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UW Masters of Communication in Digital Media Screen Summit

[Cross posted from Seattle Journalism Commons]

I’m assuming people around here know the #MCDM acronym by now. The Masters of Communication in Digital Media program, which spawned 10 years ago at the University of Washington, has just announced its largest graduating class (55 people), surpassing that of all other Comm department graduate students proudly deploying their cap and gown this weekend.

Director Hanson Hosein spoke of the program as more than just a model to address the challenges of the digital disruption, but a model for academia itself. The MCDM was the first non-state funded program at UW and is one of the few currently standing. After hosting the succesful TedxSeattle and TedxRainer events, they ramped up their public interface and introduced the Four Peaks salon speaker series (featured in more detail from Seattle Magazine). Their Flip the Media blog is well received across the web, and their Media Space television program is the most popular on UWTV, reaching 300,000 viewers per month. Hosein is testing a self-publishing model for his write-as-you-go book “Storyteller Uprising” which is available for free online, though I decided to buy myself a $10 hard copy which he slings around with him from place to place. MCDM founder Anthony Giffard has a lifelong track record of being a positive agitator, first as a white South African born journalist covering the dismantlement of apartheid, then as a faculty member of a “whites only” university who ignored resistance from his colleagues when he used an administrative loophole to hand a degree to the first student of color at Rhodes University.

Mr. Giffard shared his heartfelt story at the podium and delivered two “make the chanage” awards for innovation in digital media.

The first was received by Adam Brotman of Starbucks, who won the award for its in-store Starbucks Digital Network, a content delivery service launched last year in partnership with Yahoo. Brotman is also a member of the MCDM Advisory Board with other local industry leaders.

The second award went to Dan Savage, for his “It get’s better” project which became a textbook example of an “around the world in 80 clicks” type viral campaign done right. The famed Stranger editor and columnist was moved to take action after learning about the teen suicides of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas, and inspired 20,000+ others to make personal testimony videos like his to remind bullied homosexual youth to stick it out because it gets better later on. He even managed to get a bunch of well known folks like Jewel, Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Sarah Silverman, Perez Hilton, and Tim Gunn to share their own stories. (Read Geekwire’s post to learn about how his campaign turned into an ad for Google Chrome).

Besides the usual speech and applause routine, we also got to see a full showcase of student projects presented in a walkaround convention style setting. The space was actually a bit too jammed for me to interact face to face with everyone, but I caught some cool portfolios (i.e. Filiz Efe), an online news game for public radio, a “cinema in a backpack” entrepreneurship program launched by Disney in Nicaragua, and a mobile video chat system to help Korean students learn English (also won $25k for placing first at the UW business plan competition).

Keep your eyes out as MCDM continues to grow and put Seattle based digital media on notice for the rest of the world.


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Facebook Facelift – What they don’t tell you might creep you out

There was a noticeable spike in my news feed this week on Facebook’s quiet implementation of facial recognition technology to keep track of where you show up in photos across the social network. I read three separate articles with instructions on how to opt-out, but both Lifehacker and Inside Facebook fell short of explaining the fact that changing your privacy settings ONLY turns off the tagging suggestions to your friends. It WON’T get rid of your biometric database that Facebook keeps inside its secret vault. To do that, you have to actually write to Facebook and request that they purge it (hat tip to PC World for explaining). From what I heard, they seem to respond quite quickly to these requests, but there is no proof of confirmation other than their kindly word. Luckily paranoia can lead to creativity, and someone out there suggested another way to avoid a robotic facial scan, explained by our friend Mr. T below.

Also interesting, many people don’t care. That’s fine, but usually the ones who don’t aren’t the people who risk their lives for social change, so here’s a short primer on why it matters.

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Knight-Mozilla Highlight: ATTN-SPAN

Now that the 2011 submissions for the Knight-Mozilla News Innovation challenge are officially closed until next season, the team is going to be highlighting some of the more intriguing ideas that made our eyebrows dance.

Note that this is just an exercise to generate discussion, and all opinions are my own and have no effect on the results of the challenge. It’ll be up to our stellar review panel to decide who advances to the Learning Lab and gets a shot at the full salary fellowship.

Please allow me to raise my first glass to Dan Schultz, who’s proposing to give C-SPAN a civic facelift and harvest the juice out of what appears to be boring (yet influential) humans talking too close into a microphone. C-SPAN is a non-profit organization funded by affiliate fees that the cable and satellite networks have to pony up, and it’s a shame that the content isn’t being delivered in a more relevant and engaging way. Not yet at least.

Dan would like to see personalized syndication channels that only show you the stuff that matters to you, as well as the ability to highlight, flag, and discuss certain clips that are important, and see how they compare with the selections of others.

