Reflection: At IowaWatch.org, bold journalism from a cramped ‘newsroom’

(This post is an adaptation of a nomination letter written for The Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism)

As an IowaWatch.org reporter, I’m in a tight spot each day – literally.  Tucked inside the third floor of Adler Journalism Building on campus at the University of Iowa, our 135-square-foot newsroom (if we can call it a newsroom) doubles as an office for Prof. Stephen J. Berry, our founder and interim executive director-editor.  That cramped space symbolizes the challenging state of affairs of an organization that must reconcile the need for financial survival with a mission to act as Iowa’s watchdog.

Although we are very small, with meager resources, no legal help and a very green reporting staff, we have not shied away from taking on any subject – no matter how controversial – if it meets the definition of news that people need to know. Continue reading

Knight grant helps Bay Citizen and Texas Tribune aid other startups

And Tribune revenue numbers are encouraging news for sustainability

A $975,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will enable two of the biggest haves of the nonprofit news industry help the have nots.

The San Francisco-based Bay Citizen (now worth $15 million) and the Texas Tribune (worth about $7.8 million) will team up to provide an open-sourced publishing platform to nonprofits at no cost. Continue reading

James Rainey: Celebrate and support nonprofit investigators, hope for more

Nonprofit news: still an imperfect model, but one that merits more support.

That’s the sentiment James Rainey expressed in his Saturday On the Media column in the LA Times. He encourages a thoughtful dialogue about the successes and problems that beset nonprofit investigators, and he highlights the growing acceptance of collaboration inside newsrooms historically fueled by fierce competition.

Continue reading

Spam of the Day: a fart joke lost in translation

It’s a tedious job, but someone (me) has got to do it.

One  of my Web duties at IowaWatch is to sort through the scores of comments we get each day, many of them spam, and look for nuggets of honest discourse to approve. Usually I pay little heed to the annoying, unsubstantive comments.

But sometimes, spam is too ridiculous to ignore.

So, in a shameless move to pander for pageviews, I’m unveiling a new segment called Spam of the Day.

Today’s notable spam comes from a user named 抓姦:

One day, Xiao Ming another class …. a sudden “rush”(fart) a cry,sitting next to a small U.S. scolded and said: Xiao-Ming Ah ~ if you could not make a noise!

I really don’t understand the motivation for this one; it didn’t even include a hyperlink.

San Francisco’s Bay Citizen hires street canvassers for outreach

When news outlets discuss outreach and branding, they usually talk about beefing up online interactivity. But the Bay Citizen, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, is taking a more old-school approach. It is hiring street canvassers – a move about as grass roots as you can get.

The organization’s Craigslist ad provides the details:

We have been signing up new members through street canvassing since November and have had an excellent response. As far as we know, no journalism organization has ever used street canvassing for membership outreach. It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge. We believe in the power of grassroots organizing and in treating our staff well.

Perhaps, in our zeal to embrace the sweeping changes in technology, we forget that such old-timey methods of outreach can still prove successful.

Nonprofit journalism conversation headed overseas

Our nonprofit journalism conversation will soon travel over seas, (if it hasn’t yet done so already).

The 2011 Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff, Wales has accepted a paper I wrote with Robert Gutsche Jr.: “Facing the future of online, nonprofit news: The challenges and prospects for emerging nonprofit journalism in the U.S.”

This paper’s conclusions and recommendations are based upon analysis of journalistic reporting about emerging online non-profit news organizations. Insights into the challenges facing the new nonprofit newsworld in the U.S. include discussions about the practical and philosophical dilemmas that beset new non-profits while shedding light on possible solutions for the future of journalism and its economic viability.

Gutsche is a PhD candidate at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and he co-founded the nonprofit Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, where I work.

The conference, organized by the publishers of Journalism Studies and Journalism Practice, will take place September 8 and

Accuracy is always important

How important is accuracy to a hard-nosed reporter/editor like Steve Berry? Pretty darn important, as our following email exchange shows: Continue reading