Thursday, December 9, 2010

Civil Beat: Internet Press Vulnerable After WikiLeaks

We published an editorial on the WikiLeaks case today at Civil Beat that I hope you'll check out.

The point: "The angry words of government officials and the swirling storm over whether Assange's brand of journalism can be justified are overshadowing a potentially far more disturbing aspect of this story — the new power governments have to punish publishers."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Civil Beat Free Through Thursday

If you haven't had a chance to check out what we're doing at Civil Beat, drop in over the next three days. It's free. You can look at the stories, posts, fact checks, etc. we've been writing and check out how we're covering election. Click the Daily Archive tab and you'll go to list of stories, posts, etc. You can view by month.

It's a beautiful election day in Hawaii. By the time our polls close, we should know all but the closest races on the mainland. What to watch for here: Can Dems take back governor's office and can Republicans hold on to Honolulu Congressional seat they picked up in special election in May? Hawaii not like rest of country. Fifty-seven percent of likely voters feel good about direction of country, and 62 percent approve of Obama's job performance.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Civil Beat Launches New Look

Civil Beat went live with a new look today, one that responds to reader feedback and better reflects what we're doing on the site.

It's hard to believe that we've been publishing for just four months.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Implications of Being a One-Newspaper Town

I saw what happened in Denver. Now I'm seeing what's happening in Honolulu, when one newspaper — in this case, the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser — is the last daily standing in a city.

Being a one-newspaper town has implications for journalism, the commercial vitality of a city and for its public life.

In a free article on Civil Beat today, I share some reflections. We're going to hold a Beatup on Thursday where I'll talk about this issue further.

Here's the top of that article. To read the rest, go to Civil Beat.

I'm getting used to the fact that Honolulu is a one-newspaper town. Just like I did in Denver, after the Rocky Mountain News closed.

And I can't say I like it anymore here than I did in Denver.

That's not to say that the good folks at the Star-Advertiserhaven't tried to step up and produce a bigger — and better — newspaper than either of the city's two previous titles. But the new reality has disturbing implications for the city's journalism, commercial vitality and public life. There's something depressing about not being able to compare the coverage in two competing papers to try to understand what's going on in a city.

Let me give you a small example from Thursday's paper.

The black front-page above the fold headline in the Star-Advertiser said: "Veto of civil unions bill is not group's position." The italic sub-headline said, "The Business Roundtable clarifies its statement, reacting to internal dissent and other pressures." The article was on Page B3. The headline on the B3 article was fine, but the lede (the first and most important paragraph) was flat-out wrong. It read: "The Hawaii Business Roundtable clarified yesterday that it has not taken a position on a civil unions bill, responding to internal dissent and under pressure from gay rights advocates for urging Gov. Linda Lingle to veto the measure."

The Roundtable has taken a position on the civil unions bill. What it hasn't taken a position on, it now says, is the concept of civil unions. The group wants the governor to veto House Bill 444 because it believes there are "administrative challenges to the implementation of H.B. 444 in its present form."

Civil Beat Publishes Anonymous Source Policy, Will Link to it Every Time

We published our anonymous source policy on Civil Beat today, concurrently with the use of an anonymous source in an article on the impact of the recession on a Honolulu neighborhood.

Every time we use an anonymous source in an article, we'll link to the policy. I'm not sure anybody else is doing that. The reader can be the judge of whether we followed our policy.

Here's some key language from the policy:

"At Civil Beat, we believe that anonymous sources are sometimes necessary when they're the only way we can share important information. We only use them, though, when we believe the public benefit clearly outweighs any potential downsides. Anonymous sources must be used carefully. The decision is in our sole judgment. To retain your trust, we believe we must explain why we granted anonymity. It's not enough for us that somebody might ask for anonymity.

"It's important to state: We always try to obtain information on the record. But there may be cases where that's impossible, and yet we believe we have information that is essential for the public to know. In such cases, before considering granting anonymity, we must know that the source or sources are reliable and that they have direct knowledge of the subject. We always try to confirm information by seeking multiple sources. We decide to grant anonymity because we believe the person has a justifiable reason not to speak on the record."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Free Day" at Civil Beat

If you want to see everything that's beyond the pay wall at Civil Beat, today is your day. The site will be free until midnight Hawaii time.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The good, bad and the ugly of Honolulu Star-Advertiser's first week

In a "Free" article on Civil Beat, I explore what the Sunday edition of the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser tells us.

