Putting the Public Back In Public Media: Jessica Clark on Media That Matters

by Jessica Clark

Thejess_new_headshot 2015 Media That Matters conference is right around the corner, so we decided to let our #MTMDC panelists to introduce themselves and explain in their own words how they engage with media that matters.

‘Dot Connector Studio’ founder, Jessica Clark will be presenting at the “Media Impact Tools Showcase.”

Social change happens via media because we’re soaking in it. Media is a carrier of not just facts, but narratives, opinions, testimonials, calls to action, art, satire and many other forms of communication that activists have always relied upon to help sway opinion.

Participatory and mobile platforms up the ante by placing tools for action directly adjacent to such persuasive productions.The fun challenge is finding the right mix—of platforms, audiences, emerging tech, outreach tactics—to match the topic at hand and the response you’re trying to provoke. Sometimes that response is not a clear next step. Sometimes it’s an emotion, a realization, the complication of a previously simplistic understanding. “Impact” encompasses an entire range of possibilities.

As a journalist and news futurist, my work connects thought leaders across disparate disciplines. I founded media strategy and production firm Dot Connector Studio in November 2013 to work with other reporters, film and interactive makers, and foundations that create projects designed to move the needle on public issues. I focus on two areas in particular—expanding public participation in media projects, and analyzing media impact. I ‘ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about how to “put the public into public media,” and have worked on a series of transformative projects with that mission in mind.

There are two strands in the work I’m doing—the first is researching media impact and developing related models, and the second is working directly with cross-platform media makers to create high-impact projects. For Media Impact Funders — which is a national network of foundations that support media in the public interest — I regularly write and curate a wide range of resources in a section of their site called Assessing Impact of Media. Funders are particularly interested in the question of how to measure media outcomes because they hope to understand how the mission of their own organizations syncs with the projects they fund. In this strand, I’m also working on related reports for the ‘Tribeca Film Institute’  and the ‘Media Impact Project at USC Annenberg.’

On the production side, I’m working with an array of multiplatform news and documentary producers to develop their outreach strategies. For example, I am helping iSeeChange — a crowdsourced climate change reporting project — to develop national partnership materials, and think through ways to communicate how their new partnership with NASA will enable a related crowdsourcing app. Other clients right now include independent producers at public radio and TV stations that are developing their own online documentary experiments—I’ve created a short-term coaching service to help them think through their goals, platforms, stakeholders, and key metrics.

Plus, I’m working on my own editorial project, The Revenge of Analog, which looks at the rise of new interfaces that combine the physical and the digital in creative and unexpected ways.

Before starting Dot Connector, From 2011-2014 I worked as AIR’s media strategist , focusing on national public media transformation production Localore. From 2007-2011 I led the Future of Public Media Project right here at American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact. Working with Center Director Pat Aufderheide and others, I’ve developed research and convenings with several universities and national media networks, including NPR, PBS, CPB, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, USC Annenberg, and MIT.

I’m the co-author of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (The New Press, 2010), and was the Executive Editor at national news magazine In These Times.

At the MTM conference, I’ll be sharing a suite of strategy tools that I’ve developed over the past several years at CSMI and with other partners to help makers and funders think through their projects’ structure and theory of change. I hope to meet others who are puzzling through the same questions, and to hear how they’re answering them for themselves.

This conference always feels like coming home. Looking forward to seeing everyone!

Meet Jessica and other innovative media makers at the Media That Matters conference February 19-20. If you haven’t signed up yet, visit the registration page.


Social Engagement with Social Television: Sharan Sklar on Media That Matters