Welcome to our twenty-first-century newsroom
A four-part series
The following news analysis draws upon over eight years of reporting from the field about the global democratic awakening.
In 2013, Democracy Watch News brought together experienced media professionals who met during the Arab Spring, Los Indignados and Occupy movements. They launched the news service in July 2013 as an independent, collaborative, media collective.
What distinguishes our global association?
Why should journalists, production staff, and others work with yet another organization? Why are we a nonprofit news, instead of a for-profit organization? How does Democracy Watch News fit into the media environment in the new century, in the new millennium?
The news service has a decade of experience building interactive communities linking people and organizations in the news with journalists and editors who produce reports. Now, it is time to re-engage and serve the public trust and renew that trust daily.
Part One—Of Stories Untold, or How Can We Satisfy the Hunger for News?
A decade ago, during the Great Recession, people around the world began raising voices for more direct involvement in governance and decision making affecting their lives. It began with traditional organizing and public demonstrations, in North Africa. What became an Arab Spring, had been, in part, inspired and informed by local demands and the color revolutions moving through the Balkans, Central, and Eastern Europe.
These were followed by mass protests in the United Kingdom, Spain, and beyond.
However, demonstrators paused, dissatisfied by continuing inabilities to marshal broader public response. Previously, in late 2010, events preceding the Arab Spring and Real Democracy movements grew out of recognized needs to confront elite governance and media coverage in ways the public would support. Movement activists re-evaluated nonviolent methods as their preferred ways to demand progressive changes and opened up new opportunities for public engagement.
As the 2011 new year began, a global-democratic awakening had begun, the Arab Spring spread across North Africa and the Middle East, igniting Los Indignados in Spain and other movements in Europe, and the first Occupy demonstrations in Seattle, Washington. Then in Sep 2011, Occupy Wall Street erupted in New York City inspiring hundreds of other local Occupy groups around the world.
By the following year, a media association slowly evolved from proposals in Madrid, New York and around Europe to produce content about citizen or general assemblies within the Occupy, Los Indignados, and Global Squares movements. International-online meetings during early 2012 organized channels for disseminating reports by communications teams from local groups in the Americas, Europe, North Africa, the South Pacific, and elsewhere. Limited by adequate access to Internet communications, something else was needed.
In Oregon, Dean Edwards working as a key coordinator for national-Occupy media and international collaboration continued to work with others. He began planning a global news service. Continuing the global vision to develop a non-ideological and progressive service to collect and cover news to give voice to people and their communities. The new media, Edwards often said, should emphasize views from the grassroots, rather than top-down news reporting.
Energy waned and various movements for democracy fragmented and declined in numbers. By spring, 2013, editors for mainstream media began telling their freelance and independent contributors to make their choices, journalism or activism?
So, beginning in April, a group of journalists within the Occupy Movement in the United States created an independent-media association, separating themselves from advocates and activists and returning to regular journalism.
However, failures within both mainstream and alternative media pointed to needs to return to recognized ethical and professional practices to produce media content worthy of the public trust. Out of regular weekly dialogues and international discussions via Mumble and livestream software, the way forward brought together professional journalism associations and the international team to support reforms based on recognized best-practices.
Part Two—Informing the Dialogue
During 2013, the independent-media association broadened their regular Maestro Conference events from national to international. the teleconference, Occupy Movement Weekly International Press Briefing continued into the summer. Times, they were a changing. The association demanded new approaches to both alternative and mainstream-media news.
Meanwhile, the world clock was ticking, ticking, ticking. . . .
In July 2013, Democracy Watch News launched in time to produce independent coverage of the second Occupy National Gathering in Michigan. The news service also renamed the international teleconference, Democracy Movements Weekly International Press Briefing. The news services of DWatchNews provide integrated-media coverage with broad focus on issues, events, and organizations working to build and sustain healthy-democratic systems.
