Talk to Action is Getting Noticed
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 09:55:25 PM EST
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Last November, we launched Talk to Action as a national, interactive blog site on the religious right and what to do about it. Prior to that, several of us blogged for several months on a temporary site while we ramped up the Scoop-based site (Scoop is the software that runs the site); recruited more writers; and otherwise prepared to enter this whole new phase of our lives. Much has happened since then -- more than I can easily summarize here.  Like lots of others who start out with a vision -- we had no idea if it would work. Yes, we thought the plan looked good -- but no one had ever done this before. Nevertheless, in recent weeks several things have happened that have put Talk to Action on the map in ways that suggest we will be around for awhile. Here are the highlights:

Air America's State of Belief national radio program hosted by Welton Gaddy featured Talk to Action writers John Dorhauer, Bruce Prescott, and Andrew Weaver. The subject was the rightist factions that are out to dismember the historic mainline Protestant churches. It was a pioneering piece of radio. It was much discussed, and a transcript of the show has received wide circulation around the blogosphere.

The Associated Press  ran a national wire story that cited Tanya Erzen's piece on Immigration Policy and the Christian Right. The story appeared in the online and/or print editions of hundreds of news outlets around the country, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Jonathan Hutson's current series on the forthcoming videogame Left Behind:  Eternal Forces, has captured the interest of hundreds of blogs and media outlets around the country and the world. We had more than 100,000 visitors in the past week -- that's a third of all of the vistitors we have had since we began.

Finally, Talk to Action has been invited to participate in a major conference on the future of journalism, politics, and the blogosphere:  Democracy & Independence: Sharing News & Information in a Connected World 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.

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 received as much attention as The Yearly Kos -- another major blog-themed conference being held in Las Vegas this weekend.  But people who are serious about the future of politics, journalism, and the blogosphere and they way the rapidly changing political and communications environment affects those who are concerned about the religious right and what to do about it -- owe it to themselves to check it out.

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.

    In addition to the prominent role given to Talk to Action, there will be a strong blogger presence 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?

    Talk to Action is but one innovative project located at the blogospheric intersection of journalism, academia, and politics.  This conference is an opportunity to learn much more about the dynamic context in which our work is taking place.

    is to learn about how to use this powerful new tool, and to customize it for publishing, networking, education, and organizing.

    There is much to be learned, and much to be done. People stuck in old ways of doing business are, to borrow from Tim LaHaye -- going to be left behind.

    by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 10:19:12 PM EST

    Brian Keeler - otherwise known on the net as  "NYBri" - would want to be there if he could.

    by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 11:59:05 PM EST

    I sure wish I could afford to go to something like this. But maybe someone can talk about what goes into creating and maintaining a strong online community. That is where my experience set resides, and it is clear that the in-depth preplanning and structuring that went into building this site has helped it to become successful.

    And I am very happy that it has 'broken over' and done so- a whole year earlier than I expected! Thank you for allowing me this privelege.

    by Lorie Johnson on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 09:41:19 AM EST

    It is a very hopeful sign that TTA is getting a lot more noticed. I think a lot of people out there are hungry for information. I'm glad I've joined up. This site is an excellent resource.

    by Frank Frey on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:17:15 AM EST
    It takes a lot of energy to keep this going.

    by Bruce Wilson on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:56:23 AM EST
    I haven't noticed the volume of comments that say, DailyKos or MyDD have, YET, but then, this isn't a broadly political blog either.  

    I hope the traffic numbers are good, even if folks aren't commenting - the information is cruicial - it is important to publish on the insidious nature of these movements.  

    Please keep up the good work!

    by montpellier on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 01:38:16 PM EST

    I know I found out about it just a couple weeks ago, thanks to the Left Behind video game articles. I'm glad it's taken off, and glad people are noticing!

    by GreenEyed Lilo on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:35:18 AM EST

    but when I'm giving a speech about the religious right, this is where I come for information.  This is also my starting point for further research.

    I couldn't refine my knowledge about the religious right as quickly or as precisely if this site didn't exist.

    If I'm quiet, I'm always present.

    by tikkun on Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 05:02:41 PM EST

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