Madison-area journalists engaged in citywide reporting project

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Posted by on September 24, 2009 at 19:37:43:

All Together Now

By Brennan Nardi
/From Madison Magazine/

Everybody knows that Margaret Mead quote. You know, the "never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens" one?

I remember it hanging high on the wall at my first "real" job in Madison. I was working on a political campaign in the building space that is now Cafe Soleil on the Square. Tell me THAT kind of encouragement wasn't intimidating for a kid just out of college who could barely make rent.

My candidate lost, which is why I decided on a career change--and that I didn't much care for that bleeding-heart's adage.

But yesterday I almost ran into the same quote on a bumper sticker stuck to an old, green car, and it made me ponder deeper this experimental journalism project I'm involved in with other local media.

If you don't remember Margaret Mead's sage yet admittedly overused advice, or you sort of remember but think it might have something to do with one or two crazy people trying to accomplish something when hell freezes over, it goes like this:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever does."

Now, let me be clear: it's not like I think we scribes are capable of actually changing the world from our poorly ventilated, hollowed out newsrooms around the city. I don't.

But I think we're onto something with the idea that reporting collaboratively on a local topic--access to health care--might generate some interest. Maybe even some change for the better.

Certainly, access--or the lack of it--to health care is an important issue that affects us all, and we're all reading, watching and hearing about it from every electronic device on the planet right now. In fact, as I write this I realize I'm missing the President's plan for health care reform. Thank the goddesses for the Internet--and the coverage I'll catch on the ten o'clock news, the newspaper and the radio on my commute to work tomorrow.

There's another old saying, "We're all in this together." (It's also the hit song from "High School Musical" but whatever.) If we do our job, which is to rain on the city with good, honest, professional journalism, everybody gets wet. Theoretically, everybody but the guy living under the rock gets hip to the community conversation.

Maybe the modest band of journalists and editors from close to two-dozen media outlets isn't that "small group" Margaret Mead thinks can do something special.

Maybe it's the citizenry who will read what we write in newspapers, magazines and websites. Watch what we report on TV and the web. Hear what we discover on the radio.

Grab an umbrella, Madison. Here's the stormy forecast.

A group of Madison-area journalists are engaged in a citywide reporting project that seeks to put one critical community issue, health care access, under a microscope and break the story�and new ground�together.

All Together Now, the working name for this endeavor, aims to:

* Identify a community-wide problem or challenge (health care access)
* Create awareness and offer pragmatic solutions
* Engage citizens, opinion leaders and decision makers
* Leverage journalistic strengths and expertise in our respective mediums
* Maximize exposure to ensure the topic grabs headlines, hearts and minds
* Affect change for the better!

While it�s not a primary goal, inherent in this exercise is building a better understanding and appreciation of the role of media in a democracy�especially in uncertain times. Madison has a long legacy of sifting and winnowing in search of the truth, which is why we are uniquely positioned to pilot a project of this nature and scope.

What better way to make a statement about the quality and character of journalism in our community than to do what we all do best�all together.

About Brennan Nardi's Blog:
Madison, Wisconsin, home of the flagship University of Wisconsin, the State Capitol, captivating lake views and cityscapes, the largest farmers� market in the country ... and a hotbed of literary talent. Yep, corn-fed folks here can write. I�ll show you. Here. In this blog that acquaints you with the best, most happenin�, creative and unique writers, authors, books, magazines, bar napkins, dissertations, speeches, rolls of toilet paper�and anything else I can get my hands on.

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