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Post Carbon Newsletter – November 2008
Post Carbon Institute
After the historic election here in the US, Barack Obama promised to lead the American people on a path to change. As the President-elect prepares to deliver on this promise, Post Carbon Senior Fellows Julian Darley and Richard Heinberg examine some of his upcoming challenges related to energy and the environment.
In the meantime, winter is fast approaching and households across the continent are beginning to turn on the heat. Rising energy costs are already having an impact on people’s lives. What will the winter bring? Laurel Hoyt from Post Carbon Cities discusses the need for new responses to these challenges, while Relocalize.net offers some initial ideas for groups and individuals. The imperative to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels also requires us to think differently about the way in which we heat our homes. Three articles from Energy Bulletin take up this theme.
Finally, take the chance to catch up with highlights from our Commentaries, Global Public Media, and our upcoming Events.
1. Julian Darley
2. Richard Heinberg
3. Commentary Highlights
4. Post Carbon Cities
6. Global Public Media
7. Energy Bulletin
Spot.Us and Fear of Change (YouTube, text)
Amy Gahran, Contentious
As the traditional news business model continues to stumble, what people fear losing most is investigative and enterprise reporting — especially on the local level. This type of journalism is notoriously difficult, time-consuming, risky, and costly. It’s not something that amateurs or concerned citizens can readily handle. If we want it to continue, we need new ways to support it.
That’s what David Cohn is trying to do with Spot.us, which launched yesterday. This project, funded by the Knight News Challenge, is attempting to support local investigative journalism through crowdfunding. Poynter’s Ellyn Angellotti described this project her recent centerpiece feature. Here’s Cohn’s short explanation of how Spot.us will work:
Yes, crowdfunding is a very different approach to journalism. And the unfamiliar always seems potentially dangerous. That’s why most mainstream media articles so far about Spot.us, like this one from the New York Times, include some variation of this caution: “Critics say the idea of using crowdfunding to finance journalism raises some troubling questions. For example, if a neighborhood with an agenda pays for an article, how is that different from a tobacco company backing an article about smoking?”
That’s a valid concern, but I think it must be considered in context…
1. Journalism has always had funding strings attached — often implicit, sometimes explicit. Great journalism has always been subsidized by people, organizations, or sectors with various agendas. And, more often than most journalists would care to admit, this has skewed coverage. This explains why so many newspapers have long offered meaty real estate, auto, travel, and lifestyle sections. It also explains why many news orgs take extra care (including, sometimes, outright avoidance) when covering news that might hurt the economic interests of big advertisers. To navigate this morass, most news orgs have devised processes (including the advertising/editorial firewall) that address internal conflicts of interest — not perfectly, but generally well enough.
… 3. The traditional approach is broken, perhaps beyond repair. It has become glaringly obvious that ad-supported, mass-media news orgs — the key support infrastructure for most investigative and enterprise reporting — are in dire trouble. Alarming numbers of them are shedding staff and cutting costs fast, yet still remain in danger of folding entirely, sooner rather than later. While national-level investigative journalism will probably continue at the major news orgs left standing after this shakeout, local projects are very much in jeopardy. For this reason, more than any other, I think we need experiments like Spot.us. We cannot dismiss a community’s willingness to pay directly for investigative journalism without giving it a serious try.
(11 November 2008)
About Amy Gahran.
You can click with your neighbors here
Raymond Rendleman, The Oregonian
A Portland Web site that went live this week hopes to build a new level of online connection. Like Craigslist, Portland Bright Neighbor (www.brightneighbor.com) lists events, goods and services. But additional features enable users to connect for rides, trades and more.
Users can click on an event, for example, and find a list of people offering or looking for rides to the event, too. And instead of selling or hunting for goods and services one at a time, users can keep a wish list or inventory of offerings in a “Swap & Share” section.
Founder Randy White, who’s made a name for himself as part of Portland’s peak oil movement to lessen dependence on fossil fuels, also notes a function enables users to enter personal data so those they add to their “trusted” list can verify their identities. He calls it “a citywide cup-of-sugar network.”
“Craigslist offers a faceless market,” he says. “Bright Neighbor provides the networking skills that people will need in the coming (peak oil) crisis.” He hopes the for-profit venture eventually makes money through ad sales and licensing deals.
Reactions among others range from enthusiastic to skeptical. Bright Neighbor is “an example of a kind of tool we’re familiar with, but it’s meant to serve a particular place so it can do things that have never been seen before,” says Howard Silverman, a senior writer for nonprofit Ecotrust who has used the site’s beta version.
(6 November 2008)
Randy writes: “Portland is the test case for Bright Neighbor, which is ready to be deployed to any municipality seeking an out-of-the-box crash program to help alleviate the pain of the financial meltdown.