I wrap up my review of the first week of the paper with a few conclusions:
  • The paper doesn't care about the web.
  • The front page is going to be dominated by "concept" covers, rather than documentary journalism.
  • So far, the paper isn't asking tough questions. The lead story on Sunday, the first Sunday since the new paper debuted, was lame. Most of the front page was dedicated to a package on how food distributors were paying an extra $300 weekly for overtime for state food inspectors and how that was driving up the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables. The huge headline: "Fresh Costs: Hawaii consumers are paying more for fresh produce because of state cutbacks." Please ....
  • The owner is being generous with news hole. It's a bigger paper than you'd find in most other cities of comparable size, based on my experience. Too bad so much of the space is used for long wire stories.
  • The owner is also showing more commitment to commentary, beefing up the section — which is a great move. Three pages of commentary many days. Two at a minimum. The old Advertiser used to run 1 and 1/2, with none on Saturday.
Read my series on the Star-Advertiser's full week at

Friday, June 11, 2010

Breaking news an afterthought at new Honolulu Star-Advertiser

If you went to the new Honolulu Star-Advertiser's website last night or this morning, the breaking news page had nothing on it. That's pretty much indicative of the paper's approach to the web.

The site republishes what's in the paper. But not much more.

I've written more on the new Star-Advertiser in an all "free" article on

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Little advertising in new Star-Advertiser

Day 2 of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser was a Tuesday, a notoriously difficult day for newspaper advertising. Still, the lack of advertising in the new paper was noticeable. The owner kept the paper relatively fat — certainly bigger than Gannett's old Advertiser — but not with ads. The ratio was 90 percent editorial, 10 percent advertising.

More on Day 2 of the Star-Advertiser in a free story on Civil Beat.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 1 of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Honolulu became a one-newspaper town on Monday morning when the Star-Advertiser rolled onto the streets.

I shared my thoughts in a "free" article on Civil Beat.

You have to forgive hyperbole on a day of hope for a new newspaper, and the team did a nice job of creating a new design under difficult circumstances, but....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Don't believe everything you read about Honolulu newspapers

Sunday was a sad day in Honolulu for anybody who loves newspapers.

I've shared my reflections on that day in a post on Bottom line: Honolulu can't support two separate newspapers. And it's admirable that David Black has picked up 28 journalists from The Honolulu Advertiser for his new Star-Advertiser. But the claim that he has lost $100 million over past 10 years in Honolulu just doesn't seem believable.

I'm sure he can come up with numbers to show that's the case. But I deeply doubt that his claim represents the underlying situation here. The Star-Bulletin may have lost $100 million, depending on how expenses and revenues are allocated. But his Midweek, a weekly paper distributed to most residences on Oahu, looks to be very profitable. Why else would he have kept it out of the deal when he put the Star-Bulletin up for sale and made an offer on the Advertiser? You might be able to show that the Star-Bulletin lost $100 million, but my guess is that Oahu Publications, the parent company of the Star-Bulletin and Midweek, did far better and made up much if not most of those losses with profits from Midweek. Black put the Star-Bulletin up for sale. Not Oahu Publications.

With essentially a monopoly weekly, a monopoly daily and a great press plant that can be the dominant local commercial printer, it seems like he's in a position to raise rates. Would lenders really have given him money if he had lost $100 million over the past 10 years and wanted to spend another $125 million on the Advertiser? I doubt it. I also doubt he has the kind of pockets to lose $100 million in Honolulu.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Day at

Today is our first "Free Day" at Honolulu Civil Beat. It's been exactly a month since we formally launched and today we're opening our doors wide to give a deeper view into what we're doing. I hope people will check the site out and let me know what they think.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

First Beatup at Civil Beat

We held our first "Beatup" at Civil Beat on Thursday evening.
I held a lot of community meetings in my former role as editor of the Rocky Mountain News. It wasn't uncommon to run into anger. What was fascinating about this meeting with members of our Honolulu news service was how much of a personal stake they already felt in the site. They were there to help, because they cared.

Very cool. We'll be doing more of these public meetings going forward.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two interesting takes on Civil Beat

I've been away from this blog for a couple of weeks, focused on work at my new job at Civil Beat.
But I wanted to point out two thoughtful pieces that give a good outside perspective on what we're doing at Honolulu Civil Beat and how our effort fits into the search for a new business/editorial model for local news.

Rick Edmonds, author of The Biz Blog at the Poynter Institute, is a seasoned and measured observer of the news business. His blog post accurately captured what we've done up till now.

Mark Potts, author of the savvy Recovering Journalist blog, provides an analysis of how our discussions at Civil Beat are working and whether our approach to comments is leading to the kind of civil discourse we said we wanted to support. I loved his headline, "Reader Comments, Hawaiian-style," because it captured the spirit we hope permeates what we're doing.

Both pieces provide an informed assessment of where we are at Civil Beat.

