Sessions at SRCCON:POWER
Sessions at SRCCON:POWER are collaborative and hands-on, a chance to draw on the experiences of every attendee and work together on plans to change the power dynamics in journalism. Our schedule will explore many of the ways power operates in our newsrooms, in communities, and in tech through the sessions listed below, as well as a series of talks throughout our days.
We still have a few session topics to confirm, and some descriptions here may evolve between now and our conference, Dec. 13 & 14 in Philadelphia. Huge thanks to all who submitted proposals, and to the community panel that helped us during the review process.
In this session, I’d like to explore the idea of “family” within the workplace. In some ways, having a close personal working relationship with your colleagues builds trust, fosters greater collaboration and, in times of adversity, trauma or distress, allows for a level of comfort. In others, considering your co-workers as family can be detrimental. It opens doors for manipulation, open secrets and requires a level of vulnerability, which can be used against one another. At what level does a family-like environment help versus when does it start to hurt? What can we do to build these relationships in a productive manner while respecting workplace boundaries like separation of work and personal life? Finally, how can we prevent these boundaries from being crossed and the closeness from being manipulative?
We’ve all had problems with a boss. And then some of us became bosses, and found that managing people is hard. How might we work within the inherent power dynamics of boss/employee (or team leader/team member) to create better, more inclusive, more humane work environments? If you’re a manager, what are you most afraid of? What are the best and worst lessons you’ve learned about how to work with people of different ages and experiences, and empower everyone to be their best selves at work? Let’s have an open discussion on how to use hierarchies to support everyone. Examples from personal experiences are very welcome!
Let’s talk about how societal notions of meritocracy, hard work equals success and pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality have contributed to inherent biases against people experiencing economic hardship, shaped our coverage of these issues and what we can do moving forward to better address this growing problem.
Forget toolkits—let’s talk about tools. What is the relationship between the tools we’re given and the power we have in newsrooms?
Facilitated by Sarah Schmalbach
Power in the workplace is often dictated by the tools we’re given to complete our work–and those tools can take many forms and be of varying levels of quality. Let’s consider how power flows through the newsroom based on the tools we’re given, or not given access to. A tool could be the equipment or software we use, but a tool could also be data or physical space, or even access to people or places. How do each of us direct the flow of power in our newsrooms based on the tools we give each other access to? Whose power is at stake when we build our own tools? Further, what tools do we give our audience and what work are we trying to help them do?
Funders wield immense power over the field of nonprofit journalism, from what they choose to value and support, to how they design their systems and processes. If you have ever tried to figure out how to get your foot in the door with a funder, or spent countless hours on their application and months waiting for a decision, you already know it can be relentlessly discouraging to try to get your project or organization funded. And once you get funding, hanging onto it for more than a year or two seems like a never-ending battle.
What should the ideal relationship look like between funders and organizations? Where do you have opportunities to shift the balance of power?
In this off-the-record session, we want to:
- Offer a snapshot of how foundations are thinking and talking about supporting journalism today
- Share Dos and Don’ts for building relationships with funders
- Help you understand what program directors and officers at foundations do and do not have control over
- Brainstorm ways that funders could share more power with grantees and applicants, and how we might put some of those ideas into practice
We also want to:
- Give you a chance to discuss sticky situations with funders and workshop ways to fix them
- Offer a safe space to ask questions you’ve been afraid to ask, or share funding-related frustrations you want to talk through
We are two people who are very familiar with being both the funder and the grantee, seeking to build bridges between the two and reduce the power imbalance. We hope to share general takeaways from this session with the philanthropic field.
Facilitated by Lewis Wallace
Discussions of race, gender and power in journalism aren’t new. In fact, some of the country’s most dynamic journalists throughout history were resisters and activists, working outside of dominant power systems. This session is a dive into historical legacies of resistance in journalism, from known names like Ida B. Wells to lesser-known leaders like Marvel Cooke and Ruben Salazar. We’ll look at strategies for building power from starting independent and community-based projects to union organizing, legal action, boycotts and protests. We’ll connect these stories from the past to current-day strategies for transforming journalism and building the news we need today. Facilitator Lewis Wallace is currently writing a book about the history of “objectivity” in journalism, through the stories of marginalized journalists who have pushed back, challenged, and changed journalism in the U.S.
