Monday, July 11, 2016

Transparency in Collaborative News Media

by Jennifer Choi, Program Officer

In May, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation partnered with Bloomberg Media and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to host a private in-person “Platforms + Publishers Roundtable” of influential platform representatives (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Medium, YouTube, LinkedIn) and large, medium and small news publishers to increase transparency, open lines of communication and build trust for more collaboration.

Key takeaways from the event:

  • Social media platforms want to collaborate better with news organizations. But they are also quite thinly staffed and struggle with operating in silos. The platforms will require improved coordination and communication to solve some of the consistency issues surfaced by news organizations.
  • Social media platform participants shared that one of the challenges to the transparency issue raised by news organizations was that at times the media coverage of social media platforms didn’t allow for social media platforms to more safely experiment and iterate without also having to address a PR crisis that might detrimentally affect their business. Social media platforms want publishers to also be more nuanced and offer more sophisticated reporting on their industry.
  • Many participants expressed appreciation for this convening by describing it as having a more problem-solving disposition than other similar convenings and even created a Facebook group for the cohort to continue to keep in touch.

The event took place at Bloomberg Headquarters in New York City, and was facilitated by MediaShift, a thought leader in journalism innovation/tech training and research. MediaShift and the McCormick Foundation worked to not only strategically select news organizations and platform participants that would best benefit from such a conversation, but also key leaders from all levels of the various organizations that would help to facilitate a constructive and substantive change-making conversation.

Attendees included representatives from national non-profit and for-profit news organizations (The Atlantic, The New York Times, ProPublica, National Public Radio, NBC News, Mic, CNN Money, Time Inc, Vox Media, Fusion) and local non-profit and for-profit organizations (Institute for Nonprofit News, Local Independent Online News Publishers, Philadelphia Media Network, Jersey Shore Hurricane News, Brick City Live, WBEZ, DNAinfo).

Foundation attendees additionally included the Joyce Foundation and Open Society Foundations.

The day started off with a call to action from CEO of Bloomberg Media, Justin Smith, and Global Head of Digital, Scott Havens, imploring social media platforms to increase access for smaller local news organizations with regard to distribution and revenue stream opportunities and partnerships for a better informed public and healthier democracy.

Presentations from Claire Wardle of Tow Center for Digital Journalism (Columbia University), platforms (Facebook, Medium, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn) and publishers (Jersey Shore, NBC News, DNA Info, Mic) followed. The rest of the day was dedicated to small group breakouts to come up with tactical solutions for partnerships.

Next step recommendations included having various cross-sector decision makers from platforms (engineers and sales representatives) to be included for system changes to be implemented in response to publisher needs. More training also on the local, smaller news organizations level, was identified as a key next step.

Many thanks for all the stakeholders involved that took the time and leap of faith to come together for a productive day.

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