SRCCON 2019 • July 11 & 12 in MPLS Support the SRCCON team

← SRCCON 2019 Session Transcripts

How are we in community together?

Session facilitator(s): Erika Owens, Brittany Campese

Day & Time: Friday, 4:15-5:30pm

Room: Ski-U-Mah

BRITTANY: As folks are coming in, if you want to do a little tour around the room at each of the little yellow info stations, that will help inform your process for this session.

BRITTANY: Hello, everybody! Welcome to the session. How are we in community together? Thank you for joining us. My name is Brittany. I am a consult for – Vision Driven Consulting is the name of my business, and I do a lot of work with grassroots organizations, non-profit organizations, mostly in Philadelphia, and Erika and I have been working together for the past year and a half, really thinking about her transition into leadership at Open News and capacity building and strategic planning. I use she and her pronouns. Do you want to introduce yourself?

ERIKA: Hello! So excited to see you all and to have this time together, after two really full days, I’m guessing. So thank you so much. We’re really excited to have this time building on many of the conversations that you all have been in, have led over the past couple of days, and really trying to distill and better understand a lot of the discussions that have happened over the past two days. So I’m Erika. I’m director of Open News for just under a year. And Open News exists to support all of you. To convene spaces and ways for people to better strengthen their connections with each other, and reimagine how journalism can operate, especially in this current moment. So we have planned to do some chatting between people in the room that, looking around the room, might be more of a challenge than had been planned, to find someone you don’t know, and introduce yourself by telling them about the conference you just attended. So I think again, we’re trying to get up a little bit. We know it’s the home stretch of a very full two days. But if you could get up, say hi to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself, and tell them a little bit about the conference you just attended, and then we’re just gonna shout out some of the themes or thoughts that arise in those conversations.

If you haven’t switched, go ahead and have the other person in your duo speak.

ERIKA: All right, folks. So it looks like you’re engaged in some great conversations, which is what SRCCON is all about. And maybe that would be one of the popcorn words that might have come out in describing and reflecting on the conference you just attended. But if folks just want to shout out anything that you heard in the conversation or shared in the conversation you just had about the conference you just spent a day and almost a second day at? Yeah?

AUDIENCE: So we were just talking about – that it’s tiring in a very good way, and that there’s a surprisingly small number of tweets about the conference, which is also a good thing. That means that people are very engaged and are putting their phones away, and that’s really nice. And we had this feeling of… There’s a certain agreement among the people who are here that we don’t question the certain necessity, what needs to change in journalism. So there are not many people here who need to be evangelized. Which is also good.

BRITTANY: What else? What other words or ideas came up?

AUDIENCE: A community orientation came up. As in, the conference is oriented around being a community. And then for me it was… I was saying that attending the conference this year was important in the leadup, because I wanted to reorient myself to where I am in the community.

BRITTANY: Cool. Thank you.

(applause outside the room)

ERIKA: We’re gonna be doing that in just a moment. So gear up for some clapping and celebration. Any other themes jump out or reflections, or maybe even building on something that folks have shared so far?

AUDIENCE: All right. Sucking up the energy… Two things. I’ve heard a couple times of gratitude that there was no alcohol at dinner. And I think the reason why that’s so welcome is the whole structure of the event, that you don’t need to, because it’s not like you’re being talked at for a whole day and now you’ve got to somehow break the behavior and get liquored up so you can have a conversation. Everybody is already having conversations. So it didn’t feel like it was missing. Right? So anyway, that came up a couple times. And then also getting a sense of coming to a few of these events from the beginning that the experience level of the crowd has really leveled up in the last year or two. Name dropping here, you get, like, Tyler, who I think – in the first one, were you even out of McGill yet? Barely. And now you’re here recruiting. So big difference. Now we’ve got people who are directors of engineering at significant institutions. Right? So while it is really, really good and it’s upleveled a lot of the conversations, maybe it’s a little risk note of making sure that there’s a good pipeline to bring in the new blood and the next generation, to bring them along, and the mentoring and the welcoming and the first-timers and all that sort of stuff.

AUDIENCE: So my partner, Caroline, was… It’s her first time. And she was remarking about how… Sort of a similar theme, in terms of the networking, and how intentional the… And natural the gaps in the conference for talking and networking and making connections were. Rather than having the typical happy hour or really structured… You’re gonna network now! Meet people and talk! It’s just very natural. And flows.