Facilitated by Kevin Huber
Accessibility is frequently seen as a zero-sum feature that is excluded from initial planning and frequently left out altogether. At this session, we’ll be exploring the Curb Cut Effect- when designing for the inclusion of a minority group benefits everyone. Join us reframing the conversation on accessibility.
Many news sites have mission, vision, and values statements. But what about members, people who contribute to journalism with their time, energy, money, and ideas? Let’s draft manifestos for and with member input about their side of the social contract. This will be a roll-up-your-sleeves session to start ensuring that members’ voices are more fully considered in station and news site decision-making.
(Note: this session could begin with a brief grounding discussion about what supporters of independent news need. Subscribers, members, and donors tell the Membership Puzzle Project that sites worth their attention exemplify a consistent set of design principles. I can talk about inclusivity, humanity, humility, and other characteristics make some sites stand out in ways that encourage long-term feelings of belonging and commitment.)
The entrenched position of media may feel precarious at best when news organisations and individual journalists are actively under threat around the world. Between the daily fatigue of seemingly never-ending layoffs and the tragedy of journalists being killed by hostile regimes, it is tempting to believe we have no power left. That temptation has started to lead us down a path of failing to take responsibility for the power we continue to wield.
There are certain parts of every newsroom and every workplace that are dominated by women. Historically, you might think of secretaries, nurses, or teachers as jobs traditionally held by women. But there’s a new subset of jobs emerging in newsrooms and across media corporations that are dominated by women too—and not just on the social media team. We’ll lead a conversation about the ways in which areas dominated by women are often underestimated and undervalued, and how the people in those jobs can learn to take hold of their own power.
Issues affecting women, people of color, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ, among other marginalized communities, have all been under fire since November 2016. And it’s more important now than ever before that investigative journalists cover these issues and does so in a manner that does those communities justice.
So how do you cover these communities that you’re not a part of in an effective way? In this panel, we will talk about how journalists should be thinking about the communities they cover, their characters and their stories in ways that don’t further perpetuate injustices. We will talk about how not being aware of our own blind spots can reduce characters and communities to stereotypes.
Facilitated by Steven Rich
Most professional development and connections in journalism revolve around journalism organizations and the conferences they throw. Your experience with those organizations is largely determined by the board of directors of those organizations, which, for the most part, tend to be homogeneous groups. I want to convince you why joining the boards of these organizations is a great idea and give you the inside details of what to expect and how to shape your organizations from the inside. The time is now to run and change these organizations for the better.
Facilitated by Harry Backlund
Who gets paid how much in our organizations? Are we able to explain why?
This session is designed to generate actionable steps newsrooms and journalists can take to establish more equitable pay policies within their organizations.
While questions of compensation are universal to all workplaces, there are some unique aspects to newsrooms—especially the blurry line between the valuable labor of information gathering and analysis, and volunteerism in the name of citizenship, self-expression, and community representation.
How can journalism organizations translate the value they produce in the world to their compensation structure in ways that fair and equitable? When, how, and on what grounds can journalists challenge established pay practices?
To ground us, we’ll briefly review, with examples, how journalism organizations have historically paid for labor, how journalists and their constituents have responded, and how the economy has changed over time. City Bureau will also share the universal (no negotiation) pay policy we created and the lessons we learned along the way.
Journalists of color deal with micro and macroaggressions in the newsroom and in the field on a daily basis. It gets in the way of our work, affects output, creativity, mental health and physical wellbeing. Seema Yasmin, a reporter, and Michael Grant, a designer, have created the Toolkit for Journalists of Color, an innovative card deck to help journaists of color.
From quickfire, in-the-moment responses to everyday racism, to deliberative exercises that help you build community and recruit allies in the newsroom, the Toolkit for Journalists of Color is part of a Survival Kit which includes a second card deck, designed by Jennifer Dargan, to help white journalists be actively anti-racist.