This idea has a lot of great elements folded into it that all work together to make his entry shine. Dan wants to take an existing public service and make it better, so rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, he’s grabbing a few and building a hot rod on top of them. He’s looking to incorporate other baseline technologies into the works, particularly MetaVid, which uses open video technology to match government transcriptions to C-SPAN footage of the people speaking them. Lastly, his submission lays a foundation for amazing possibilities down the road, such as adding in government data (like stuff from the Sunlight APIs) and citizen shot footage (The Uptake anyone!?) that could potentially make this project breathe sweet knowledge for generations to come.

Also, quick random note, I remember seeing some interesting C-SPAN clips getting passed around the net a while back from the eccentric fellow at, so I decided to pay him a visit and discovered that the 6,400 C-SPAN clips he had uploaded to YouTube were taken down by Google, presumably due to copyright complaints (?). So as we currently stand, if you want to share public footage of our own government’s deliberations, your best option is to buy a cable subscription and babysit a DVR all day, transcode, tag, and upload the footage to a youtube account that ends up being terminated into thin air for history to forget.

This is why Mozilla’s commitment to a free and open web will remain critical for a long time to come.

What do you think? Leave your comments here, or go to Dan’s submission page to vote and give him some feedback!

Depressed that you missed the deadline for this year’s innovation challenge? Do not fret, you have a chance to redeem yourself, we’re doing it all again in 2012!

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Hacks/Hackers Seattle & Knight-Mozilla News Innovation Jam

Mozilla is best known for Firefox, the open source darling loved by millions which showed us that a browser is more than just a way to load websites, it’s a way to customize your experience of the web itself. Under new direction from Mark Surman, Mozilla is growing new legs to go beyond Firefox. They recently launched #Drumbeat as an effort to do more than just build portals, they are now seeking to change the flesh and bones of the internet itself to make it more open, accessible, and free (see project examples from

It was recently announced that Mozilla received a hefty sum of money from the Knight Foundation to bring journalism along for the ride.

The three year Knight-Mozilla News Challenge dubbed #MoJo (for Mozilla + Journalism) is now in full throttle with five news partners on board (BBC, Al-Jazeera, Boston Globe, Zeit Online, and The Guardian) who will host five fellows with full salary to innovate from inside the newsroom. 10 more fellows will come along the way in the next coming years, but until then, the heat is on and challenge submissions are underway.

Mozilla asked me to link up with the Seattle chapter of Hacks/Hackers, an organization that shares a similar MoJo hybrid theory of bringing together journalists (hacks) + technologists (hackers) with the goal of changing news for the better. One week later we threw together a sold out Brainstorm 2011 that brought in journalists and technologists throughout the city who came to mash up ideas and enter the challenge. Read More »

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The future of #Journalism will be run by cats?

(cross posted form the Seattle Journalism Commons)

Part two of the #NewsNext series brought to us by the Online News Association/Society of Professional Journalists collaboration featured a lively discussion with Cory Bergman (,, Next Door Media) and Ben Huh (Cheezburger Networks).

As the owner of the largest humor network in the world, you’ve probably stumbled upon one of his many sites FAIL Blog, Babies Making Faces, There I Fixed It, Engrish Funny The Daily, Totally Looks Like either on purpose or by accident through a social network.

Many people in the online news circuit cover Huh for his ability to turn internet memes into a profitable enterprise (his company employs 50 staff and they’re looking for more) and has been consistently topping the Seattle 2.0 startup index for the last year.

Instead of his typical appearance to discuss the secrets behind making something go viral (he says consistency is much more important), this particular room full of people wanted to hear his ideas on keeping journalism strong. Coming out of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern in 1999, he never became a reporter, but has been thinking of ways to fix what he sees as a lingering problem in online news.

“The story structure hasn’t changed for hundreds of years…how many times have you read a story and think by the third paragraph didn’t I already read this before?”

Huh believes that we have lost touch with the golden days of journalism where everything was partisan and there were multiple diverse points of views fighting for what they think is right.

But isn’t that what we have now? Read More »

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Beyond Google: Exploring the Visible and Invisible Web

Where do investigative journalists go to dig up their dirt?

How do you rake through all the muck?

Alex Johnson, investigative reporter for, and Cheryl Phillips, Data Enterprise Editor at the Seattle Times gave us a guided tour through the vast jungle of data, telling us which plants are edible and which snakes may be poisonous (i.e. the FBI Uniform Crime Database only gives you the law enforcement side of the story).

This was the last installment of the Spring Continuing Ed series presented by the Society of Professional of Journalists – Western Washington, and it was definitely a diamond in the rough.

Alex and Cheryl are true professionals, and were very open about sharing the secrets they worked so hard to develop over the years.

In fact, Alex very kindly published his entire slideshow, it’s chock full of links that’ll get any gumshoe journalist through puberty overnight.
He also compiled a free reference dashboard that can serve as a great sidekick while you do research. (Seriously though, download the slideshow because there are wayyyy to many links to post here).