One thing I would add is that I've been struck by how quickly we can change at a start-up where the software developers built the site and know its guts so well. Not even two weeks have passed since our hard launch, and the site is very different from its first day. As are our subscription offers. We still have our $19.99 full members, but have added a daily membership for $1.49 and a discussion membership for 99 cents for 30 days.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"First Edition" of Civil Beat

Today we published the "First Edition" of Honolulu Civil Beat

I've been involved with a few first editions. The first edition of The first edition of The first edition of

The first edition is just that, a beginning. So much more to do.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The day has come: We're live at Civil Beat

I've been writing here for some time about my experience starting a new local news service in Honolulu.

Well, today is the day that we're opening our doors at Civil Beat (yes, it's a new name - used to be Peer News) to give people some time to look around and talk before our May 4 launch.

I hope you'll drop by.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More on Peer News and comments: An interview with Jay Rosen

Given that there's clearly some confusion over our position on comments at Peer News, I thought I'd share this excerpt from a Skype interview I did with Jay Rosen in March after the speech where I spoke publicly for the first time about Peer News.

I hope this helps clarify our position on comments.

[3/18/10 5:19:08 PM] Jay Rosen: so it's more the anonymous you want to eliminate than that you want to be one way?

[3/18/10 5:20:16 PM] John Temple: We definitely don't want to be one way. If I gave that impression in my talk, I'm sorry. I can see how people might have read the no comments that way. But it was meant as a way to say that instead of comments, we're going to have conversation.

[3/18/10 5:20:42 PM] Jay Rosen: you have a significant misimpression to correct, then

[3/18/10 5:20:44 PM] John Temple: we do believe that in a civic square anonymity contributes greatly to the lack of civility...

[3/18/10 5:20:58 PM] Jay Rosen: the message was "no comments"

[3/18/10 5:21:12 PM] Jay Rosen: which I didn't believe

[3/18/10 5:21:16 PM] Jay Rosen: and did not repeat

[3/18/10 5:21:55 PM] John Temple: i'll work at it...i thought I was pretty clear about the importance of community and conversation...i believe i said that the contributions of readers potentially were as important as the contributions of journalists. I appreciate that you picked up on this and sought to clarify. Thank you!

[3/18/10 5:22:24 PM] Jay Rosen: TechCrunch mangled it

[3/18/10 5:22:50 PM] John Temple: We've talked with her and asked her to clarify. I thought she did a great job other than that.

Wall Street Journal column incorrect about Peer News in column on comments on news Web sites

A column by Gordon Crovitz in Monday's Wall Street Journal mischaracterizes our approach to comments at Peer News, the start-up news service in Honolulu I'm working on with eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

As soon as I saw his column Sunday, I contacted Crovitz to ask him for a clarification. I've exchanged thoughts with him before and appreciate the work he does in his column. He was gracious and said he would pass my comments along to his editors for a possible clarification or letter to the editor.

Here's what I wrote him Sunday.

Hi Gordon,

Thanks for mentioning Peer News in your latest column, but I wish you had contacted me before you wrote that paragraph. It doesn't accurately reflect our position. I would ask that you publish a clarification. Members of our subscription-based service will be able to post their thoughts on a regular basis. But they won't be presented in the way "comments" are traditionally on news sites. We have a whole strategy for how to handle this. Our intent is actually to encourage civil dialogue and debate, not stop people from talking.

You wrote:

Peer News, a new site launching in Hawaii and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, will not permit comments at all. Editor John Temple said anonymity had so reduced responsibility that comments sections have been dominated by "racism, hate, ugliness" and "reflect badly on news organizations that have them."

Here's the top of my blog post from March 18, with the note that I had that day or the next clarified my statement about comments.

This is a draft of the speech I gave at the Newsmorphosis conference in Honolulu on Thursday, March 18. My actual remarks varied from this outline. You can see my talk on ustream.

Updated to clarify my statement about "comments."

Then here's what I wrote in the text to clarify:

Maybe now you’ll understand why we’re not going to have "comments". (I put quotes around the word comments after Jay Rosenpointed out that it sounded like I was saying it was going to be a one-way conversation. My point was that we were going to have debate, discussions, conversations - not comments. We think we can create a more satisfying and civil environment through this approach, rather than using "comments" after an article.)

I put quotes around comments, because I was trying to differentiate how we're going to approach conversation and dialogue with the widespread approach on news sites of allowing people to post anything under a story. We will not have comments on article pages. We will tell members that if they want to discuss the topic of an article, they should go to a hosted discussion on what we're calling a beat update page, where the reporter-hosts and editors will interact with our members. We will also have ratings for the comments that members post on the beat updates pages.

