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Knight Batten Award Highlights

Center’s associate director Alison Hanold and I spent yesterday at the 2009 Knight Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism: Digitial Deliverance. Prior to the award ceremony were the much anticipated panel presentations from all the awardees. Each panel of the ceremony was given a different theme based on the term “delivery” –delivering transparency, delivering in new ways and delivering public insight, to name a few.

The event was sponsored by J-Lab, our officemates and friends. The commonality between the Center’s work and J-Lab’s revolves around the future of public media and citizen journalism. While J-Lab works more on the citizen journalism side of things, the overlap is high.

I’d like to mention a few projects honored yesterday that particularly embody qualities of what we at the Center call public media 2.0. In a nutshell we define public media 2.0 as media for public knowledge and action.

One Word created by the New York Times


Gabriel Dance, senior multimedia producer for the New York Times, created this website prior to the 2008 presidential elections. He, and his colleagues anticipated a highly emotional election day and wanted to document it using participatory media tools. They were nervous about using numbers because audiences might view them as empirical statistics. Instead, they turned to words. Gabriel walked the audience through the process of creating the website and shared with us various models that did not make the cut. You can view the final product here. The simple user interface allows you to experience the emotions from both McCain and Obama supporters as election day progresses.

This project has qualities of public media 2.0 --but only slightly. The New York Times took a great deal of the spotlight yesterday (presenting six of the twelve projects), but this project was the only one that had contributions from the public as the main source of information. While the actual end result was not particularly profound or insightful, it’s important to give kudos to the New York Times for pushing its comfort level by inviting the public onto its site as contributors. The title itself is indicative however of how much they were willing to do that.

Patchwork Nation hosted by the Christian Science Monitor

Dante Chinni, director of the Patchwork Nation Project, worked closely with the Christian Science Monitor to classify all 3,412 counties in the nation into 12 voter communities

• Boom Towns - growing and diversifying
• Campus and Careers - young and collegiate
• Emptying Nests - having retirees and baby boomers
• Evangelical Epicenters - culturally conservative
• Immigration Nation - heavily Hispanic
• Industrial Metropolis - big-city
• Military Bastions - bordering or encompassing bases for the armed forces
• Minority Central - heavily African-American
• Monied 'Burbs - wealthy and educated
• Mormon Outposts - many LDS adherents
• Service Worker Centers - small-town
• Tractor Country - rural and agricultural

If you’re curious about the methodology he used, you can read more about it here. This project sparked a new platform for conversation to take place across the nation –the centerpiece is a beautiful map of the US which looks like a patchwork quilt. Once Chinni and his team had finished the categorization process, they collaborated with local public media stations to connect with local bloggers. The bloggers were then linked to the hub site, where citizen journalists connect in and among counties all over the US.

Of the twelve categories, the county of Nixa, MO is considered “an evangelical epicenter.” Recently, on the site, there was a great deal of conversation surrounding a public school in Nixa deciding not to air Obama’s speech to the students. The story originated by a Patchwork Nation blogger from Nixa, John Schmalzbauer, and has since inspired other bloggers from “evangelical epicenters” to connect with John Schmalzbauer. It has also created a huge outcry from bloggers from more liberal counties who have called Nixa citizens “racists” and “nutcases.”

Patchwork Nation’s innovation comes in its ability to aggregate and organize our complex nation by counties. While the 12 categories may be generalizations of each county, the project is sparking dialogue and giving Americans the chance to join in a larger conversation. It’s important to note that it could not have had the success it has had without the help of public broadcasting organizations.

A few more worth mentioning

Lastly I’d like to highlight three projects that may be of interest to citizen media makers --ChangeTracker by Pro Publica, Apture by Apture Inc. and Printcasting by Participata LLC. If you’re interested in investigative journalism on the Web, a new approach to surfing the Web sans Google and an application that helps you create a smart e-magazine all for free, check out these innovative projects.

To learn more about all the projects you can go to www.j-lab.org. Congratulations to all the winners!