unnamedThis spring, we’re contemplating a shift in perspective—to 50,000 feet. We’re proud to spread the word on a project we’ve been working on quietly over the last several months with the Democracy Fund: a systems map of the crisis in local news.

This interactive map helps users to locate potential points of intervention for creating journalism that connects communities to issues and solutions. Read all about it and click through for more insight here.

Why systems mapping, you ask? Because the journalism problem isn’t one that can be solved one outlet or one community at a time. By connecting the dynamics of news via the many different feedback loops involved in local information ecosystems, we can see new patterns and help makers invent better engagement solutions.

unnamedFor example, we’ve been working for the past several months with the Internet Archive, which launched a rousingly successful collection of sharable and searchable political ads from this most volatile and ridiculous election season. It’s been fascinating to see how both local and national journalists have used these ads throughout the primary season — creating up-to-the-minute visualizations, and even a video game, which you can play here.

That’s a bit of what we’ve been up to. Let us know what you’ve been up to and if we can help you make anything amazing. As always, we could not do what we do without our incredible network of colleagues.

In other developments…

  • unnamed2Dot Connector’s Director Jessica Clark is currently a senior fellow with Media Impact Project at the University of Southern California’s Norman Lear Center, researching methods for evaluating experimental media. She spoke there last week about what new media is good for, and revealed her early efforts to develop a visual language for engagement strategy.
  • We’re once again working with our friends over at the National Black Programming Consortium —this time to check out the impact of their 360 Incubator.
  • Jessica and Associate Director Katie Donnelly are gearing up for the annual Media Impact Forum and Media Impact Festival.
  • We’re all keeping an eye out for the new community climate and weather app from iSeeChange, which will be launching soon!

Where we’ve been lately

  • Traveling with Media Impact Funders to organize convenings at a series of intriguing events, including Sundance and the frank2016 gathering at the University of Florida
  • Here at home in Philly hearing from Stanley Nelson about his Black Panthers Documentary
  • Speaking at The Media Consortium’s annual conference as well as Journalism Interactive
  • Giving webinars on impact strategy for producers with the National Black Programming Consortium 
  • Talking ethnography and emerging forms of documentary with Goucher College students and exploring the future of public radio with Fordham University students
  • Hosting a strategy retreat with all DCS associates as our business continues to grow—keep an eye out for our new services in the next newsletter!

City of Trees: Authentic Storytelling at Work

unnamedDot Connector Senior Associate Angelica Das has been working as Impact Producer on Meridian Hill Pictures’ (MHP) first feature-length documentary City of Trees. Directed by Brandon Kramer and produced by Lance Kramer, the film thrusts viewers into the inspiring but messy world of job training and the paradoxes changemakers face in urban communities everyday. With unemployment exceeding 25 percent in D.C.’s Ward 8 during the Great Recession, nonprofit Washington Parks & People receives a $2.7 million stimulus grant to put long-term unemployed residents back to work through a new green job training program.

In the midst of a contentious election season full of manufactured and tightly spun propaganda, City of Trees aims to demonstrate how documentary film can be a conduit for balanced, thoughtful conversation. The film was produced with the vision that authentic storytelling moves people, a guiding principle for the MHP team. Authentic storytelling is about the power of the messy truth—the unpredictable and the vulnerable. It’s a way of countering negative political narratives by focusing on sincere human connections. Learn more about the vision of authentic storytelling on the MHP blog. City of Trees was also recently featured in In These Times and HuffPost Green.

Read all about it

In our off hours. . .

  • Jessica is drowning in podcasts—2 Dope Queens, Kamau Right Now!, Meanwhile in the Future, and Startup—and reading everything Seanan McGuire writes.
  • Katie is reading about the microbiome and alternating between the appreciating the beautiful cinematography of Better Call Saul, cracking up over the over-the-top yet oddly relatable antics of Broad City and reliving the ’90s through the overly earnest monologues of Party of Five.
  • Carrie has been listening to the Avett brothers, watching the BBC TV series River, and losing to 9-year-olds on Chesskids.com.
  • Angelica is engrossed in the self-published memoir of native Washingtonian Tony Lewis, Jr, on growing up in the age of mass incarceration — food for thought in light of the DOJ’s recent National Reentry Week.
  • Zac is working on a multimedia series called …while black, which explores how race affects every little aspect of the lives of people of color.

Wondering why our pop culture predilections are so important? See what our partner-in-crime Tracy Van Slyke of the Culture Lab had to say about it in the Huffington Post.