I hope this helps. I'd be happy to discuss. But I would very much appreciate your help in clarifying this.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The first week at Peer News

I shared my story of the first day of our start-up news service in Honolulu last week. But then the week got away from me and I didn't have a chance to serve up any impressions from the rest of the week.
First, you know how people sometimes complain that newsrooms today are too much like insurance offices. Well, I think this close-up shot by Peer News President and staff photographer Randy Ching gives a hint of how pleasantly informal life is in our offices. T-shirts, jeans and slippers are just fine.

While the scene is informal, the atmosphere is serious. On Tuesday, Randy and Pierre opened the kimono on the company's business plan to a degree I'd never experienced at a media company. I've been around a lot of conversations with staff regarding the business of journalism, but this was unlike anything I'd ever seen. We're building a team where individuals understand what's at stake and will have the information to evaluate how we're doing.

Here's a portrait of the team Randy (the guy standing with the wine glass on his T-shirt) took Friday.

Standing from left: Pierre Omidyar, Treena Shapiro, Mike Levine, Chad Blair, Mark Quezada, Randy Ching, Ryan Kanno and me.
Seated: Katherine Nichols, Noelle Chun, Katherine Poythress and Sara Lin.

After two days of structured training, we started daily story brainstorming sessions followed by what we call beat meetings. At these meetings, we met individually with each reporter-host to go over his or her area of responsibility and talk about it in greater depth. We also began talking about specific "topic pages," the building block of our news service. The first pages they started building are what we're calling structural topic pages, things you'd need to know before you can frame any related issues. So, for example, how government is structured and how it works. Where the money comes from and where it goes. Or who owns the land in Hawaii and who regulates it. That might sound a bit like the stuff of civics class, and it is, but we want to do the work for our members so they don't have to go digging through piles of data to find what they're looking for. What we're doing isn't just data collection, although there's some of that. It's connecting the dots for people so they can focus on an issue at hand but quickly grasp context if they need it.

This sounds a lot easier than it is. I had done some work with our first intern, Daniel Ikaika Ito, to learn what it would take to build these pages. So I knew it wouldn't be easy. And it wasn't. It's difficult for accomplished people who are used to going out and jumping on stories to have to step back and do this kind of basic reporting and writing. The amount of material available quickly becomes overwhelming, and our point is not to overwhelm our members. The best thing I heard was when one reporter-host said that this was what a journalist should do when starting any new job. It ensures that they're familiar with the foundation of what they're covering. This coming week we'll start identifying issues for which we'll build topic pages as well. Those, in our lingo, will be issue topic pages.

By the end of the week we were ready for a "pau hana" (after work drink). Which we did right in our office. We had joked about the staff having to do skits on the first day. Never happened. Although we did have some fun playing a few games - we broke into groups to quickly learn what was the most interesting thing we had in common (my team won dark chocolate - I still haven't received mine, though, Randy) because we'd all lived with grandparents for part of our childhood. By Friday, we had loosened up enough that we were ready to tell stories. Randy caught Mike Levine telling the story of his most memorable hike on Kauai. Amazing.

At a start-up, it's hard not to feel like you're not in a race with time. We want our service to go live as soon as possible. That means we have a lot to do. It's intense. And new. Which can raise the anxiety level. But it's also fun. Or at least we want it to be.

I'll let you know more down the road. But last week was a big step in our march to screens near you...

Monday, March 29, 2010

A new beginning and an ancient tradition - all in one day

March 29, 2010, is a day I will remember.

It started at our Peer News offices in Honolulu, clean desks and glorious orchids awaiting the arrival of our editorial staff. It ended in Kailua, outside in a lanai, the wind blowing, as we celebrated Passover around a long seder table with new friends.

Somehow it's always amazing how a seder can feel so familiar and so fresh. The songs and words, the flavors, so similar, wherever we are. After thousands of years, we still tie ourselves to a journey to freedom, to the history of our people. Yet this year I somehow felt more connected to the original experience, in the garden, with the sound of the wind behind our words. The holiday runs deep, it lifts our spirits. Freedom. Promise.

Earlier in the day, another journey began. It seemed fitting that it would start on a day that I see as the journalists' holiday. The question we ask on Passover - Why is this night different from all the rest - a building block of good storytelling.

On this day, in Honolulu, we asked our new team to come together and to question the assumptions that had driven their craft until now. How could I not be excited being on the edge of so much promise? We learned of what we had in common, and we talked of what we would try to do together. We spoke of mission and purpose, of business and customers, of being part of something together. Of the actual work we would do and what was expected of all of us. Of how we saw stories and how far we could push the range of our voices. We ate together, and even sang Happy Birthday to one of our new colleagues. And we got lost - our heads spinning - as we played with our new computers. We agreed that our internal culture had to be consistent with the public culture we hoped to create with our new news service. We agreed that we needed to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, that we could be civil even as we debated issues for which there are no easy answers.