ERIKA: How many of you, this is your first SRCCON? How many of you this is your fifth or sixth SRCCON? Nice. How many of you this is your second, third, or fourth? All right. Cool. Well, this is a great community for what we’re hoping to talk about today. So the goals for the session… They’re sort of meta. And we really want to reflect on all that we’ve done and created up until now. And then begin thinking about what’s next. So a lot of the conversations in each of the sessions was really like… Constructive in thinking about goals and strategies and ideas and ideas and ideas. And some of this information is like… Here it is. Now what? Now what? And I think that’s where we really want to make sure that some of that momentum doesn’t get lost, but also that we celebrate everything that was created. So let’s just take a moment to celebrate. I heard a story from one of the lightning talks yesterday about celebration. How many of you heard that story? About celebration? No? Okay.

Never mind.

AUDIENCE: Tell us!

ERIKA: Well, I’m relaying it third or fourth hand.

AUDIENCE: That’s fine. Summarize.

ERIKA: Just that there was a person who entered a newsroom and their cultural background wasn’t really connected to this idea of celebrating. Were you there? Do you want to quickly summarize? Because you were there.

AUDIENCE: It’s a woman who was at the New Jersey Advance. And she’s a newsroom developer. She comes from a relatively rural part of China, and she was just completely unable to celebrate herself. And hadn’t been raised that way, and was uncomfortable with it. And then won some extremely major awards. And the newsroom was like… Champagne. She was like… Uh… But she celebrated herself and it gave her the confidence to assert herself in other contexts with her family afterwards, and it was an adorable story.

BRITTANY: So let’s celebrate ourselves. Go ahead and gently give yourselves a pat on the back. Good work for staying awake and being present and contributing so much information. This is something I do with my son to help him understand consent. Ask the person next to you if they want a hug or a high five or a handshake or a wave. And just give something to your partner across from you.


ERIKA: This is great. And let’s do three hip hip hoorays together. One, two, three. Okay. Thank you. Ridiculous, but now all of you have a little bit more energy, right? So this is really fun. I’ve never done a workshop where we utilize information that was created at the conference, and that’s what we’ve done with this. So hopefully you’ve gotten a chance to go around and look at some of these things. If not, there will be time. But these shared goals… So these are shared community goals, and this list came out of the workshop that was done by Jeremy and Becca, the Geeks Won. How many of you went to that session? All right. So these were some of the goals and strategies that folks proposed out of that. And then this is shared industry goals that came out of Tyler and Brittany’s workshop. How many of you went to that session? So these were some of the ones that came out of that. That sticky note… How many of you contributed to that scene? This was something that Erika and I were talking about. What networks? Because community members go out into a lot of other different spaces. And to the left of that yellow sheet is just some demographic data from the News Nerd Survey. How many of you participated in the News Nerd Survey? All right. Cool.

And then in the back are ways we support each other as a group. So you can take some time to look through that. And then over here is the list of all of the different types of programming and work that Open News does. Do you want to talk about what Open News does besides SRCCON?

ERIKA: Sure. And I’ll also just say explicitly that… For folks who have known Open News in the past, there’s definitely humility, stepping into talking about your work tension that… We’ve contended with a lot.


And I’m feeling very much, in even participating in this session. So I just want to acknowledge that, and to say that… Why the title of this session was: How we’re in community together, and not like… What does Open News need to do for you… Is because how Open News operates is supporting that network map. And I’m so excited and I’ve been thinking about it the whole time. Because that is what has been, like, one of my favorite parts of working with this community. And it’s been in my head in different ways, but I’ve never seen it visualized. So getting to see it be something that we co-created over these two days in a visual form is really exciting. Because I think that at root, what Open News does is support that network of networks. Is connect people to existing organizations, connect people to other people working on similar things, connect people to resources, fill in the gaps where they occur, where people notice them and tell us that something would be useful. But it’s really driven by that. And so that’s why I’m so excited to have a visual representation of that now, to be able to show and share with people.

I think that document that Brit very nicely put together, in a more stepping into… Naming some of the work Open News does more explicitly, lists things like scholarships and the community call and Source and the News Nerd Survey and some of the programmatic things that we do, but at least to me, that network, that’s the core. And part of what we’re really excited about with the next step of this session that we’re gonna get into is… Digging more into that. And some specific questions about like how do we better sustain this whole network of networks and what is Open News’s role in that, and the role of all of us in the community as a whole.

