old star blogger, Yoani Sanchez. The event was the seventh annual meeting of Roots of Hope, an organization founded by Cuban-American students that aims to promote cultural exchanges with the island. Its April meeting was specifically focused on new media. (I was invited as a panelist.) Attendees had been told that the keynote speaker would be a surprise. After a nail-biting series of dropped calls, the attendees were thrilled to hear Sanchez finally come on the line.

yoani.jpgSanchez told her U.S. audience how she had assembled her personal computer by foraging for discarded components, and devised an online publishing strategy that relied on scarce computers, cell phones, and flash drives. Last year, her blog posts and tweets earned her a spot on Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Sanchez epitomizes the Cuban online community's ingenious response to the dual restrictions of government censorship and the U.S. trade embargo. Some call it the "hacker mindset." In the same fashion that Cubans manage to keep the chassis of 50 year-old old Chevys on the road, a small but growing Cuban tech community has learned how to go online against the odds.

Thanks to cooperation from other countries in Latin America, a new attitude in Washington, and the work of NGOs, Cuba may be poised to make big online strides.

The Cuban Paradox

When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba 51 years ago, he launched a revolution that has been fueling controversy ever since. Supporters lauded Cuban advances in health care and education, while detractors condemned the government's heavy-handed measures against everything from private enterprise to gay rights.

The Cuban paradox extends to the media. Although Cuba has achieved one of the highest literacy rates in the hemisphere, it also has earned the most dismal record on freedom of expression. The government controls all news media, and takes harsh measures against any domestic or foreign journalist who steps out of line.

It's not surprising that digital media have been slow to get off the ground in Cuba. They have been woefully hampered by Cuban government censorship, but another major factor has been the decades-old U.S. embargo, which has starved the island of the technologies necessary for modernization.

Something of a double standard has been at work: At the same time Communist countries such as China have been transformed by economic investment and educational exchanges with the U.S., Cuba has been left as an isolated backwater. Only 3 percent of Cuba's 11 million citizens have cell phones, giving it the lowest cell phone penetration in Latin America. It also has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates. The government's restrictions on cell phone ownership and Internet access have further limited communications, often making them a privilege for the party faithful.

Fiber Optic Cable in Cuba

Today a new wave of online media is promising to challenge the Cuban status quo -- and surprisingly, some of the changes are the result of government initiatives. The first one is a fiber optic cable currently being laid between Cuba and Venezuela. It's expected to be completed within a year.

Another new development is arriving by way of Brazil's "Telecentro" program. Telecentros are public computer labs that use open source software and provide free Internet access. They are designed for poor and under-served communities and have been a wild success in Brazil. Ten thousand of them are scheduled to be in service in that country by the end of the year. Brazil is now exporting the model to Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba, aiming for a total of 52,000. The Cuban Telecentros are mainly designed to support primary education, but they are available after hours to other community members.

nxs-logo2.jpgOpen source software is playing a key role in the Telecentros. Ryan Bagueros, the owner and founder of NorthxSouth, a software development company that describes itself as a "network of open source developers from all over the Americas," said Brazil and other Latin American governments are unenthusiastic about the high cost and security leaks of U.S.-made proprietary software. (Bagueros joined me on a panel at the annual meeting of Roots of Hope.) He noted that these Latin American countries are investing heavily in developing open source alternatives, and expanded via email about the value of open source software:

Marcos Mazoni (the head of Brazil's federal committee to migrate to open source), conducted a survey last year and, from the free software migration that has already been completed, Brazil is saving $209 million USD each year. When the migration is complete, Brazil should be saving around $500 million USD each year. Brazil, as a whole, spends about $1 billion USD on software licensing each year.

The emphasis on open source is helping to stimulate a Latin tech boom, with the Brazilian tech industry poised to reap substantial advantages. It's too early to predict the impact, but the initial signs are intriguing. Not only have the Latin governments saved millions of dollars on software, but the open-source Telecentros are creating new generations of pre-teen software developers in the favelas.

During our session, Bagueros predicted that this phenomenon could be particularly interesting in Cuba. He reported that embargo restrictions have created a generation of "engineers who are good at 'reverse engineering' software for donated medical equipment" and other devices. The combination of hacker ingenuity, loosened government control, and dramatically increased bandwidth and access could lead to big things, fast, in Cuba.

