I still remember the feeling when my son, Julian, was born nearly 10 years ago — a newborn, barely blinking, crying and groping his way through his young life. I think about all the preparation that went into his birth: the parenting classes, the baby manuals, buying all the gear. And then all that pain his mom went through. Oy!
Today, I’m happy to share a different kind of birth announcement: a new website from MediaShift called Collaboration Central. It’s got all 10 fingers and toes, and an ambitious mission: to figure out how journalists can work together better in the digital age. And it is being produced in partnership with the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
We have a culture as journalists to fight our competition for scoops, to get there first, to beat everyone else. But with the devastating cuts that have hit traditional news organizations, combined with the power of new technologies, more journalists are finding strength in numbers — working together to cover more ground, tell better stories, and extend those stories onto multiple platforms in compelling ways.
Not Just ‘Kumbaya’
We don’t expect this to be a soft-focus campfire scene with people singing “Kumbaya” and holding hands. Collaboration is a matter of survival for many journalistic organizations struggling to find a business model in the age of the Internet. The surge of non-profit journalism outlets has been a proving ground for collaboration, and as the Texas Tribune’s CEO Evan Smith told me late last year:
“We’re going to either hang separately or survive together.”
In Texas-speak, that means news orgs need to stay together if they want to live another day. Collaboration Central will be the roadmap to that very survival, with case studies on how others have handled collaborations, lessons learned, and what’s gone right (and wrong). We’ve already built up coverage of the topic over the past couple years, largely about how public media outlets have collaborated with each other and with their communities.
We’ll have original research from the “Collective Work” project that was embedded in the Post Mortem collaboration of ProPublica, NPR and Frontline for more than a year. We’ll also have the aforementioned case studies, along with first-person accounts, best practices, helpful resources, and an upcoming hands-on Collab/Space 2012 event at UC Berkeley in April.
Plus, with Amanda Hirsch as editor of the site, we’ll be looking beyond journalistic collaborations, and dig for lessons in other fields of interest, including technology, arts, science and beyond.
It Takes a Village
Just like my son’s birth, the birth of Collaboration Central took a lot of preparation. We’ve been discussing and planning the site for quite some time. Getting it off the ground involved a partnership with the “Collective Work” project at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, funding from the Knight Foundation, design by Vega Project, and development work by our tech guru Dan Schultz. … not to mention the foresight and vision of editor Amanda Hirsch, the editing support of Desiree Everts, and sales and marketing strategy from Dorian Benkoil.
The last piece of the puzzle is you, the MediaShift community. We want to hear about your own triumphs in collaboration, the questions you might have, or tips you can share with everyone else. Our hope is that we will be able to grow the site with more interactive features, a database of case studies, and even a match-making service for collaborators.
But first … let’s let this new baby open its eyes and take its first few steps.
Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+