I am thankful to be able to be here in Honolulu at the start of something new. And on the same day I am grateful to be part of something old. At Peer News, this year, we are taking something with tradition - journalism - and trying to make it new. On Passover, every year, we take something old and make it new, make it our own.

There are lessons in both experiences.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Content and Community: My talk on Peer News at the Newsmorphosis conference

This is a draft of the speech I gave at the Newsmorphosis conference in Honolulu on Thursday, March 18. My actual remarks varied from this outline. You can see my talk on ustream.

Updated to clarify my statement about "comments."

  • This is my first public appearance since I moved to Honolulu
  • I’ve got to say the newspaper scene here feels like deja vu all over again
  • A year ago, it was Denver becoming a one paper town and I was the editor there who saw his paper silenced, with hundreds losing their jobs
  • When I got here in January, it was apparent that the newspaper status quo in Honolulu couldn’t go on for long
  • What happened, how the tables turned, is another example of why we can’t take anything for granted in this media era
  • I understand how difficult, even distressing, these changes can be
  • But having lived through a similar experience and come out on the other side, I’m also here to tell you that even in a time of uncertainty there are reasons to be I am today, working here in Honolulu.
  • The title Jay Fidell gave this speech is “What role will Peer News play in these transformations”
  • It seems to me, based on what's happened with local TV news outlets and now at Honolulu's newspapers, that the media environment is doing a pretty good job of transforming itself without any help from Peer News
  • Think of Jay’s title for this talk as an unsupported lede...or a headline that doesn’t fit the story
  • I’m not actually going to talk about the role of Peer News in the transformation we’ve been talking about at this conference today...Frankly, I don’t know what the role of Peer News will be in these transformations...that will be for others to decide down the road
  • I do know that we’re going to approach some things differently. We’ll learn from that and I hope you’ll follow our service and my blog and learn with us
  • What’s different for me at Peer News from what I’ve done in the past is that we’re not trying to invent an online newspaper, we're not trying to move things we've been doing in print online
  • We started by asking three fundamental questions
  • 1. What is the role of the press in a democracy
  • 2. How best would you fulfill that role using all the tools available today
  • 3. How do you do that in a sustainable way
  • I hope my talk today will help make more clear our answers to those questions.
  • I think we’re in a period where news organizations need to shift their focus from their own needs to the needs and desires of citizens...
  • I’ve been out talking to people to hear what’s on their minds...Let me give you a sense of what I’m hearing...
  • Show video clips of man/woman on the street interviews
  • I think you can hear a sense of concern...they’re worried that news is filtered, that they’re not getting the whole story and that things are getting worse
  • At peer news we want readers to feel things are getting better.
  • That they’re being heard
  • That they have people working on their behalf.
  • We’re starting from scratch, so that allows us certain freedoms.
  • We have no history...that means we don’t have to shift from an old model to a new model.
  • Our mission statement is an example of I’m talking about
  • The mission of peer news is to create the new civic square
  • It’s hard to imagine any traditional news organization opting for that mission statement
  • Fundamentally, we believe that our news service should empower citizens and encourage greater civic participation
  • We’re creating a place where people can learn and understand, debate and discover
  • Our goal is to be the place where citizens come to learn, understand, debate and discover solutions to the most important issues in our community
  • Peer news will be a place where citizens’ contributions matter...yes, potentially as much as the contributions of the journalists who provide the reporting and information that will serve as the basis for discussion
  • So I'm going to answer the question many of you have been asking me for weeks: What are you doing
  • Peer News is focusing on two things: Content and community. That’s the bottom line. Those are the two words that you’re going to hear from us again and again. Content and Community.
  • Here’s how we’re going to be different on the content side
  • We’re taking a more holistic approach to news...We’ll take issues that we know people care about or are important to the community and provide in-depth reporting that can serve as a resource for readers. That resource will be a living history, something that evolves as understanding of the issue develops..That’s different from the traditional approach of reporting isolated stories reflecting a single point in time....And it’s different from an archive, a collection of the stories a news organization has written, like the archives on important topics you might find on many news sites
  • Matt Thompson of NPR described a similar way of thinking in a blog post recently
  • He wrote: "Right now, the most common way the news industry attempts to impart systemic knowledge is by wedging it into our episodic reports... This is completely bass-ackwards. Journalists spend a ton of time trying to acquire the systemic knowledge we need to report an issue, yet we dribble it out in stingy bits between lots and lots of worthless, episodic updates."