Democracy Watch News Focuses on acknowledged “best-media practices,” including collaborative, ethical, narrative, investigative, and solutions-journalism; adherence to style guides, integrated technologies, audience engagement and collaborative decision-making. From the beginning, essential needs for press freedom have been balanced by equal focus on media responsibility and maintaining a sharp division between news reporting and opinion and editorial journalism.
Working globally, DWatchNews began developing nine regional services to work with their international service. The international team continues to develop and cross-train independent and community journalists to meet demands of news outlets and audiences. They continue to prefer and emphasize reports about living in a world where local-community needs must reconcile with increasing global integration.
Part Three—A New Millennium Heralds a New Media Environment
A generation ago, when the San Jose Mercury News in California, laid off all their news interns and began staff reductions. They were not alone! Media consolidation continued to decrease effective coverage of local events and to provide community perspectives as fewer and fewer media conglomerates threaten the meaning and intent of a free press in our world.
The signal was out, newsrooms were changing. Journalists and production staff should plan on producing content beyond the diminishing requirements of a single employer. The growth of freelance journalism, increased the number of reporters and technicians who might contract for a specific assignment, report, or perhaps on a series. Independent journalists began to emerge as news producers developing regular relationships with multiple media outlets, often unaffiliated with only a single outlet. In addition, new media, a fifth estate, including web logs or blogs further expanded the range of content available to online audiences with particular interests. Many also began developing “citizen journalism” AKA “community journalism.” More and more, new contributors began searching for mentors and opportunities to enhance communications and media skills.
Incorporating in Salem, Oregon, in May of 2017, as a nonprofit corporation, Democracy Watch News began to expand their global project to include teams of editors and production staff to develop and serve the needs of independent and community journalists. Democratic systems must encourage and sustain journalism intent on responsibly informing a public in need of reliable news to empower each of them to make informed decisions.
Part Four—The Essentials, Freedom, and Responsibility
Free societies require fundamental human rights, including freedoms of association, movement, speech and of the press. Self-governing systems must have a vigorous and free press to provide diverse and reliable information for the citizenry. Finally, freedom and responsibility have long been associated as complementary elements necessary for promoting “the common good”.
Democracy Watch News has three divisions, administration and media services, news, and opinion-editorial. When news organizations weaken or fail to promote both freedom and responsibility, they also may discover their own culpability along the long road to indifference and degrading social values.
Our emphasis on news journalism empowers responsible practices long considered essential standards for modern journalism. A free press should also separate administrative and publishing support from the regular process of gathering and reporting the news. Likewise, news should be separate from the opinions and editorial staff. Opinion and editorial content should include voices to reflect responsible contributions from the communities they serve.
Democracy Watch News builds six-member teams composed of a coordinating editor, a news anchor, engagement editor; and three assistant producers, telecommunications, audio and Internet broadcasting, and video and Internet broadcasting.
The regional and international teams also add two additional members, a digital and data editor, and a chief correspondent. Our international studio also has an assistant producer for studio practice and receives support from the media services department to produce and support Internet broadcasting and websites. Our international podcasts also receive support from our resident librarian and archivist, who is the assistant producer for audio-Internet broadcasting.
The news service has now begun to reach out to the growing numbers of experienced journalists who, as we predicted would find their futures uncertain in the ever-shrinking newsrooms of the twenty-first century.
Some may join one of our teams as an editor, news anchor, or chief correspondent. Others may become clients as independent correspondents who include our services among outlets they contribute to for distribution. More on news distribution in a later series about journalism in the digital age.
Finally, remember we reported earlier about how some editors of mainstream news insisted freelance and independent journalists must decide between activism, also sometimes called advocacy journalism and reporting the news. Democracy Watch News, as part of our focus on media responsibility, will be covering media hypocrisy. Failures to follow basic guidelines for good style, including accurate use of terms, refusal to use a dictionary, and censoring news content will receive our special attention. These reports will focus on accepted standards for professional journalism that all too often are ignored in both mainstream and alternative journalism.