Monday, April 27, 2009

The Nonprofit Journalism Unconference

By Edwin Bender

At a recent "unconference" sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation, I watched as sparks flew between advocates of greater transparency and high-tech practitioners. I can't help but think now would be an excellent time to bring together newly sprung journalists eagerly adopting new models for reporting and dissemination and those from the "old school" referenced on this site to share ideas and excitement, but also to develop some "best practices" and guides for building out the new news infrastructure.

For those who have never experienced an "unconference," it works like this: A group with similar interests but widely varied backgrounds gather in one place, submit ideas or topics for discussion to a moderator, who places the ideas and those who will present the topics on a time-line grid, grouped for maximum impact. It's an incredibly efficient way to start experienced-laced conversations around high-value ideas and concerns.

The energy and momentum of the unconference is being harnessed regularly by the open-source community, as well as Web programmers and practitioners around the world.

Enlisting non-profit-development experts for nuts-n-bolts assistance setting up non-profits would help many mulling the idea make the leap.

Most importantly, we don't want to have folks trying to re-invent the wheel as they struggle to be journalists. Let's get reporters on the same Web page now.

A former journalist, Ed Bender is executive director of the National Institute for Money in State Politics in Helena, Mt.

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