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Peggy Holman: Engaging Emergence; Moving Towards Order From Chaos-- Interview Transcript

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   I do think that the forms of journalism are going to be ultimately as unrecognizable today--that we don't know what they are yet. They'll look as different from TV and radio and even online news as those looked to the way news was delivered before the printing press; that the changes are that radical. And I say that in part, because of my metaphor was something that we actually saw being explored at this "Create or Die" gathering, which is the idea of investigative journalism being delivered through hip hop, video games and comedy.

   I mean, we know the new forms are going to be very social, highly interactive.  A colleague of mine was part of creating or led the creation of something called wellcommons.com, which is in Lawrence, Kansas. And this is a site about health and well being in the community. And their goal was that at least 50% of the content be generated by people in the community, and she, Jane Stevens, is the person who is the thought leader behind creating this, and she's like this convert--very clear that the interactions between the journalists and the community on the site are what bring it to life, and that it is inherently a solutions-orientated site the moment you have those kinds of interactions going on.

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For me the big questions that I sit with around it is, "How do we decide what stories get told," which oddly enough is not something that seems to be a very explicit part of the training for a journalist, and I think it's one of the crucial questions we can ask: "What are the stories that are important to us? How do we decide?"

Rob: I've got to say a couple of things. I started OpEdnews as a blog, and its evolved into a very powerful complex content management system that I basically designed with a programmer and the help of the whole team of editors and a bottom up approach from the readers and contributors to this site. And of course, the 60,000 registered members on the site now. And one of the things that always been a question is, "What do you headline? What do you put at the top?" And so what we've done is we've had different ways of letting people look at it. So, we have one view where I do it and some of the other editors make decisions about what to headline. But another way to look at it is people can just go buy what is the most viewed stuff and there's a whole page that let's people see what other people are seeing, so they can look at it based on what's the most popular. Or they can look at it based on ratings of different aspects of the writing or which ones have the most comments, where the most discussion is taking place, and that way we give the opportunity for people to look at a curated version by people, but we also give them the opportunity--we certainly do this by ourselves--New York Times has the favorites as well--But we let people look at it based on crowd sourcing, how the crowd decided what was most interesting or most important and I think--

Peggy: I think you're onto something really important. And it's like that story about the guy looking for his keys and he's looking under the light, because it's easy to see there.

Rob: Right.

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Peggy: When perhaps the stories are most important are somewhere out in the dark, but they're a little harder to get to. So, asking the public through crowd sourcing kinds of approaches is I think is part of the answer, and curation and so I think multi-threaded approaches, which is what I hear you're doing, is where the answers rest on that kind of question.

Rob: The other thing I have to tell you, is about nine years ago or more, I got interested in what I saw as an emergence of a "Science of Story." Robert McKee was doing workshops on story structure and I found a lot of other people who were writing about it. The screen writing and novelist world, were having all these books coming out describing different approaches like, The Heroes Journey, from Joseph Campbell. It was adapted by Chris Vogler who wrote The Writer's Journey and *(inaudible) 105:48 were adapted by James Bonnet, and then there were a whole collection of these things happening, so I took a look and I started looking at story as a business, and I literally went and did research on how much was the annual spending for different aspects of story: the book business, the TV business, the movie business, the game business, marketing, psychotherapy, politics, religion. They all use story and what concluded was, after energy and transportation story is the biggest business in the world.

Peggy: That's fascinating. That's fascinating. I want to add another element, if I may real quick, / about story.

Rob: / Sure.

Peggy: And it has to do with this notion of a Possibility Orientation. When journalism, and journalism is notorious for this, takes us into who to blame, and what's bad, and why things are broken and all of that, and what they leave behind is a sense of despair, victimhood, no hope, etc., and I'm beginning to see a shift. And and asking myself in terms of our next step with Journalism That Matters, "How do we raise into consciousness of not just journalists--but we are all storytellers--this notion of telling stories that bring a lens of possibility? And I don't mean shy away from difficult stuff,  by any stretch of the imagination. But how do we tell the story in a way that takes us into the heart of what's broken or not working, in a way that asks those questions of "What's a possibility given what's taking place?" Because when we do that, it activates, it inspires, it engages, and it supports us in taking charge of our world. I personally think that journalism is a form of activists [activism], which is like anathema to say to mainstream journalists where this ethic, this silly ethic of objectivity, which actually had its roots in being objective about looking at many sources to come to your conclusions. Now, it was never, ever supposed to be about "a" verses "b," which is what it's been reduced to.

Rob: And  it's hypocrisy too, because it really comes out in such a fake way, where they'll take one side and the other and say they're equal in value and truth when so often they're not. / And one side--

Peggy: / That's correct.

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Rob: --What they're giving equal voice to is just a side that is paying for the advertising.

Peggy: And it skews the story. So, this notion of a possibility-orientationed storytelling, I think it could be profound. And then the very last thing I'll say about the journalism work is the Holy Grail of most the people I know who are looking at, "So, what will the new w   orld look like?"--is what's the business model.  How, what are the sources of revenue for doing journalism," And frankly it will be the last thing we find, and I say that because the moment somebody figures that one out, we'll stop looking.

   The amazing experimentation, and there are wonderful experiments going on: An example comes to mind is Spot.us, which is a form of crowd funding investigative journalism. One of my favorite experiments that grew out of these gatherings that we do that bring the diversity of the people who are thinking about these questions together, and becomes a generator of innovative ideas.

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

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Rob Kall's Bottom Up Radio Show: Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also published regularly on the Huffingtonpost.com

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