BRITTANY: Thank you for that. So we’ve developed some guiding statements and then questions from those guiding statements that we’ve tried to think about when we visualize what is next for how we’re in community together. What is next for how all this information that comes out of this conference to be utilized, what is next for how we take responsibility for each other and bring more people into the community, and we really want your input for starting to think about some of these things. So it’s sort of like an open space technology. How many of you have used open space before? Oh, cool. So the idea is: There are some guiding statements at each table, and you don’t have to be at any table, but we encourage you to move to the one that you’re most interested in or most passionate about, and if you’re at the table and you’re done with the conversation and not interested in where it’s going, you can walk to another table and contribute to that one. You can stay at the same table throughout the whole conversation or you can move to all five tables. Just move where your soul takes you. But I do want to take some time to read each statement. So it’s one, two, three, four, five. Can I ask one person at each table to read the guiding statement and the question so you know where you might want to go?

AUDIENCE: The guiding statement is: We know a lot already. We have a lot of data about our goals and strategies. The question: What do we do with this knowledge?

BRITTANY: So that really refers to these goals. These goals are really similar goals that keep coming up year after year in the News Nerd Survey, through the conversations that are happening, so what do we do with this knowledge? And if you need to check out these goals to answer that question, feel free to do that.

AUDIENCE: The guiding statement is the same. We know a lot already. We have a lot of data about our goals and strategies. The question is: How do we pick focus areas? How do we DO something, capital DO.

BRITTANY: Perfect. Thank you. So we’re sort of working from the same information, really thinking about honing in and creating something bigger.

AUDIENCE: The guiding statement is: We know who is here and that we show up in a lot of networks. The question is: Who is missing? Who should be here? And how do we get them here? Who should not be here?

AUDIENCE: Ooh, juicy! Yeah!

AUDIENCE: Vote them off the island.

BRITTANY: So some of that you know just viscerally, visually, and emotionally. But if you want more prompts, the Community Board is up there for you to look at. All right. Table number four.

AUDIENCE: The guiding statement is: Open News does a lot to support community building in journalism technology. The question is: What else should Open News do? What shouldn’t Open News do?

BRITTANY: So again, these are some of the programs, some of the things that Open News has done historically, but we’re really thinking a lot about: What is our lane and what is outside of our lane as we’re starting to think about more programming.

AUDIENCE: As individuals who make up the journalism community, what are our responsibilities?

BRITTANY: You might know this stuff intrinsically. We’ve spent so much time collecting the data and now we need to move to what’s next. So we need to take the bulk of the time to do this and report out on some of the things that have come up. We need to talk about the metalevel. We don’t want you to question the data. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re asking you to put the main ideas and shared concepts on the paper. Not an idea dump, but in conversation, here’s what came out, that we think is the most valuable thing to pass on. And you can do that with the sticky notes on the paper. Any questions? Feel free to check out the information and move about the cabin.He

All right. One more minute and then we’re gonna report back. All right. So this is really exciting, some of the conversations that happened. And I think they all really flow into each other in a way that we didn’t necessarily expect. Which is lovely. So we’re gonna ask each table to sort of give feedback.

AUDIENCE: So this is all Christian. He had a system in mind, and just did it. It was amazing. Yeah.

AUDIENCE: I’m not ashamed!


Watch and learn, people!

AUDIENCE: Our guiding statement. We know a lot already. What do we do with the technology? Starting from the point of: We have these goals and strategies, people have raised they have industry-level goals and industry-level ideas for how to solve them. We should gather all those ideas we got at SRCCON and have a conversation, a sort of more… Communication networks.

AUDIENCE: Can I just slow you down a little bit?

AUDIENCE: Sorry. Do outreach to the wider journalism community, the people who aren’t here, and the more bolder idea I think we had here was maybe having local meetups, and community hubs, so people who can’t travel to SRCCON or whatever could come and discuss these goals as a community. Step one point five we realized would be to… Once we’ve got those goals, prioritize them as a community. So we could design a system online that allows people to say… Hey, I’m interested in this one. I’m interested in this one. And from there, we can see what the community as a whole is interested in. Step two, design around that. We could have a call for proposals that have to meet one of the community goals. Could be new and existing groups around those goals. Search for affinity groups that are guaranteed to be other places that are working on this stuff, and then we go and do it. And I think all of us have a predisposition to test this on a small-scale, see if it’s working, measure success, test, and we should do that in this case as well. And a great thing that Open News already does, is support and guide initiatives – because we’re all gonna want to take the ball and run, so how can Open News support that. And measure and test both qualitatively and quantitatively, and start at the beginning. Start all over again.

