Witt mind meets 12 others in perfect brainstorm

Photo by Jane McWilliams

Photo by Jane McWilliams Susan Hvistendahl beams in the foreground while Leonard Witt, founder of the Representative Journalism Project, takes notes behind her. They were two of nearly a dozen people who joined a conversation about the project on Saturday morning at the Bittersweet Eatery.

The Representative Journalism Project is like an infant named Hercules. It is a name full of promise attached to something that is full of potential, but not yet grown.

On Saturday, Leonard Witt, who founded the project, engaged in an informal discussion with a dozen people living in Northfield (including me). We talked about the future of the journalism industry and what part the Representative Journalism Project could play in making that future brighter.

In attendance in alphabetical order, with titles that do no justice in describing them: Alex Beebe, manager of Just Food co-operative grocery store; Sam Friedman, Carleton student; Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, farmer; Susan Hvistendahl, columnist; Randy Jennings, a frequent online commenter; David Ludescher, ditto; Jane McWilliams, Northfield.org board member; Jaci Smith, managing editor of the Northfield News; Kiffi and Victor Summa, community activists; Shayla Thiel-Stern, a RepJ Project researcher.

I’m interested in hearing from the people who attended the two-hour meeting to see if anyone had anything else to say.



Filed under Project progress

10 responses to “Witt mind meets 12 others in perfect brainstorm

  1. bonnieandjosh

    I’m commenting on my own story to get things going! I plan to follow this blog post with more information about the meetings I had last week with Len Witt and the future of the project in Northfield.

    I have to say I was very tense before our meeting on Saturday because I knew we would have a wide range of opinions in the room and I wasn’t sure how rowdy things would get!

    I was still sweating a bit while we talked, but I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. One of the most interesting results of the discussion was the fact that no one seemed to have any firm ideas about how we could possibly change/improve the way journalists interact with members of the general public.

  2. bonnieandjosh

    Oops, looks like when I’m logged into WordPress it uses my username to identify me. Josh is the name of my husband-to-be! I’ll see if I can change my name when I make comments to something more professional!

  3. Jane McWilliams


    It was a good discussion, if inconclusive. One of the themes was the credibility of online journalism and, coincidentally, Griff blogged about a similar topic and provided this link: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/wiki/Ethics

    It illustrates for me that at least one respected school of journalism is training folks to be as thorough about on line work as we’ve come to expect from good print journalism.

    Thanks for convening the discussion Saturday. I was pleased to be a part of it.

  4. David Ludescher

    Bonnie: The fact that there were no firm ideas on how things could be changed for the better should be taken to heart.

  5. Hi David!

    Well, the subject’s in my heart because it’s journalism-related and I do care about our craft. But I’m feeling more intellectual or philosophical rather than emotional about this. I have a few theories about why the conversation about civic engagement went the way it did.

    One: People believed there should be a place to get “hard news” unadulterated by the presence of comment from the general public. (and some of those folks seemed at least a bit skeptical that solid news could be found on the Internet at all)

    Two: People agreed with, or feel neutral about allowing citizens to comment after a news story, but do not want to see citizen engagement beyond that.

    Three: People felt neutral or against it because they had no firm idea how citizen engagement in journalism could possibly change or increase.

  6. kiffi summa

    It was a very interesting discussion, as much for what was NOT said , as what was said.
    It goes back to something I learned from Victor when he was doing live television : you have to warm up the audience… the first half hour or so is always ‘pro forma’.
    Although we all pretty much know each other in varying degrees, it was my observation that there were a lot of ‘punches pulled’. Jane and Victor got on the NFNews at one point, and I actually restrained myself from going further down that path, because although I think it is very important, I didn’t think it was the focus of the discussion.

    So my comment here would be, if the news we get from the RepJ is more the sort of reporting we would like to get from the newspaper, why weren’t people more in tune with the concept of paying for it? I believe I was the only one who said I would pay for another news source. (And with RivCity Books closing soon, believe me, I’m not going to be able to pay for much… but that’s another thread).
    I’m not so interested, Bonnie, in you asking questions of the general public; I am very much in favor of you asking questions of those who are making the news, as you’ve done on the annexation story. That’s one of the ways in which the local newspaper really falls down, IMO. They never ask ‘the question’; only very rarely in an editorial.
    So I guess what I’m saying is … the discussion has just begun.

  7. kiffi summa

    Hey Bonnie … your time stamp clock is off by about 6 hours!

  8. Bonnie: This is a good way to deal with your process stories, while saving the big news/finished product for locallygrown. Great idea! Good luck with it.

  9. Thanks for your insight Kiffi! I agree with the asking of questions to the general public—it hasn’t seemed to work too well so far. So, I just have to try and get as many people who are a part of making a piece of news to talk to me, like you say.

  10. Pingback: Journalism coffee talk: Tuesday 8 a.m. « Bonnie Obremski, RepJ

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s