The card decks have been created with the help of journalists throughout the US who have contributed their experiences of working in predominantly white newsrooms. Thank you for trusting us with your stories. Now come explore the Kit with us, engage in conversation, share solutions, and build community.
Despite it’s role in democracy, journalism’s institutions are far from democratic. As a result, journalism’s potential to enliven democracy at a time when it’s needed most is stunted.
Join a conversation where we’ll define what we mean by “democracy” and examine journalism’s role within it as well as the role it plays in cultivating it (or not). We’ll work together to identify democratic alternatives to common undemocratic practices in newsrooms. We’ll run the gamut between individual and organizational practices and participants will leave the session with ways to cultivate more democracy in their daily journalism practice.
Facilitated by Julia Wolfe
Even if you keep the same job title, that role is going to change over time. Ever-evolving newsrooms present opportunities. You might jump at a chance for a promotion or just end up taking on different responsibilities as needed. Let’s discuss what work we should take on enthusiastically, what work we should be wary of and how to negotiate the terms of a changing job.
We’ll focus on the practical. In this session, we’ll co-write guides to help work through these questions. Managers and non-managers alike: let’s talk about how to have productive conversations that ensure the newsroom is supported and the employees thrive.
Journalists whose main end product isn’t a written story often find their various core tasks bundled under a monolithic umbrella title. Without established guidelines, it’s difficult to measure what levels we are in our careers and how we’re progressing (and even more difficult to convince management when we should get a raise or promotion). Contrast that with newsroom engineering teams, which establish career ladders to identify competencies on their teams and provide a framework for individual career advancement.
Can we define skill levels for data analysis, programming, designing, and other non-text journalistic work? Should we?
Facilitated by Mike Rispoli
The idea of “news consumers” is outdated – it frames people as having value only if they generate revenue, and creates power imbalances where the public are passive recipients of the news. When we reframe communities as being constituents for journalism, however, it holds up journalism as a public service, one that is accountable to the public, prioritizes transformational relationships over transactional interactions, and gives communities agency to shape local news.
At this session, City Bureau and Free Press will share what they’ve learned through three-plus years of working with communities in Chicago, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Participants will work through foundational questions about how their newsrooms currently interact with their audience, determine how to improve and strengthen these interactions as well as broaden their audience to include a wider community, and create an action plan to effect meaningful change within their news organization.
Facilitated by Geoff Hing
Many who have worked in newsrooms have been involved in conflicts. Often the interests of reporters can get overruled by people with more power in the organization. Or, fearing repercussions, or just running out of energy, one might back away from a fight. Still, the conversations that are part of building power to raise concerns, or the relationships and trust built as part of that, can be valuable, regardless of the outcome of the conflict. This session would use small groups with art-making supplies to make pages in a zine describing strategies for building power out of losing battles, or to be better able to recognize things that have been built when it feels like everything is falling apart.
Why not add Puerto Rico to the standard U.S. map? Rethinking the messages in our templates and defaults
Facilitated by Lisa Waananen Jones
After several weeks of Hurricane Maria news coverage last year, a poll found that only about half of Americans knew that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Would that be different if news maps of the U.S. routinely showed Puerto Rico? What if election maps showed not just votes, but where people aren’t eligible to vote? We’ll take a look at examples of projects and redesigns that confront what we take for granted, and go through a few thought experiments to consider how small changes to templates, design defaults and data structures could improve newsrooms or better serve the public.
Facilitated by Kainaz Amaria
85-90% of news imagery is made by men. This single data point has tremendous implications with how we have been trained as an audience to see ‘the other’ or those that don’t identify in the same ways we do. This session will walk you through the origins the visual language, show examples of how we’ve been primed to devalue the lives of brown and black people and how by simply being aware of this dynamic, you can help correct the imbalance.
We’d also like to thank the folks who helped us select this amazing slate of sessions! We reached out to community members with a range of experiences and perspectives to make sure that SRCCON:POWER would have sessions that responded to your needs.
Thank you, community reviewers!
- Audrey Carlsen
- Jun-Kai Teoh
- Kim Bui
- Mandy Brown