Besides the deluge of links to awesome databases, Cheryl and Alex showed off their Google-Fu and gave some tips on crawling like a ninja. Read More »

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ONA + SPJ – What can news organizations learn from startups?

One of the goals at the Seattle Journalism Commons is collaboration. We like to talk about it, and LOVE to see it. Members of the Online News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists have linked up to put on a series of conversation mixers titled #NewsNext

The theme of the kick off discussion between former reporter Monica Guzman and KING 5′s Director of Digital Marketing Mark Briggs revolved around the question:

“What can news organizations learn from startups.”

Guzman was well positioned to elaborate on this topic, having jumped ships from a traditional print newsroom, over to an online only publication with the Seattle BigBlog, and most recently into the adventurous startup Intersect.

One of the points she made about jumping into a startup was riding with a pirate ship mentality, because “things are too new to become law…it really is lawless.” Whereas the traditional newsroom has defined roles and comfort zones, Guzman explained that the rules of entrepreneurship are made up as you go along, and the team either works together or sinks together.

Another memorable piece of advice had to do with the art of the #fail. Guzman suggest to “fail fast” instead of trying to hang onto something that drags and doesn’t improve results.

Other valuable examples and insight came from Mark Briggs, who officially works for KING 5, but also has earned his stripes as a leading authority on entrepreneurial journalism. His Journalism 2.0 blog and book are a great resource, and as a current Ford Fellow in Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Poynter Institite, he’s done his homework.

Three startup news sites he mentioned as positive examples and role models are:

  • Pegasus News (also in Texas) – Their crew was willing keep working without pay because they had such a strong labor of love
  • Techdirt – A good example of building a loyal following based on their successful CwF+RtB model (Connect with Fans and give them a Reason to Buy).

Briggs parted a little advice to the crowd from hot thinker Lisa Williams, which was to go deep rather than broad. “Instead of ‘something about everything’ you need to be “everything about something.”

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Bill Gates Sr. Presents award to WNC for Organization of the Year

The Washington News Council received the honor of being named 2010 Organization of the Year by the Municipal League of King County. Here is a video of John Hamer accepting the award from Seattle based philanthropist Bill Gates Sr. at the awards gala.


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Seattle’s BOLD plan for a Journalism Commons

From left to right: Karen Johnson (Seattle Magazine/Hacks & Hackers) Mike Fancher (Journalism Commons PNW) David Boardman (Seattle Times) Lisa Skube (Reynolds Journalism Institute)

Last year Journalism that Matters held its monumental Pacific Northwest Unconference where several projects have since emerged. It was then that Fancher formally launched his mission to “cultivate abundant journalism” and last night marked a significant milestone in that effort.

Twenty-one of the region’s most influential news experts and enthusiasts gathered at the swanky offices of Seattle Magazine to discuss the state of news and information in our region, with the overall goal of finding ways to increase the level of quality journalism across the Pacific Northwest. As a bonus, Banyan Project founder and Harvard Berkman fellow Tom Stites came along for the ride. The “Dream Team” roster included:

Sanjay Bhatt, Seattle AAJA, Seattle Times, and Global Health Journalism Collaboratory
Anna Bloom, Seattle Code for America Fellow
David Boardman, Executive Editor The Seattle Times
Mark Briggs, Director of Digital Media KING-TV
Jacob Caggiano, Washington News Lab (part of the Washington News Council)
Carole Carmichael, Seattle Times
Joe Copeland, Crosscut
Mike Fancher, Former Seattle Times Executive Editor & 2008-2009 RJI Fellow
Brian Glanz, Open Science Federation
Jan Gray, Puget Sound Civic Communication Commons
Monica Guzman, Intersect
John Hamer, Washington News Council
Rita Hibbard, Investigate West
Peggy Holman, Journalism That Matters
Clay Holtzman, SPJ Western Washington
Hanson Hosein, UW Master of Communication in Digital Media Program, Media Space Host
Marsha Iverson, King County Library Services, KCLS Newsroom
Karen Johnson, Seattle magazine and co-organizer of new Seattle Hacks and Hackers chapter
Julie Pham, NW Vietnamese News and Sea Beez (New America Media)
Lisa Skube, Reynolds Journalism Institute
Tom Stites, The Banyan Project and Berkman Center for Internt and Society at Harvard
Luke Timmerman, National Bio-Tech editor – Xconomy

The evening was off to a good start with a few well received announcements. The first came from Investigate West founder Rita Hibbard who was just awarded their second grant from the The Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Another item of interest was Seattle Times writer and Global Health Initiative co-founder Sanjay Bhatt’s mention of a new collaborative report on Global Health Journalism. The crowd also warmly welcomed journalist Anna Bloom‘s arrival to our fair city to weave together a new open government system as part of her 2011 Code for America fellowship.