  • If you want to understand an issue like the proposed rail project for Honolulu on Peer News, you’ll be able to read a deep and ever-growing briefing on the issue, with maps, source documents, etc. Articles won’t need all the boilerplate background that is typical of many newspaper stories...we’ll use links from articles to connect people back to a page that will seem more like wikipedia than a newspaper, although wikipedia with a news edge
  • Our articles typically will be driven by questions rather than events...that’s why we talk about an investigative reporting mindset driving our approach..... we’ll be trying to answer the questions readers might ask in order to come to an informed opinion about an issue like rail
  • And when I talk about important issues, I think it’s key to stress that we’ll identify what we think those are and hold onto them tightly...we don’t want to focus on a hot topic one day and seem to forget about it the next
  • So that’s a bit about the content part of the equation
  • Let me focus now on the other half of the equation: community
  • As I mentioned before. We’re out to create the new civic square. You can’t do that without having people engaged.
  • One of the ways we’ll get people involved is by connecting with them and connecting them with each other
  • Here are 3 specific things we’re going to do
  • No. 1. Our job title for our reporting staff isn’t “reporter”
  • It’s “reporter and host”
  • This is different from what other people are doing...but we think it’s going to be a key to our success....
  • If you think of reporters as the servants of their readers...people who are working for their’d be a lot closer to what we’re thinking, instead of reporters as chroniclers or reporters as stenographers...
  • We know there are going to be people in the community who know more than our reporters on any given subject...the challenge is to involve them and create a place for them to participate in the new civic square...
  • The second thing that will make us different is how we’ll handle what most news sites call comments.
  • How many of you, and be honest with me, how many of you read comments because you think you’re going to learn something from them? Give me a show of hands. How many of you are embarrassed by the comments on your own Web site and think they reflect badly on your community or news organization?
  • Maybe now you’ll understand why we’re not going to have "comments". (I put quotes around the word comments after Jay Rosen pointed out that it sounded like I was saying it was going to be a one-way conversation. My point was that we were going to have debate, discussions, conversations - not comments. We think we can create a more satisfying and civil environment through this approach, rather than using "comments" after an article.)
  • We all know how comments on news sites can descend into racism, hate, the ugly side of they can reflect badly on news organizations and often only reflect a narrow slice of their truth, the comments sections of most news sites often act as a keep out sign to decent people...why would anybody want to participate given the tone and nature of the speech found there?
  • The problem...or at least a big part of the problem...anonymity...
  • In a civic have to show your face can’t avoid responsibility for your words..
  • We plan to recreate that experience ..
  • No. 3, Peer News is going to call things like it sees them.
  • We think it’s important to find a way to, as one new friend put it, speak hard truths to each other and still get along
  • This means that at Peer News we’ll be taking stands... Readers may not agree with us sometimes, or even most of the time...but we believe that by taking a clear position on many issues, it will help others shape their own...
  • So that should give you a sense of how content and community will work together on Peer News
  • But let me go ahead and address a few questions I know you might still be asking
  • One big one is what the news service itself will look like
  • The site isn’t going to be some 3D affair, something nobody has ever’s not Avatar...
  • It’s designed to serve the needs of its readers, to make it seamless for them to participate every day, to keep them coming back for’ll be about the content and the conversation, not about whiz bang
  • The site exists to fulfill the needs of the community..
  • We hope the site will connect people here in a way they haven’t been connected before
  • Another question that I often hear is so what’s the business model
  • Peer News will be a member organization, but not members only
  • We’ll be embracing transparency and social media...there will be plenty of presence and impact for everybody, whether they’re members or not
  • But the business model is based on creating content and experiences that people will value...and are willing to pay for
  • That’s where we start...
  • So what can you expect from peer news? A different way of thinking about content and a different way of thinking about community
  • And a new way of thinking about how they’re connected
  • I’ve come a long way to start this journey...My wife and I moved here from Colorado because we believe in this much as I’ve come to love the magic of this place in the weeks that I’ve been here, it’s not what brought me here...I’m here because I’m passionate about the possibility of finding a new approach to journalism...I believe in what we’re doing at Peer News, in what I’ve told you about today...I hope after listening to this talk that you’re starting to feel the same excitement, too