New Winds from the North

In the past, tensions between Cuba and the United States have complicated every development in communications. The Bush Administration has been criticized for politicizing media development by supporting groups seeking to overthrow the government. One private contractor, dispatched to secretly hand out cell phones and laptops in Cuba, was arrested for espionage last December

The Obama administration is experimenting with a different approach. In March, the Treasury Department modified trade sanctions to allow the export of social media and related technologies to Cuba, Iran, and the Sudan. In combination with the upcoming technological advances, this move could energize online Cuban freedom of expression, and provide the first real alternative to Cuba's geriatric official news media. (Though it's important to note that the administration recenlty took something of a harder line with Cuba.)
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At the same time, new initiatives are appearing in the Cuban-American community. One of the initiatives supported by Roots of Hope is an ongoing cell phone drive called Cells4Cuba.

"[Politically,] I'm to the right myself," said Miguel Cruz, a Cells4Cuba activist from the University of Texas. "But these cell phones are for any youth in Cuba, no matter what their politics."

Roots of Hope has enlisted the support of Cuban-Americans ranging from Gloria Estefan to Perez Hilton, and its membership represents a variety of political perspectives. Its stated goal is to open a dialogue between youth in Cuba and the U.S., and the organization sees social media as a perfect conduit.

Social media won't change the contentious nature of the Cuba debate, and the new developments raise as many questions as they answer. Will the Cubans and Venezuela's mercurial Hugo Chavez attempt to control the data stream on their fiber optic cable? Will Cuban officials try to emulate China's army of Internet censors to control content, trace dissidents, or conduct online espionage? Will Latin American tech initiatives find new ways to harness digital media for social goals? What role will Latin America's open source initiatives play in shifting political alignments?

However these issues play out, it's clear that so far, Cubans have energetically taken advantage of every new online opportunity that's come along -- and that's not likely to change.

Image of Yoani Snachez by blogpocket via Flickr

Anne Nelson teaches new media and development communications at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She consults for a number of foundations on media issues, and serves as senior consultant for the Salzburg Global Seminar initiative, Strengthening Independent Media. She was a 2005 Guggenheim fellow for her recent book, "Red Orchestra: the Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of
Friends Who Resisted Hitler."

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How #Spill Effect Brought Color, Collaboration to Media Tweets

Twitter distinguished itself as an important new platform for breaking political news in Australia during the Great #Spill of 2009. This is the second installment in a MediaShift series on the "#spill effect." (You can read the first part here.) It draws on a case study of the event and includes online interviews with eight tweeting journalists who are prominent members of the Canberra Press Gallery.

"#Spill" was the hashtag used to amalgamate Twitter coverage of the scalping of federal conservative leader Malcolm Turnbull, and the elevation of Tony Abbott to the leadership of Australia's opposition party, the Liberal-National Coalition. But behind the frenzied tweeting of the spectacular unraveling of the Turnbull leadership was another story -- a story about the coverage itself, which demonstrated the transformative effect this micro-blogging platform is having on Australian political journalism. It's a story that made news again last week when Malcolm Turnbull announced his resignation from politics, via Twitter, of course.

How Twitter Impacts Australian Reporting

I've concluded that Twitter is having a transformative effect on Australian political reporting -- but not all Press Gallery journalists agree. While acknowledging the emergence of journalistic audience engagement via Twitter, Samantha Maiden, the chief online political correspondent for Rupert Murdoch's The Australian, described it as just another reporting platform. She downplayed the impact of the #spill story on political reporting.

"Ultimately, Twitter is just a means...of delivering the news. In that sense it is silly to suggest [the #spill] reinvented the wheel in some way," she said.


Nevertheless, Latika Bourke, a Press Gallery correspondent for national commercial radio, who watched her Twitter followers double during the week-long story (to more than 2,000), said Twitter's role in the coverage proved it's here to stay as a journalistic tool.

"For many of us, Twitter was the aside, or extra-curricular part of our job; but now there will be the expectation that when the big stories are on, we'll be there, tweeting as a priority," Bourke said.

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Sky TV's David Speers -- who demonstrated the central role of Twitter in the coverage of the story by tweeting live to air in the middle of an interview and using his smartphone to read the tweet of a competitor mid-commentary -- said Twitter adds to the value of coverage and the reporting experience, rather than detracting from them.

"Obviously speeches, debates and essays will always be important," he said. "And they will always be there. Twitter isn't taking anything away from traditional political discourse. It's adding something new. And it's fun."

The Need for Speed & Color

Speed was the most commonly described effect of Twitter on the political reporting process. It even out-paced frenetic radio news reporters. "I thought working in radio [that] I knew what 'instant' meant, but that's been completely redefined now that I've covered the spill via Twitter," Bourke observed.

The Age's political correspondent, Mischa Schubert, agreed that Twitter-speed was a factor in the #spill coverage.

"It accelerated the pace of coverage, that's for sure," she said. "Where once a lot of details would have been hoarded for the next day's newspapers, color that wouldn't hold was broadcast instantly in tweets and on [media organizations'] websites."

