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Live on the East Coast? Can't make it to The Yearly Kos? The discussion of the future of the blogosphere, journalism and politics will take a dramatic turn to the Right Coast, (we prefer, The First Coast) just weeks after The Yearly Kos crashes the national consciousness.  Democracy & Independence: Sharing News & Information in a Connected World  promises to be a compelling and historic event. If you are thinking about next steps; have big questions -- and want to get answers; or are thinking about undertaking new ventures-- or trying to take old ones in new directions -- this is the event of post Yearly Kos era for you.

The conference will be held at the Universtiy of Massachusetts at Amherst June 29-July 1, and envisions itself helping to "shape the future of journalism and democracy."  Given the topics, the speakers and the growing list of remarkable participants -- that idea may not be as grandiose as it may sound to some.

The event, which is studded with many stars of journalism and the internet, both public and behind the scenes, has been lurking in the shadow of The Yearly Kos, but the agenda is at once, different and overlapping as it contends with the exhilarating and wrenching changes going on in media and politics.

Keynote speakers include:

Helen Thomas, dean of the White House press-corps,and author of a new book, Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public:

Reporters and editors like to think of themselves as watchdogs for the public good. But in recent years both individual reporters and their ever-growing corporate ownership have defaulted on that role. Ted Stannard, an academic and former UPI correspondent, put it this way: "When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble."

Jon Donley, Pulitzer-prizing-winning web editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who led the paper's news coverage of hurricane Katrina.

Stephen Gray, Former publisher, Christian Science Monitor  

Chellie Pingree, President, Common Cause

Who is this event for?

Traditional media strategists, editors and practitioners

  • Elected officials, political and public-policy strategists

  • Info-tech pioneers and entrepreneurs

  • Operators of local-news Web sites and blogs

  • Podcasters and vloggers dealing with news, political, and public-policy issues

  • Academic researchers and students

  • Citizens who want "how-to" knowledge about participatory media

  • Anyone interested in new innovations in Web, print, film and audio news creation, delivery and financing.

  • Here is a general conference description:

    Traditional and citizen journalists, political strategists, educators, bloggers, developers, technology and media researchers will convene June 29-July 1, 2006 at University of Massachusetts Amherst for the first Media Giraffe Project conference. The Media Giraffe Project, a non-partisan, interdisplinary research effort of the UMass journalism program, is hosting the roundtable summit and how-to sessions designed to:

    Consider and recommend answers to changes to the financing and practice of journalism

    Bridge the gap between new and traditional media

    Show and consider the impact of new media technologies on journalism and the "public sphere"

    Spotlight emerging business models

    Create new networks of media innovators which bridge traditional carriers among journalism, education, politics and technology

    Watch and share innovations in media-literacy education.

    Summit sponsors besides UMass include The Boston Globe, Omidyar Network, MassLive/The Republican newspaper, the New England Press Association.

    Constituencies from mainstream and alternative media rarely meet together. Yet new technologies are currently upending and interweaving the practice of journalism, politics and teaching. Journalists see an erosion of traditional revenue sources which supported -- and were supported by -- their work. It's not clear what will sustain traditional "watchdog" journalism, or how it will co-exist, or merge, with so-called "citizen journalism." There's an atmosphere of anticipation and intense experimentation.

    "Democracy and Independence" -- the first Media Giraffe Project Conference -- is the crossover meeting place for leading thinkers on the impact of Internet technology on journalism, media, education and politics -- and the place to celebrate "above-the-crowd" innovation.

    To accommodate attendees from citizen journalism, media, politics, education and technology, a five-track event is scheduled, starting with a limited-enrollment roundtable summit, followed by a four-track conference.

    Individuals working in politics, at large media, cutting-edge information technology organizations, citizen-powered local-news web services, or in teaching and academia share a goal of fostering participatory democracy and community. "Democracy and Independence: Sharing of News in a Connected World" will bring them together to share what's working now and what's coming soon.

    There will be a strong represenation from the blogosphere at the conference. Among others:

    The folks from the citizen journalism blog E Pluribus Media will be participating.

    There will be a meet-up of Massachusetts and New England political bloggers at noon on Friday, June 30 organized by blogger Michael DiChiara of Wonk NOT!

    Christopher Lydon of Radio Open Source will be hosting a discusion of his proposal to form The New England Commons, a Huffington Post scale blog about regional politics.      

    Does New England need a virtual meeting place for discussion and action on politics, culture, environment and living? Could the Massachusetts governor's race be a catalyst to establish one?

    An idea session and an opportunity to count heads and compare notes among people like us who see the old institutions dissolving in front of our eyes and wonder: where does the conversation go from here?

    We know in the Internet transformation that the public chatter isn't going to be re-routed by the old gatekeepers into the old ruts. But where could it go? Among other questions: why don't we at the core of New England have something like the group blogs we admire -- the aggregative web power -- at the Huffington Post, say, or Daily Kos, or Talking Points Memo and now, TPM Cafe? Isn't there a way to build such a thing in Boston and Massachusetts while a very good governor's race is building steam?

    I am honored to have been asked to particpate on this panel:

    Politics: "The Internet As An Advocacy Tool - Case Studies"

    CONVENER: Chellie Pingree, president, Common Cause;  Adam Green, (invited); Karen "Jo" Lee, and Frederick Clarkson,  

    Costly direct mail was once the only effective way for public policy non-profits to reach the faithful. The Internet is now the most efficient advocacy, motivational, and fund-raising tool in the NGO arsenal. How is the Internet changing public policy formulation? Who's winning? Who's losing?

    This event has not got as much attention as The Yearly Kos. But people who are serious about the future of politics, journalism, and the blogosphere -- owe it to themselves to check it out.

    [Crossposted from Political Cortex]

    Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 03:16 PM PDT.

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