Monday, March 15, 2010

More Reporter Hosts join Peer News

I’m happy to report that we’ve now hired the editorial team that will launch our new news service for Honolulu and Hawaii. I’ll be talking about our approach publicly for the first time at a speech in Honolulu later this week at a conference called Newsmorphosis.

I stress in my headline that these journalists will be hosts as well as reporters because the community will interact with them in a way that’s not typical of the relationship between reporters and their readers. A big part of Peer News is going to be community, and the reporter hosts will be key in making that happen.

Along with Assistant Editor Sara Lin and reporters Chad Blair, Noelle Chun and Katherine Poythress, the reporter hosts at Peer News will include (in alphabetical order):

Mike Levine, currently a reporter and assistant news editor at The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. Mike has worked as a journalist on Kauai for a couple of years, after picking lettuce and acting as a tour guide there. He also worked for Fodor’s to update the Kauai section of the 2010 Hawaii Guidebook and Kauai Guidebook 3rd Edition. Mike worked as a news desk editor and writer at before moving to Kauai. He’s a graduate of Lehigh University and the rare reporter to have majored in journalism and minored in material science and engineering.

Katherine Nichols, currently a staff writer for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Katherine approaches journalism with the drive and determination of the triathlete that she is. The 16-year resident of Hawaii has experience as a reporter for both Honolulu papers, and served as the Hawaii bureau chief for Travel Weekly Magazine. She has written freelance articles for publications ranging from The New York Times Magazine and The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine to People Magazine and Honolulu Magazine. She wrote, produced and hosted a local television show, and has written and produced programming for ESPN. Katherine attended UCLA, where she earned a degree in English Literature and a master's in education.

Treena Shapiro, currently the assistant features editor at The Honolulu Advertiser. Treena was born in Honolulu and grew up on the Big Island and in Virginia and California before returning to Oahu as a teen-ager. She’s a graduate of Kailua High School and the University of Hawaii/Manoa. Treena had an extensive career as a public affairs reporter before she made the switch to editing in 2008. She was a general assignment and education reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin before moving to the Advertiser, where she covered City Hall, education, the legislature and state government. Treena was an early adopter of new approaches to journalism. She shoots video on stories and has written a blog for the Advertiser.

Monday, March 8, 2010

First "reporter hosts" join Peer News

The staff of Peer News is starting to take shape. Last week I announced that Sara Lin of The Wall Street Journal will be joining the new Honolulu-based news service as assistant editor.

Today it’s my pleasure to announce the names of the first people who’ll be joining the service as “reporter and host.” Yes, you read that correctly. The job profile for reporters at Peer News includes the role of host, reflecting our commitment to community engagement as a central part of the reporters’ role.

Joining Peer News (in alphabetical order) will be:

Chad Blair, currently a reporter with Pacific Business News in Honolulu. Chad has a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Hawaii. He is the author of Money, Color & Sex in Hawai’i Politics and has also worked as a reporter for Hawaii Public Radio and the Honolulu Weekly. Chad was a Racial Justice Fellow in 2005-2006 at the Institute for Justice and Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California. Chad has extensive experience as a teacher, having worked at the University of Hawaii, Chaminade University, Hawaii Pacific University and Honolulu Community College.

Noelle Chun, currently social media coordinator for Ashoka’s Changemakers in Washington, D.C. For Noelle, Peer News will be a return to the community where she grew up. Noelle is a graduate of Punahou School, where she was editor of the student paper for two years. She went on to earn journalism and history degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She has worked extensively in new media, including with Guy Kawasaki on and She has also worked as an assistant editor at the University of California, San Francisco, and as an intern at Honolulu Magazine, The Honolulu Advertiser, KHON2, and Newsweek.

Katherine Poythress, currently a staff writer at The Gadsden Times in Gadsden, Alabama. Katherine is a graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan, where she was on a scholarship for outstanding journalistic performance. Katherine is a hard-driving local news reporter who has embraced new media tools. She has also worked as a reporter at The Daily Home in Talladega, Alabama.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Peer News moves into new headquarters

Today we began our move into a bigger space in Honolulu. Another step in our journey.

You can see that our new furniture is really comfortable.

(Photos by Mark Quezada, Peer News staff, using an iPhone)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sara Lin of The Wall Street Journal is coming home to Honolulu to become assistant editor of Peer News

Somehow a new news initiative never seems entirely real until the team of journalists that's going to produce it starts to take shape. Since I joined Peer News at the end of January, we've had lot of great conversations about what we're going to do, but there hasn't been another working journalist for me to collaborate with to start creating content.

Until now.

I'm happy to announce that we've hired an assistant editor. We're bringing home a local star - Sara Lin - to work as my partner leading the Honolulu-based news service. Sara was born and raised in Hawaii and graduated from Punahou School, where she was editor of the student newspaper for two years. She's a graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in Politics and minored in East Asian Studies. While a student, she worked as an intern at Honolulu Weekly and The Honolulu Advertiser. After graduation, she went on to a reporting career at two of America's great newspapers: the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, where today she is a real estate reporter and columnist. Sara starts at Peer News at the end of the month.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami scenes in Hawaii

Today many former colleagues will gather in Denver to mark the anniversary of the Rocky's final edition.