Now that the pump was primed, JTM founder and conversation steward Peggy Holman broke the room up into pairs, followed by small groups, and ending with a full circle report.

Several themes emerged, as we aimed to discuss not just what needed to be done but what was already working. Many were in agreement that Seattle’s strong network of hyperlocal neighborhood sites serve a very unique and valuable role, and Seattle Times Executive Editor David Boardman shared his belief that his publication’s recent “networked journalism” partnership with several hyperlocal sites not only made sense on a civic level, but from a business perspective as well. Everyone nodded their heads at the idea of collaboration, and it was refreshing to hear KING-5 Digital Media Director Mark Briggs talk about how his station and several competitors all got together with the WSDOT before the November snow storm and strategized the best way to get out breaking information over their respective networks and on social media. KING-5 and The Times are also kicking off a “be local” partnership to use their ad reps to help bring in revenue to hyperlocal blogs.  Luke Timmerman of Xconomy reminded us that it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, and his syndication partnership with the Seattle Times has driven traffic to both sites.

Of course, talk is one thing, but doing is always the challenge. How can we get more work done and bring more voices into the mix? A good part of the discussion talked about some of the events sponsored by journalism organizations and their potential for generating revenue as well as strengthening the role of journalists themselves. The Puget Sound Business Journal and the Northwest Asian Weekly were recognized for putting on successful events that engage their niche audiences face to face and bring in a little extra dough on the side. The role of journalists can also shine through, as we pondered the difference between a hypothetical event about police conduct hosted by the mayor versus the hot sparks that flew from the recent forum on police accountability put on by The Stranger. Luke Timmerman of Xconomy also had good things to report about their events, and was quick to stress the importance of being upfront with your sponsors about the separation between business relationships and editorial decisions in the newsroom. Finding a comfort zone for all parties is important, as questionable events from the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist have all received various levels of scrutiny.

Now comes the important part, the follow-through. Business cards were exchanged and the group agreed on quarterly face to face meetings, but how to we grow from there? JTM has always been successful at bringing people in the flesh, and now the time is ripe to flesh out that energy online in a way that increases involvement and productivity. I encourage journalists, students, and knowledgeable citizens of all stripes to join us in this space, start a session, or dive into an existing one like Mike Fancher’s Journalism Commons PNW. Tell us what you need to make this happen.

Some good stuff to expect are a shared calendar that streamlines journalism events across the board, as well as a “behind the curtain” collaboration that shows how journalism gets done and reveals the networks that make good stories happen.

Brian Glanz put together some awesome tools, and the fire’s just warming up.

This post is a part of the Carnival of Journalism project initiated by David Cohn at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. This month David assigned the Carnival to answer the question: “Considering your unique circumstances what steps can be taken to increase the number of news sources?”

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What I Read – Martha Kongsgaard

Martha Kongsgaard was born and raised in Napa, Calif., to a family of jurists, grape growers and cattle ranchers. Kongsgaard met Peter Goldman in law school, married him in 1988 when they founded the Kongsgaard-Goldman Foundation. Her community activities currently include participation on the Washington Women’s Foundation, the national board and the executive committees of Earthjustice and IslandWood, where she is a founding board member. She recently chaired several major capital campaigns, including the Cascade Agenda, the expansion of IslandWood and the building of the LEED-certified Community Center at the New High Point. Kongsgaard has served as the president of Philanthropy Northwest and has spoken broadly about philanthropy and the environmental movement to wide and diverse audiences for the past 20 years. She is currently serving as Chair of the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership.  She has three sons and lives in West Seattle with her husband, an environmental public interest lawyer, Peter Goldman.


1. What are your favorite local news outlets? Why?

West Seattle Blog to tell me why the ambulance just drove down my street;

West Seattle Herald to tell me about local schools – their administrators, school board members, and their students’ triumphs and challenges, for Its Police blotter, and to know who Ms. Hi-Yu will be this summer;

The Seattle Times, because it is there;

The Puget Sound Partnership’s press clippings;

Sightline’s aggregation of all things enviro;

PI on line, because i miss the old guard;

Publicola, because they are in the minute, young and opinionated (plus i can hear them on the other side of my wall at work);

The Stranger + Weekly when I can;

Eastside Business Journal if i were awake more hours;

Seattle Magazine, because it comes to me online which tells me who is wearing what (but not why).

Grist, but it’s not really local.


2. What do you consider “must reads” every day? Must watch? Must hear?

The New York Times,

The Seattle Times,

(crossword puzzles in both)

Morning Edition and All things Considered.


Mike Allen’s Playlist

I’ve been known to watch FOX news;

[also read The New Yorker, The New York Times Review of Books;

The New Republic, now and again]

. Read More »

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