Monday, September 7, 2009

Call for panel proposals for the 2010 AEJMC convention in Denver (due Oct. 15)

7 September 2009

The Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group (CCJIG) invites proposals for engaging panels for the 2010 AEJMC convention in Denver.

Please email your panel proposal to Co-Vice Chair Deborah Chung ( as a Word attachment by October 15.

Past panels have focused on blogging discourse, credibility of citizen journalism practices, citizen contributions and politics, user collaborative activities, community conversations in hyperlocal media, newsroom projects, practicing civic and citizen journalism in a multicultural environment, and teaching civic and citizen journalism.

Panel proposals for 2010 may address, but are not limited to, the following broad themes:

1. Emerging models and best practices in teaching of civic/citizen journalism
2. Civic/citizen journalism conversations over health care legislation
3. Citizen-sponsored or citizen-involved journalism, particularly focused on environmental, health, and social issues.
4. Media convergence and using new tools to facilitate citizen journalism
5. Local/global practices and perceptions of civic/citizen journalism.

In general, address topics that are relevant to current discussions in journalism, politics, technology, democracy, or philosophy. Panels addressing issues of cultural and racial diversity are encouraged.

Your panel proposal should mention the following components in order: Type (i.e., PF&R, Teaching, Research), a tentative title, a possible moderator, the possible panelists (limit to three so we can work on linking with other interest groups and divisions), a brief description of the panel, possible co-sponsors (divisions or interest groups), and contact information.  Also provide speaker demographic and funding estimates (see sample proposal).

Selected proposals are compiled into a single document, with proposals from other divisions and interest groups, in order to be considered for co-sponsorship and scheduling. Many will later be revised or expanded as part of the joint planning process.

A sample proposal is available at

We look forward to your proposals!

Deborah S. Chung, Ph.D.
Co-Vice Chair, Civic & Citizen Journalism Interest Group

How a citizen investigator shook the state's conscience

This week's New Yorker contains some devastating journalism by staff writer David Grann.

Mr. Grann's is the type of story that must be read by every student of reporting -- and by every deadwood hack who has ever tried to wring poetry from journalism.

It supports my hunch that great journalism is not about mushy platitudes or feel-good prose, but, rather, about exploring -- and with luck, exposing -- jarring truths.

Mr. Grann exposes a particularly jarring truth: How, in an arrest culminating in an execution, the state of Texas failed justice -- failed it systematically via the due processes of trial, appeal, and clemency -- thus realizing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's eerie old fear (expressed via a concurring opinion joined by Anthony Kennedy in Herrara v. Collins (1993)):
[T]he execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event.
But the real reason I blog about Mr. Grann's penetrating story is Elizabeth Gilbert of Houston, Texas, the citizen investigator whom he spotlights.

Ms. Gilbert is a friend-of-the-underdog activist whose selfless effort -- even though she ends up buoyed-up by her prisoner subject -- is an example in perseverance, particularly for wannabe citizen journalists.

Check out Ms. Gilbert's tenacious compassion in the must-read story, here. Meanwhile, to Mr. Grann I say, take a bow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What's the link between virtual discussion, civic engagement?

DISCLOSURE NOTE: This is a cross-post from my personal blog - JR

Just skimmed over the recent report on The Internet and Civic Engagement from The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project (available here). Interesting stuff about how civic engagement generally and online posting about political issues are correlated. It definitely will require a deeper read.

I'm especially interested to see if it sheds any light on something that I think is a critical, but under-rated, aspect of the whole issue surrounding online civic engagement: the question of causality.

In other words, are people who are just naturally inclined (for whatever reason) to become social/political activists using the Internet as one more tool to communicate, the way earlier generations of activists used newsletters, phone-trees, mailing lists, etc.? Or, does the ability to build communities of interests around specific agendas (political or otherwise) using interactive online communcation really lead people to become engaged in civic matters when they otherwise would not have done so (if the online tools weren't there)?

I've tried to explore some of this in my own research and the evidence I've seen on it is kind of mixed, but leans toward the first of those approaches; i.e., that people tend to be civic activists first. Joining social networks, discussion forums, and the like is just a natural progression for them, building on their innate interests to become involved. Despite the ease and efficiency of becoming "virtually engaged" in civic matters, the Internet isn't creating large-scale civic engagement out of nothing as some of the "cyberutopians" predicted it might back in the early days of its development.

There probably isn't a definitive answer here, and in fact there may be causal influences both ways -- that someone with a mild tendency to be engaged who participates in online civic engagement strengthens that natural tendency, which makes them even more inclined to become more engaged virtually. In other words, a feedback loop develops.

Like I said, it will be interesting to read the Pew report more thoroughly to see if it says anything about these issues. If anyone has any thoughts or ideas about this or suggestions for other research in the area to look at, I would be interested to hear them.

PS: Thank you to CCJIG stalwart Len Witt at for his post about this report, which led me to it.