Today in Honolulu we focused on a different, potentially much more serious, event, a possible tsunami heading our way in Hawaii. Ultimately it was anti-climactic. But the pictures from Chile are an indication of why people here took it so seriously. It could have been a very destructive day. The tsunami provided a different window on life in Hawaii.

I had been scheduled to attend a tech conference so we got up very early. The warning siren sounded across the city at 6 a.m. The event was supposed to be at Kapiolani Community College, the site of probably the most amazing farmers' market I've ever been to. We decided to go to the market anyway, even though the conference was canceled before 7. The market was half empty today. Usually it's just packed. You can't find a parking place. It was a beautiful place to be nonetheless. There was nothing we could do re the tsunami. So why not stock up on some good fresh food and enjoy Kona coffee, fried green tomatoes and barbecued abalone (farm raised) for breakfast.

Here's a picture Judith shot there. It gives an idea of how beautiful it can be at a tropical market in February.
Then we went over to Kaimuki, the neighborhood where I work. It's on high ground above Waikiki. It was pretty dead. A lot of stores had signs like the own below on their doors. If they even had a sign. Many stores were just closed.

There's a very friendly coffee shop I've been using to interview candidates for Peer News called Coffee Talk. Today it was packed. This is how we and many others followed the tsunami there.

Finally, we got hungry and had a sandwich and then headed to another neighborhood to see if we could buy art supplies for Judith. The art supply store was closed, but there was an amazing nursery next door. It was empty, but the man behind the counter "talked story" with us for a long time. He was a longtime diving coach who had been everywhere. He grew beautiful plants.

When the news that the warning had been listed came through on my blackberry, we headed home. We were strangely exhausted. The Pacific visible from our lanai was dotted with boats and ships that had put out to sea from the harbor.

Tonight we'll have a lot to talk about as we attend the annual Heart Ball here. My first "black tie" event as editor of Peer News. Except what's so cool is that I'm not going to wear a tuxedo. Instead I had a special Filipino dress shirt made for the occasion, a Barong Tagalog. That, and black pants will do just fine.

Mostly, we're just relieved that the danger has passed. We think of the people in Chile who suffered from the earthquake and remember how united we are across the ocean.

Friday, February 26, 2010

One year later, there's life after death

It’s deja-vu all over again.

Here I am in Honolulu, one year after the announcement by the E.W. Scripps Co. that it would shut down the Denver Rocky Mountain News, and what do I hear? That another newspaper company is dealing essentially the same death knell to another proud title, this time the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

It wasn’t unexpected. It hasn’t seemed possible since I arrived here in January that Honolulu could support two major newspapers. I thought it was only a matter of time until there would be just one. I still think I’m right.

Of course, the owner of the Star-Bulletin says it’s putting the paper up for sale. But that appears to be just a way to say it did everything possible for the paper.

I know the uncertainty and even despair that some newspaper journalists here must be feeling. We felt something similar a year ago.

Tomorrow, in Denver, former Rocky journalists will gather at the press club and mark the anniversary of the paper’s final edition. I will be with them and my other colleagues in spirit.

I never could have imagined last Feb. 26 that one year after telling my staff that our next issue would be our final edition, I would be in Hawaii, launching what we’re calling a next generation news service.

I won’t say I don’t feel a sense of loss. Of course I do. I’ll never forget my days at the Rocky or the friends I made there. But perhaps my words - and experience - can encourage some of the new friends I’ve made in the journalism community here and the many newspaper people here I’ve yet to meet.

Yes, it’s difficult to move on to the next stage in life. And, no, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to make the kind of money you once made. Or that you’ll be able to work in journalism again. But there’s life after the death of a paper. You can see that in what has happened to many who were at the Rocky. I had hoped to do a survey and report what had happened to the staff, the way I did after six months. But frankly, I’m too busy building something new to look back. And that’s the good news.

I feel so lucky to be here. I feel liberated by not having the tug of the newspaper holding us down as we imagine what the future of journalism might look like. I have only a map of where we’re going and I don’t know all the people I’ll be going with, but each day I get to put one foot in front of the other and help us try to find our way.

I would encourage others to do the same. Don’t abandon your belief in the importance of the work or your dream of doing work better than anything you’ve done until now.

Yes, the announcement Thursday in Honolulu was probably another grave marker along the road to doom for newspapers. But I feel even more strongly today than a year ago that what we should be thinking about reinventing is journalism, not newspapers. I still love newspapers - I read three a day in print - and I admire the work that many are still doing at them. To those who can still work at them, and to their owners, I would just ask that you take more chances. Just because something used to be a certain way doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.

And to those at both Honolulu papers, I would tell you what I told our staff when Scripps announced the Rocky was for sale. Don’t waste the time you have. Do the stories you’ve always wanted to do. You won’t regret it. In the end, that’s what it’s all about.