The benefits of value-adding tweets with "color" was also highlighted by others. "If you took a straw poll on which journalists were the most popular -- and this was debated by Twitter users -- journalists breaking news with a mix of color and telling observation were always in the top three," Maiden said. "Users aren't that interested in someone who just tweets a couple of lines from a doorstop or the Senate debates."

But some political news reporters are "coloring" outside the lines on Twitter. Australian Associated Press's (AAP) Sandra O'Malley said opinion and commentary are seeping into news reporters' tweets.

sandra.jpg"There was...much more opining on the political players than during 'normal,' straight reporting," O'Malley said of the #spill coverage. She highlighted the impact of the clash of the personal and the professional in the space, and the challenge it poses to traditional journalistic values like objectivity, as I've previously reported.

However, Lyndal Curtis, the chief political correspondent of ABC Radio's current affairs programs, said the act of tweeting political news hasn't altered her reporting habits, such as an unbending commitment to fact-checking; but she's pleased to have "another audience to speak to," and she acknowledges the humanizing effect of tweeting.

"It allows me some more latitude to be a person, and an outlet for some humor," she said. The amusement value of Twitter -- and Press Gallery journalists' tendency to merge satire and reportage in the interests of entertaining one another and their new, individual audiences -- was mentioned by several of the interviewees.

The need for even greater multi-tasking by journalists in the age of the real-time web was also noted.

"One observation that amazed me was watching a few people -- @sarahwiley8 @latikambourke @bennpackham -- standing at doorstops with their digital recorder in one hand and single-handedly tweeting with the other!" O'Malley said.

A number of the journalists commented on the fact that Twitter, with its live reporting capacity and its aggregated news feeds, has enabled them to be less tethered to their desks. They can roam to gather information face-to-face and more accurately assess atmospherics, all while staying informed.

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This, in turn, encouraged the journalists to practice what I've observed elsewhere is the tendency to lay bare reporting the process on Twitter by discussing journalistic strategies, dilemmas and difficulties. In the case of the #spill, this was demonstrated by the journalists complaining about efforts to keep them away from the Coalition Party Room, where Malcolm Turnbull's fate was ultimately sealed.

Twitter Collegiality

One of the strongest themes to emerge from my survey of the eight tweeting Press Gallery reporters who covered #spill was a deepening of relationships between journalists from different media organizations. They spoke of the increased camaraderie and collegiality fostered through the sharing of skills and information.

"We all shared information, respected each other's scoops by re-tweeting them, and [as a result] the relationships and trust between journalists deepened," Bourke said.

crabb.jpgSenior Press Gallery journalist Annabel Crabb agreed, noting that, "It brings competitors closer together, in that we read each other's updates. I certainly was glued to @samanthamaiden, @latikambourke and @David_Speers as well as talking to my own colleagues."

Instead of having to finagle details of their competitors' reporting progress and framing of the story, they just watched their tweet streams. This was particularly beneficial to junior Press Gallery reporters like Bourke, who said she was able to break news of the leadership ballots' likely outcome as a direct result of following the very connected Speers' Twitter feed.

"It was like suddenly having all the pieces to a puzzle that I only needed to put together, instead of having just a few, and trying to paint in the blanks," she said.

Speers was unconcerned by this development.

"Journalists usually save any information they have for the stories they're writing," he said. "But on Twitter, political journalists share what they know. I think this is mostly driven by the competitive urge of journalists to be the first to break news, even if it's only a minor development."

Collaborative Storytelling

This collaborative storytelling between journalists from competing outlets is one of the most significant changes in political reporting that has come as a result of Twitter. As Crabb said:

The fracturing media market means that we now assume our readers are shopping around. I think the healthy aspect of this -- and it's a great outcome for consumers -- is that journalists are dropping the traditional and childish approach of pretending that their competitors do not exist -- ignoring a rival's scoop, and so on. I will happily retweet a competitor's update if I think my readers will find it interesting. I think this is an emerging and refreshing trend.

But, as much as Twitter is breaking down old modes of competitiveness in political reporting, it's also fostering a new, sharper edged form of competition for news-breaking.

"Already, newspapers are racing to bring online updates to their websites ahead of their competitors, but Twitter brings a second-by-second competitiveness that is even more challenging," Crabb said.

And this resulted in media outlets like the ABC running an aggregated tweet-stream (via Twitter lists) of Press Gallery journalists' Twitter feeds, including those from rival outlets, on the ABC website. This caused concern within some sections of the ABC News and Current Affairs department, because journalists from competing networks are not bound by the same editorial policies and standards as ABC reporters. There was a feeling that this aggregation threatened the independence and credibility of ABC News' website content. Legal risks associated with carrying competitors' unchecked and unfiltered tweets were also raised.

