Matt Rosenberg, Founder/Executive Director, Public Eye Northwest * firstname.lastname@example.org * 206-661-1958
THE NEED WE’RE ADDRESSING
There’s been substantial erosion in the news industry and in the Northwest of professional resources devoted to objective and accurate public affairs news reporting. Veteran beat reporters have been laid off by the hundreds. Coverage of local, regional and state government is a fraction of what it once was. Across the landscape are what some have termed “black holes” in the news environment. Simultaneously the need grows to capture and convey open public data, to improve discourse in a time of clamor and fierce partisanship online. We can and should foster a more robust, reliable body of knowledge on public affairs and public policy. Modeling a response to this challenge will be Public Eye Northwest’s Center for Civic Media and Government Transparency.
A founding father of the United States and our fourth president, James Madison, observed that a “popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps, both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
WHAT WE’VE DONE SO FAR
a) We’ve built a database of our own originally-reported news articles focusing on public affairs and government accountability in Greater Seattle and Washington state. The content is sortable by jurisdiction and topic. Articles are published to and indexed at the Public Data Ferret site – http://tinyurl.com/publicdataferret – and then further distributed through partnerships with mainstream media and independent media; and via social media. Due diligence: http://tinyurl.com/ferret-inthenews.
b) Teaching and training. Since 2010, we have trained and engaged eight student interns who have produced professional quality content for Public Data Ferret. Four went on to full-time jobs in professional news media. Community volunteers and other partners have also begun to contribute, including through data visualization work and in particular via use of the Tableau Public data viz tool. Due diligence: http://tinyurl.com/pen-interns.
c) Advocacy for open and accountable government. Focusing on government transparency online and the changing news ecosphere, we have participated in professional panels, conducted workshops, led discussions, consulted with government officials, and authored guest analyses in regional, national and international news venues. Through such activities – and through our Public Data Ferret content creation – we have collaborated with the Seattle Times, KING5-TV, Tableau Software, the U.S. Department of State, University of Washington, Washington State University, Seattle Pacific University, the Washington Coalition for Open Government, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Sunlight Foundation, The Open Knowledge Foundation, and the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. Due diligence: http://tinyurl.com/pen-outreach & http://tinyurl.com/pen-vision.
Our work has been endorsed by dozens in government, media, education, business, and technology. Our board of directors has decades of valuable experience across a wide range of fields. Due diligence: http://tinyurl.com/pen-endorsedby; http://tinyurl.com/pen-board.
STRATEGIC PLAN – DELIVERABLES
With sustaining funding raised at the rate of $215,000 per year, the new Center will be able to grow its work significantly. New objectives and key deliverables follow. Progress will be tracked closely and reported to funders, followers, and the broader public.
a) Expand Public Data Ferret’s production levels, geographic reach, and media partnerships. Extend our work from metro Seattle and Washington state into key news markets we do not currently cover: metro Portland and Oregon state government, while increasing overall volume of coverage. Deliverables: double our news content output to not less than six new Public Data Ferret pieces per week, evenly split between Washington and Oregon; and add two new major media partnerships in first year.
b) Expand production for Public Data Ferret in database-driven reporting and data visualization, while adding original video and podcasts. Our new Center will build on Public Data Ferret’s strong reputation and its new content-focused partnership with the data visualization firm Tableau Software, to recruit additional data visualization volunteers from the growing community of Tableau users, and from users of other data viz tools. They will develop projects for publication at Public Data Ferret using important but previously underutilized public data sets and/or databases with high news value. In addition, a newly-hired multimedia journalist will focus on producing data-driven stories for Public Data Ferret including visualizations, plus periodic videos and podcasts. Deliverables: Every month, not less than three new, original data projects are published; plus one podcast per month, and one high-quality original video news segment every two months.
c) Establish a competitive rotating quarterly internship position at Public Data Ferret. Top public affairs and journalism students from colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest will compete for selection. Stipend offered, and structured for-credit in cooperation with instructors, if desired. Public affairs and data-driven reporting as directed including use of data visualization tools, spreadsheets and multi-media. Corporate and organizational sponsorships to be sought. Deliverables: Four internships per year, 20-hour per week minimum. No less than two articles to be produced per intern per week.
d) Train and mentor community news content providers who run or are developing their own sites. Our new Center will also begin to train community-based news content providers in online public affairs reporting for their own sites. We’ll provide guidance on site development, content distribution partnerships, social media best practices, using data visualization tools, and accessing public data from the Deep Web and through public records laws. Deliverables: not less than four public training sessions per year; plus three year-long mentorships to independent site operators; and creation and maintenance of a reference guide to independent and unbiased online news media in Washington state and Oregon.
e) Data liberation initiative. Begin development of standardized templates for local, regional and state governments accenting specifically which performance measures and outcomes they should make available pro-actively and in up-loadable formats such as Excel and CSV. Deliverables: Three draft templates in Excel by year’s end 2013; a report including next steps. Not less than six meetings in that time with government officials on challenges and opportunities around pro-active disclosure of structured data.
BUDGET AND JOB DESCRIPTIONS
The 12-month budget is $215,000. We seek to raise at least half that amount by June 30, 2013. Funders will include individuals, foundations, and corporate and employee giving programs. In the second year from now, our goal will be to raise 10 percent of our budget from consulting services, and in the third year, 15 percent.
a) SALARIES AND BENEFITS–$172,250
*Base salaries for two employees: $132,500 (See “Staffing + Job Descriptions,” below)
*Benefits and health care (x .3 of base salaries): $39,750
b) ADDITIONAL OPERATING EXPENSES–$42,750
*Computer equipment, $2,500
*Office supplies: $2,500
*Administrative and business expenses: $2,500
*Re-design of current Ferret and PEN Web sites: $5,750
*Internship stipends – total: $10,000
Note: Staff will be home-office based, so there will be no office rent or utilities expenses. A qualified board member will do the accounting.
STAFFING + JOB DESCRIPTIONS
d) Executive Director. (To be filled by Matt Rosenberg, currently Founder/Executive Director of Public Eye Northwest and Editor-In-Chief, Public Data Ferret). Reports to PEN Board. Duties: Provide strategic direction and guidance to Public Eye Northwest to ensure goals are met, all deliverables provided, and future sustainability assured. Serve as Editor in Chief of Public Data Ferret, and continue as a contributing writer. Lead geographic expansion; build partnerships with media allies, community content providers, and data visualization community. Recruit and supervise new multimedia journalist (see below). Supervise interns. Launch data liberation initiative. Lead fundraising effort, board development. Develop ancillary business services menu to create additional revenue stream starting in 2014. (Base salary, $77,500.)
e) Multimedia journalist. Reports to Executive Director. Duties: Develop and produce data-driven articles for Public Data Ferret, employing text, spreadsheets, and data visualizations. Also develop video and audio content. Assist in training community-based content providers, particularly in use of data visualization tools. Assist in ongoing social media campaign. Other duties as assigned. (Base salary: $55,000.)