Reflections on Slow News Movement at JTM-PNW

After several days at the Journalism that Matters -Pacific Northwest gathering, we’ve been asked to reflect on what ah-ha moments, actions and emotions we’ve developed during our time. One of the most intriguing ideas to come out of the JTM session I hosted on Locally Grown News was the idea of slow news.

The first ah-ha moment for me came when I looked at what was happening nationally and the movement toward producing fewer papers — going from a daily metro newspaper to perhaps three or four times a week publication. While this has reduced expenditures and is often accompanied by layoffs, I began to think that the change signaled a difference in how news was produced. Even with fewer employees, do the news staffs feel that they can produce more thoughtful, context-filled, richly sourced stories with the additional time they now have?

This thought carried into the Locally Grown News session where we examined using the locavore movement — eating locally — as an opening for conversations and sharing of news in a community. The idea is to use the analogy of the farmer’s market, rather than the town square, as the metaphor for doing news differently in a hyperlocal space.

Our group found the food metaphor a rich way to explore not only how hyperlocals might use this content niche as a focal point, but began to examine the food cycle itself and how it maps to the roles, practices, behaviors, rituals that define a different way of doing journalism. What rich, fertile ground (oh, the puns!) that helped to grow our vision of a new kind of news process.

Slow news is the deliberate, thoughtful, context-filled, nurturing journalistic enterprise. It is news as food, news and information that feeds a community. My initial thoughts generated multiple questions that we could ask ourselves as journalists and media producers:

1. Who is fed by this information? Who is starved?

2. How does this information nurture the community?

3. Where did the seeds of this idea come from?

4. Who contributed to the preparation of this story?

5. Where else/how else/in what other forms might this story be produced?

Our collective passion for what we do as journalists and foodies led us to produce a diagram that maps our roles as media in the food cycle.

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Reflections on Slow News Movement at JTM-PNW

3 thoughts on “Reflections on Slow News Movement at JTM-PNW

  1. It’s a fascinating model to try and apply, but there is one fundamental difference between the locavore food movement and devolving news to local producers.

    In the former, the process is inherently scientific and objective — soil nutrients, water, photosynthesis, etc… are all systems that can be easily followed, are respected and recognized by the majority of gardeners, and produces tangible results.

    In the latter, the process is inherently subjective, and more akin to gossiping. We do not (at this time) have a shared culture that believes in withholding judgement, seeking understanding in preference to jumping to a conclusion, or confirming facts.

    To put it another way, gardening and food movements are methodical, while storytelling is not.

  2. michelleferrier says:

    Hi Alexander thanks for your thoughts. As a gardener and journalist, I think gardening is more subjective than you’ve made it out to be. Oftentimes many other complexities, slope of the land, neighboring plants and trees, site location, air pollution and other factors make gardening a trial-and-error process. Or let’s say food production/gardening are sensitive to “hyperlocal” conditions!

    In addition, the slow news model could have some form of “local producer” e.g. citizen journalist involved in the process, just as we have citizen scientists and astronomers.

    They would be akin to the local agricultural extension agent who is very familiar with the hyperlocal growing space.

    Storytelling is a subjective process, but the cultivation of stories, their distribution, and their production need not be so.

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