AUDIENCE: Done and done. Okay. Can someone share the…

AUDIENCE: Me? Okay. You can fill in the blanks, if I miss anything. So we talked about… Oh, sorry. So the guiding statement we know a lot already, we have a lot of data about our goals and strategies, and the question is: How do we pick focus areas and how do we do something? Capital DO, do. So for pick focus areas, we were talking about prioritizing our goals, but running them also through some filters, and the filters we came up with were: Is it future-facing? Can we systematize it? Is it multidisciplinary? And what do we… What does Open News do that is truly unique? So what can Open News do that only Open News can do? And I think we spent more time talking about how do we do something… And this is where the conversation just, like, really drifted. It was, like, very… Not organized. We talked about… Paying it forward. So folks who have attended a whole bunch of SRCCONs, and being kind of alumni, being able to somehow contribute to the ongoing success and activity of Open News. We also – oh, the first thing they wrote down was: We don’t have to do everything. So keeping that in mind. What else?

AUDIENCE: Let us pay you coin!

AUDIENCE: Let us pay you coins is written twice! So finding ways to have us contribute.

AUDIENCE: Personally and institutionally.

AUDIENCE: Personally and institutionally. So how you get us to contribute, and how to equip us to go to our bosses at our organizations and get them to give money. Talked about getting a wish list to that end. Finding a wish list through Open News on stuff that you would love to do, if you only had the money. So that way, we could go with those kinds of asks. What else? We talked about working groups. So the idea of… I think there were at least three sessions I was in, the last two days, that could easily be ongoing working groups. So kind of… Subcommittees or working groups that could continue the work that was started in the session here, and could continue and keep reporting back to the community, and then ideally hold itself accountable for… You know, it’s easy, as you come as an individual, to say… Okay. I’m coming, and I will apply what I take from SRCCON, and then maybe do something with it, or just get sucked into the day-to-day, and not. But if it continues through more of a structure, there might be more accountability, more action, more follow-through, for what happens at SRCCON. So that was one.

AUDIENCE: One thing I want to bring up is that we talked about how SRCCON is very good at convening. So literally just bringing us together. And the spirit of this being the type of group that wants to step up and step back. We’ve been here for three to four groups. Can you find a way for me to be alumni so I don’t come next year? I come to a specific one for those of us who missed a year and we do a specific thing to give back. Also, we said fiber, but not evil. So wish lists of things that you might need done from Open News that you don’t want to do. So you have to go to a talk and have no desire to do that. I can do that. Give me a fake title. Or you’re good at the mechanics. We want to keep this going. We just need to be held accountable. Can we make that space happen?

AUDIENCE: You need to dedupe some data. Pay somebody a hundred bucks for a couple hours of deduping some data.

AUDIENCE: Work distribution. Kanban-style. You need this tagged. I’ve got an hour. And also ways of donating maybe time, so we often look at the distribution of the pipeline problem. We get free work hours or something like that. Can I take my free work hours that I have and I’ll twiddle my thumbs or donate that to you, pay someone you know that doesn’t have the experience to go work on the portfolio?

AUDIENCE: Is that everything?

AUDIENCE: Can I follow on to that? Because I’ve been… I actually lost count of how many times I’ve been… This is my favorite conference of all time and I love the community here, but I feel like I’ve had the conversation two or three times with organizers here where something will come up and someone says… You should do a session on that. It would be cool to have you here this year. And people reach out. Hey, are you attending? And that’s super cool. I have at least once or twice responded like… I was thinking of giving somebody else a chance. It’s super flattering that I’m here, but I want to have a program where I can recommend other people, because I’ve tried to do that. And I know a lot of them have come here, and that’s great. I would also love to have a program where it’s like… I’ve given these sessions. And it’s hard to learn how to facilitate a SRCCON session. This is not an easy skill. I would love to… Instead of attending, can you pair me with someone else so I can make sure their session goes well?

AUDIENCE: Not to go too far down the rabbit hole, but to tell people that it exists! And I feel like that’s also part of what I’m getting out of a lot of these. And has been a really big tension in terms of… Don’t want to ask too much. Respecting people’s time.

AUDIENCE: No, ask us, please!

ERIKA: People can say no.

BRITTANY: They can’t say yes unless you ask them.

ERIKA: We have done this pairing for the past two years, and Lisa took it to the next level this year. So psyched about that. One of the things we realized literally yesterday was… We could add that to the CFP form. Do you want to facilitate? Do you want to mentor someone and facilitate in whatever language? And add it to the form so everybody can hear about it? So you will probably see that next year, and we’re super psyched about that. But it’s definitely a good example of things that happen quietly and we experiment with, but wanting to think about how to make them more visible.

