The question mark is not only a punctuation mark, but also one of civil society’s greatest instruments for good. Too often, people outfitted with exclamation points are in control of today’s on-demand, 24/7 media. But those who value question marks can spark productive public discourse and positive, citizen-focused change. I have spent most of my career as a journalist advocating for the power of curiosity, cognitive empathy, and the simplest step in the scientific process: asking a question. I want to support people and organizations that share these values, to help build capacity at independent journalism organizations that serve their communities through the strategic deployment of question marks.
The world is changing at an ever-accelerating pace and our governmental, social, and educational institutions are not keeping up. This tension is particularly problematic in the media sector. In order to build stronger civil societies, we need quality journalism that helps global citizens make sense of their increasingly complicated communities. The old business models for media are obsolete, and the new ones have not been effectively developed.
I am an American journalist with a proven track record in public media as a creator and lead producer for nationally syndicated daily news programs. Here in the US I am most known for public radio new program development. In 2000 I launched Rhode Island’s first public radio program; in 2001 after the 9-11 attacks I created and ran the award-winning, national talk show On Point; and in 2008 I led the effort to launch The Takeaway, a new national program, one of the most ambitious endeavors in public radio in the last two decades.
A decade ago I left daily news radio production because it had become clear to me that there were fundamental problems with the overall news system, and I wanted to help fix them. Step One was a two-year visiting professorship in the Communication Studies department at the University of Michigan, where I developed a series of courses on media and democracy and researched the role of news media in society. My work there with some of the top social scientists in the world helped me to better understand the failures of journalism in the digital age, as well as the potential and absolute need for better practices in our field.
Then came Step Two: I started a media strategy consulting business because I believed I could be a more effective change agent as an outsider—as a trusted ally rather than someone inside the organization. As such, I provide guidance and targeted strategy based on my understanding of what people need to be informed global citizens, rather than letting the internal forces of a particular workplace dictate the plan of action. My clients are media organizations facing major change–starting a new program or responding to significant transformations in their landscape. My role with them is one part tactician, one part consigliere, and one part editor-at-large. I train, guide, and build capacity until they are ready to fly on their own.