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Beyond the Echo Chamber writes new news history as it happens

I’ve always been lucky that when I left a job, the people who took the position over next were so dang smart that they ended up making me look good, too.

That’s by way of a reflection as I’ve been reading Beyond the Echo Chamber, by Jessica Clark and Tracy Van Slyke. I first met Tracy just 10 years ago when she became communications director at National Training and Information Center, best known for the bank-stoppin’ grassroots action coalition National People’s Action.

You haven’t heard about progressive news outlets’ fiscal crisis much in the course of the economic disaster for other news outlets. That’s because fiscal crisis is endemic to progressive news outlets–as Tracy and Jessica, who met when they worked at Chicago’s In These Times, know much better than I.

Also, despite big exceptions such as the bankrupt Air America, progressive outlets have rolled and grown with the times. They have received huge reinforcements in the form of the progressive blogosphere.

Tracy and Jessica tell us how sites and groups from Brave New Films to Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Center for Independent Media, have joined with revamped and revitalized venerable outlets–The Nation, Progressive, Mother Jones etc. to gain voice and influence in the new millenium. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonprofit Marketing: Less Seth, more Tim Calkins

We’re on a marketing kick at Community Media Workshop in between the waves of calls we’re getting from all size nonprofits seeking to adjust to changing circumstances in how we tell our stories (e.g. doing more of the work ourselves, but still relying on journalists when we can get ’em).

The challenge of nonprofit marketing, I’ve been finding, is to uncover authoritative and accessible sources for learning how to market our nonprofit services better. Of course we’re kind of guided by what’s most available … and what’s most available at the moment is Seth Godin.

Godins books inspire, entertain, and dont take you long to read

Godin's books inspire, entertain

It’s good, it’s good! (more specifics on Seth in a moment) The problem is, even a “meatball sundae” is still just dessert. From Seth I get conceptual thinking and a grounding in living my work on the Web. But Seth alone won’t teach me to incorporate effective marketing principles into my efforts to spread the good word about how Community Media Workshop is helping ‘save the world.’

Enter Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor, and author of my favorite new-to-me book,  (it came out in 2008) Breakthrough Marketing Plans. An acquaintance introduced me to the book.

“The goal of this book is to be very practical and effective, and to help people write plans that are clear and supported and get great results in the market,” Calkins says in a 2008 Northwestern University article on the book. Calkins crystallizes some basic concepts.

Read the rest of this entry »

From book idea to book reading for Our Lot (& other big ideas)

“Communications time,” or the time it takes for shifting audiences’ perceptions, ideas, feelings, thoughts  — which is often what advocacy communications is about, can be long-haul time.

I was reflecting on that this morning while contemplating a quick shout-out for a friend, Alyssa Katz, who’s passing through Chicago soon for a reading of her recently-appeared book, Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us:

  • When: 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m., August 24, 2009
  • Where: 810 N. Milwaukee, National Training and Information Center, Chicago, IL
  • RSVP: Free but RSVP to Regina Lewis at or call 312-243-3035 by August 21.

Full disclosure, I have not read it yet –it’s on hold for me at Chicago Public Library (I’m gonna buy my copy at the reading, of course!)– but I remember when the idea gestated. Around 9-10 years ago Alyssa was my editor for a number of book reviews I did for the New York City-based magazine City Limits (still around, online these days I think). We struck up a friendship over the phone, fell out of touch. Read the rest of this entry »

Other people’s stories

Where do those stories you’re always urged to tell come from? Usually, from other people (most of us in nonprofit communications and journalism are about telling other people’s stories, not our own, right?)

Art of the Interview is a definite read if you want to be a better interviewer, by Lawrence Grobel (New York: Three Rivers, 2004)

Art of the Interview is a definite read if you want to ask better questions to get stronger stories.

Before you can pitch a story to a journalist, before you can post a story on your Web site, before you can put a story in your newsletter… you have to have a story to tell. Because stories are about people, finding a good story virtually always means asking someone to tell hers. That means an interview.

Wanna know how? I’ve been reading Lawrence Grobel’s The Art of the Interview: Lessons from a Master of the Craft. (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004). I’d rate it a buy, or at least check out of the library and read. Read the rest of this entry »


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  • Telling people’s stories, an ethnic media success September 2, 2015
        By Stephen Franklin Community Media Workshop   A 3-year-old child died on a plane from Chicago to Poland. This, Magdalena Pantelis instantly knew, was a story her readers would care about. But she needed more detail to write about it for the Polish Daily News, the nation’s oldest daily newspaper in Polish, founded Jan. […]