AUDIENCE: Part of the joy of this is it tends towards people who like to do and make things happen. Oh, let’s just go do it! But that’s part of the problem. Would you like to go advertise, speak someplace else, go to this… God no. Please!

AUDIENCE: Yes, just to follow on that, I did some of this coaching for new facilitators this year, and I was super excited to be able to have the chance to do it. I felt like it was actually a gift to me. I wasn’t giving a session, and I was fine with that, but it was something that I could actually do to sort of help this all go well. So it’s not… It wasn’t an ask that was a demand on my time. I think you can also trust most people to be like… I’m so busy. I have ten projects. Sorry. Can’t do it.

AUDIENCE: I would like to learn how to give a SRCCON-style workshop not at SRCCON. I would like to learn it for some other place. This felt a lot better and a lot of other conferences could benefit from having at least one session like this as well.

AUDIENCE: TedX but it doesn’t suck!

AUDIENCE: Longer than 20 minutes.

AUDIENCE: I think you could sell the IP that you’ve gained and consult on how to make a good conference. I don’t know if you do that yet, but I think Open News could sell their process. Because this conference is amazing.

ERIKA: That’s awesome to hear, because we have started down that path. Especially when you were saying… Ask us to do things. We need some branding help. I have a tiny page that has one sentence. We can help! And sometimes hear from people sometimes. But yes, we would love to do that more, and I think that’s also part of… If we get to the next table, there was a big sustainability thread. And that is part of the sustainability. Is being able to bring in income that isn’t just reliant on grants. And allows us to sustain ourselves as a community from what we learned together and what we do together.

ERIKA: Can we move to this table and see how it informs the rest of what we’re talking about? And we have about five minutes left. I’m sorry. I know.

AUDIENCE: Okay, cool. I don’t want to talk too much… One of the things I’m seeing here… The question was: Who is missing, who should be here, how do we go from here? Who should not be here? Some of the things… I’m in development, fundraising, do I belong here? Alumni, what are the appropriate roles? For people who are now news-adjacent, people with real power are still not here. This community doesn’t have real power to change anything. Year after year, the same issues come up, and because we don’t have much power, things don’t change. Totally not journalists. No toxic assholes, and I think that’s all it is. Yeah. We had a really nice discussion here. Yeah. Did I cover everything?

ERIKA: Great.

AUDIENCE: I wrote totally not journalists, because I wonder what regular people, not journalists, civilians, whatever you want to call them, would tell us when we say… What should we do with this?

AUDIENCE: I mean, we’ll have to pay them to come here.


AUDIENCE: Like a plumber, for example.

ERIKA: Can you share what’s at your table?

AUDIENCE: Our question was: What specifically are our responsibilities to each other? What are not our responsibilities? How are we as individuals responsible for Open News as an entity? Approach conflict with curiosity, be an ally, disagree with ideas, not people, listen, be welcoming. What are not our responsibilities? Marginalized people do not owe labor to well-meaning folks who want to be educated and single handedly solving all problems is not our responsibility.

BRITTANY: Yeah, right? This is so brilliant. All right. Last one.

AUDIENCE: So I was walking to this table and people dived in, wrote a thing, and went somewhere else. It is entirely fragmented, which is fantastic. Not another foundation. Oh, what else should Open News do? What shouldn’t Open News do? Another is transparency index. A should is… Is there some sort of data-driven model for assessing newsroom culture? That would be so cool, because it would be a tangible way to address internal organizational issues and decision making. Build organizing capacity… Connect the networks. Which is a theme that sort of was in the first three. And the last one is: Help coordinate homes for stable legacy projects.



AUDIENCE: Gonna need some coin for that. I can help with that.


ERIKA: Wow. Thank you. That was quite a note to end on, and definitely speaks to how this network is here to support other folks in the network, and how there are many ways that we can step up and support one another individually, the organizations that we’re involved in, and I think one of the other threads that I heard a lot here and over the past two days and beyond is reimagining what this can all look like. Showing different models of leadership, showing different models of how funding structures and organizations can look. And I heard a lot of amazing strategies about how we can make that happen and sustain it. I think we’re just at time, so thank you all so much for participating in this conversation.


Thank you so much. You’ve given us a lot of great information. A lot of encouragement and validation, and we will be moving forward with this, and updating you on it very soon. So thank you so much.


AUDIENCE: All right. Thanks, everyone.