Image by Nitya Wakhlu, Clipped from Experience Engagement, 2015

Science fiction writer William Gibson said “the future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

Nonprofit Quartlerly published my take on a possible future for journalism: How Can We Emerge from the Pandemic with the Journalism We Need?

Based on what is already emerging, this story of hope & possibility highlights intrepid adventurers who are reinventing journalism to serve the needs of an inclusive society. Using the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a frame, it offers five trends:

Image by Steven Wright,

We are all in it together.

I’ve been struck by the many times this phrase has been in news stories since the Coronavirus pandemic began. When was the last time journalists were so focused on what connects us?

Stories have been a cornucopia of support:

Understanding the numbers and flattening the curve (one story among many)

Working from home

What to do with kids at home (so many stories)

How to support to those in need

How to wash your hands

How to make a face mask

How to breathe

Artistic responses: Getty Museum challenge, Rotterdam Philharmonic

Maintaining mental health

Looking for an alternative to face-to-face events in the time of Coronavirus? People have been experimenting with synchronous online convening for years and the tools continue to improve. Here are some suggestions based on experiences of the Journalism That Matters team.

World Café Principles, Image by Nitya Wakhlu, Elevate Engagement, 2017

The basics apply whether online or in-person.

Set the stage…

Clarify Purpose. What do you hope to accomplish? Expressing it in a possibility-oriented question fosters constructive participation.

Invite the people who care. Complex challenges benefit from multiple perspectives. Do your homework to identify the people who ARE IN — with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need.

Create a sense of welcome. People are more willing to speak authentically when…

My friend and colleague, Chris Corrigan, just posted a wonderful reflection on “container”, a word often used by dialogue practitioners to describe the spaces we seek to create for meaning to flow among participants. What I found particularly valuable was learning of another use of container that has virtually the opposite meaning. Quoting Chris:

in contexts of oppression and colonization the history of colonization, enclosure, and imprisonment is entirely the history of containing people; on reserves, in jails, in schools, in groups defined by race and marked by lines, in ghettoized neighbourhoods, in a million places in which people are…

What we learned from a generative conversation about homelessness

Instagram post from a participant after Saturday’s Open Space event

Summary of the evaluation of Mobilizing Creativity, Compassion, and Community to Solve Homelessness (M3Cs)

(Full report is here)


On October 26–27, 2018, with support from Journalism That Matters, The Evergrey, Real Change, and Facing Homelessness, Impact Hub Seattle brought together 135 participants (89 on Friday only, 25 on Saturday only, and 21 on both days), including some with lived experience of homelessness, people from community organizations, government, business, neighborhood associations and media, artists and others who don’t usually meet to talk together about homelessness. Friday evening was held in a World Cafe asking 1) About a time when housing made…

What We Learned

by Laura W. Black and Michelle Ferrier based on a collaboration with Peggy Holman and members of the Southeast Ohio Media Seeds planning team

The Southeast Ohio Media Seeds Project has completed its final phase, where the Journalism That Matters team along with the local project team are working with three communities to build capacity for news and information. This report discusses our learning from the second evaluation stage by focusing on the design and implementation of media experiments in rural, Appalachian media deserts. Media deserts are defined as communities that lack access to fresh, daily local news and information.

After 20 years of working with journalists, I see a more inclusive, constructive, and engaged civic ecosystem emerging that redefines journalism’s role, reaffirms our first amendment freedoms, and supports communities to thrive.

Who am I to tell this story?

“The stories that we tell ourselves shape the way we see the world. And that shapes our behavior. Journalists are cultural storytellers. And the stories they are telling us aren’t serving us well.” That was the notion that launched my work with journalists in 1999. A racially motivated shooting — then a rarity — prompted the thought. …

The Journalism That Matters board of directors has expanded in the last several months with the addition of three new board members:

  • Lori Shontz, University of Oregon journalism instructor
  • Karen Magnuson, veteran editor and executive in residence for the Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Summer Fields, Hearken engagement consultant
Lori Shontz — Karen Magnuson — Summer Fields

Each brings a unique lens to the board of the Seattle-area nonprofit that, since 2001, has convened transformative conversations to ignite collaboration, innovation, and action. Most recently, Journalism That Matters has supported the Media Seeds Project in Southeast Ohio, led by former JTM board president Michelle…

A summary of what learned learned from the first phase of the Media Seeds Project is below. The full report is here.

For the latest on the Media Seeds Project, see When “Junk Mail” is Used for Good by Michelle Ferrier

Report by Laura W. Black
Based on collaboration with Michelle Ferrier, Peggy Holman, and members of the Southeast Ohio Media Seeds planning team

The Southeast Ohio Media Seeds Project is using a process called Developmental Evaluation, which involves active, ongoing collaboration between project leaders and evaluators. Our overarching goal is to help develop a programmatic model of community-based media…

On October 26–27, 2018, JTM partnered with Impact Hub Seattle to host a public conversation on homelessness. We wanted to see what sort of media involvement we could generate when working with a social impact enterprise. The report linked and below by Sarah Studer, then Managing Director of Impact Hub Seattle, appeared the Hub website.

Ending the crisis of homelessness is both a survival strategy for and an aspiration of Impact Hub Seattle, which serves as Seattle’s “base camp” for social innovation. …


Co-founder and director, Journalism That Matters. Author, Engaging Emergence & The Change Handbook. Hosting conversations for addressing complex challenges.

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