Consequences of Kicking Down Walls

There's a potentially significant downside to what Crikey's Bernard Keane identified as Twitter's "flattening effect" for commercial media. He fears it will further undermine traditional media business models.

"What's the point of a newspaper site, or even Sky News, if you can get a direct feed virtually from inside the party room?" he said. "It's true that quality political coverage remains one of the few competitive advantages old media has over new media."

In other words, political reporting may be one of the niche beats that is able to justify pay wall protection -- but the unrestrained sharing of information across media stable walls by competing journalists via Twitter may make that unsustainable.

This was also an issue raised by Lyndal Curtis, ABC Radio's chief political correspondent. "I think it's my responsibility to write and file first for the organization that pays me ... and that audience," she said. "So I didn't put anything up of an exclusive scoop nature on Twitter that I hadn't already filed."

But Speers disagrees.

"It's not like journalists are simply giving away their work," he said. "Their tweets often point to a story they've just posted on a website or broadcast on radio or TV. So it can still direct traffic to the outlet paying their salary."

It's also true that, in the social media age where the real-time web reigns supreme and mashing up information from myriad sources seems like an irreversible trend, news organizations will have to come to terms with this sort of content aggregation and amalgamation in a way which best serves their audiences and their bottom lines.

Backlash from the AAP

In fact, in the aftermath of the publication of first installment of this series on MediaShift, Sandra O'Malley's employer, AAP, issued an edict requiring Press Gallery reporters to get permission prior to tweeting about their work -- even from their personal Twitter accounts. The fear was the wire service's journalistic brand and competitive edge would be eroded by reporters' real-time tweeting and cross-stable collaboration.

The AAP crackdown foreshadows the likely development of anachronistic Reuters-style guidelines for tweeting reporters. Censoring journalists' tweets when they've been at it for many months smacks of trying to re-stable a horse that's bolted, and also raises questions about the rights of journalists to free speech. (The subject of a future post.)

However, while some Press Gallery journalists' coverage of the Twitter effect on political reporting highlights residual pockets of change-resistance, proof of its impact came this week in the form of one of the country's most celebrated political reporters, the 9 Network's Laurie Oakes. He became an active tweeter and filed an insightful mainstream TV news report on the "Twitterization" of Australian politics.

In the third and final installment of this MediaShift series, I'll examine the role of citizen tweeters, participatory democracy and audience engagement in coverage of the #spill, along with the political reporters' management of the issues of accuracy and verification, which are so often seen as downsides of Twitter journalism.

More Reading

The #Spill Effect - Twitter Hashtag Upends Australian Political Journalism

Julie Posetti is an award winning journalist and journalism academic who lectures in radio and television reporting at the University of Canberra, Australia. She's been a national political correspondent, a regional news editor, a TV documentary reporter and presenter on radio and television with the Australian national broadcaster, the ABC. Her academic research centers on talk radio, public broadcasting, political reporting and broadcast coverage of Muslims post-9/11. She blogs at J-Scribe and you can follow her on Twitter.

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4-Minute Roundup: Apple’s iAds; Journo-Programming Degree

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition, I look at Apple's plan to enter mobile advertising with its new iAd platform. Apple has been known for hardware and software but has never handled ad sales before, and now finds itself squarely in competition with Google and AdMob in that arena. Plus, Columbia University announced a new dual journalism-programming degree. And I ask Just One Question to AdAge reporter Kunur Patel about her take on the new Apple iAd platform.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio4910.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Kunur Patel:

patel full.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Apple Launches 'iAd,' Mobile Ad Platform for iPhone and iPad at ClickZ

Steve Jobs Promises Developers That Apple's iAds Won't 'Suck' and Will Make Them Money at MediaMemo

Apple's iAd Not Game-Changing, but Will Move Market at AdAge

Apple Unveils New Ad Software for iPhone at Wall Street Journal

Apple Announces Mobile Ad Plans Thursday, and Google Can't Wait to Tell the FTC at MediaMemo

Apple unveils iPhone OS 4.0 at CNET

Apple Unveils Ad Platform and Phone Software at NY Times Bits

Will Columbia-Trained, Code-Savvy Journalists Bridge the Media/Tech Divide? at Wired Epicenter

Columbia's J-School Gears Up A New Generation Of Digital Media Geeks at Business Insider

Columbia Rolls Out Joint Journalism - CompSci Grad Program at FishbowlNY

New dual-degree master's in journalism & computer science announced at Columbia University

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you think about ads on your mobile phone:


Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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