Archives for category: news

I’m excited to announce the newest report from the Kettering Foundation, Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums. It’s a handbook for anyone interested in creating materials to support deliberative conversations on difficult public issues.

30813.inddThis report has been a long time coming. It was one of the first things I was asked to complete when I came on staff at Kettering.

Our aim was to collect what we have been learning about “issue framing” and make it accessible to people so it didn’t seem like such a mystery. Throughout the dialogue field, people often talk about issue framing as some kind of specialized skill that only certain people can do — or that takes huge amounts of money, people, time, and other resources. But we’ve learned that it is relatively straightforward and really just takes a careful attentiveness to a few principles and key ideas.

Developing Materials is available here on the Kettering Foundation web site, or you can download it here: Developing Materials for Deliberative Forums

It’s also available for free in hard copy! Just drop me a line at and let me know you’d like a copy.

Here is an excerpt:

When issues are named and framed in public terms, we can identify the problem that we need to talk about (naming) and the critical options and drawbacks for deciding what to do about that problem (framing). . . .

A framework that will prompt public deliberation should make clear the options that are available for addressing the problem and the tensions at stake in facing it. It should lay bare what is at issue in readily understandable terms.

Three key questions drive the development of a framework for public deliberation:

  • What concerns you about this issue?
  • Given those concerns, what would you do about it?
  • If that worked to ease your concern, what are the downsides or trade-offs you might then have to accept?

Responses to these questions, together, can generate a framework that makes clear the drawbacks of different people’s favored options. Facing these drawbacks and coming to a sound decision about what to do is the ultimate concern of deliberation.


JUDGE BEST by Flickr user meormeor

"JUDGE BEST" by Flickr user meormeor

The meaning of “professional” has changed drastically over time. It used to solely designate someone who had completed specialized training and been accepted into an organized group of others who pursue the same calling. These days, it often just means “someone who gets paid for what they do,” or “someone who works in an office.”

But even the “old” definition actually misses the mark, because it’s focused on the individual and not on society. So even using a strict designation, we can have “profession creep” so that all manner of occupations can become professions simply by adding a tough training course and a sanctioning body. For instance, there’s actually a group of “communications professionals.” I don’t dispute their skill, but I question the label.

Because, if you look at the role professionals play in society, a different definition comes to light:

A profession is someone to whom society grants special powers in return for special service that requires special skill.

This is a public definition of the word.

For instance, we give the police the power to carry weapons, use force, and detain us in return for their vital service protecting the peace. We allow medical doctors to wield almost God-like power over our well-being, in return for their service in healing the sick. We give judges power to remove our freedoms in return for their service in deciding disputes according to the law. All these uses of “professional” are rooted in the needs and perspective of the public, as opposed to the individual.

Using this litmus test, many occupations lose their “professional” status because they either lack the special powers or the special service aspect.

I have been interested lately in this as it relates to Journalism. I have written before about the differences between Journalism and news gathering. Lately I have thought about it more, as I have been involved in developing a new “citizen journalist” project that I’ll be writing about more in upcoming article.

There are professional Journalists, by the public definition: we grant them special powers (secrecy and protection of sources) in return for their specialized skill in illuminating the truth. But in a world where Journalism is being replaced by newsgathering, the perceived need for Journalism is waning. People can get their news from nonprofessionals, and don’t focus as individuals on whether they want Journalism or not.

This seems to me to be a problem that we need to address on a public, societal level. Though individuals may not perceive a personal need for it, a free society demands that Journalism be present and be robust.

People these days pooh-pooh professional training for Journalists, because so many amateurs are getting into the act — or what looks like the act. (I am one of them.)

But there come times when we need more than news (what happened) and need Journalism (deeper truth, investigated and uncovered). If there is no profession, I fear that there won’t be this Journalism around when we need it.

* They Knew
* DC Buys Foreign Electric Cars
* Journalist Slams Media Narcissism


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.

  • Lawmakers briefed in detail about torture. Reports are surfacing that a number of members of Congress had been briefed on the use of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has previously denied being given any details. The CIA submitted a report on Wednesday that outlined meetings with dozens of lawmakers and “presents the most thorough information we have on dates, locations, and names of all Members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA on enhanced interrogation techniques,” according to CIA director Leon Panetta. The information is drawn from contemporaneous memos and files. (A Pelosi spokesman says it confirms the Speaker’s contention that she had “been briefed only once.”)
      Waterboard by flickr user waterboardingdotorg

      "Waterboard" by flickr user waterboardingdotorg

    • My take: People were not as “in the dark” and “out of the loop” as they now like to say. Please let this chapter of our contemporary history be  closed.
  • DC buying electric cars. The mayor of our nation’s capital has announced a deal between DC and Nissan where up to 100 electric cars will be purchased, along with charging stations to support them. 
  • Newspaper big criticizes media “narcissism.” Pulitzer-winning Walter Pincus has written a lengthy essay in which he lays out his major worries for journalism. “My profession is in distress because for more than a decade it has been chasing the false idols of fame and fortune,” he writes. “While engaged in those pursuits, it forgot its readers and the need to produce a commercial product that appealed to its mass audience, which in turn drew advertisers and thus paid for it all. While most corporate owners were seeking increased earnings, higher stock prices, and bigger salaries, editors and reporters focused more on winning prizes or making television appearances.”
    • My take: This piece echoes my own sense that placing journalists on a “democratic pedestal” for so long has created a professional culture of entitlement. Bunker mentality will do that. Yes, journalism is critical for a healthy democracy. But it needs to pay its way by being useful, not by patting itself on the back.

Thanks for reading.


* Cell Explosion
* NASA Back To Earth
* Nick Cave Pens Gladiator II? 


Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.

  •  More cell-only households than landline-only. For the first time ever, according to a survey released by the Centers for Disease Control, the share of U.S. households that only have a cell phone has surpassed the share of households that only have a landline telephone. 20% have cell-only, 17% landline-only. (In 2003, it was 3% cell only to 43% landline-only).
    • My take: This has obvious implications for survey research, driving up its cost, although many pollsters say they are working on ways to weight data to account for the shift and still only call landlines. But that tactic will run out eventually, as cell-only becomes the norm. Eventually, landlines will be only for data. Think about similar demographic shifts: social networks vs. email; online content vs. physical cd’s and movies. Surely there are more. Which ones will upend how your organization does its work?
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds by flickr user jennder (Me: I was at this show.)

    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds by flickr user jennder (Me: I was at this show.)

  • NASA back to Earth. Obama is expected today to announce a review of NASA’s manned spaceflight efforts, to be led by former Lockheed Martin head Norm Augustine. The last space shuttle launch is planned for 2010, and the first manned missions of the new generation of Ares craft. Some observers worry it “will be like 1975 all over again,” when Nixon unexpectedly cut the Apollo program. 
    • My take: It’s a damn shame. Space flight is forever taking budget hits, especially as scientific illiteracy becomes more prevalent and accepted even among otherwise educated people.  This may be a chance to demonstrate the commercial viability of space flight.
  • Nick Cave rejected Gladiator script discovered? The Guardian reports that a rejected script by artist Nick Cave may have been unearthed. According to accounts, actor Russell Crowe and director Ridley Scott asked fellow Australian Cave to draft a sequel to Gladiator. Any sequel would face a key hurdle: Crowe’s character, Maximus, dies at the end of the film. In Cave’s purported script, “Crowe’s Maximus meddles with Roman gods in the afterlife, is reincarnated, defends early Christians, reunites with his son, and ultimately lives forever – leading tanks in the second world war and even mucking around in the modern-day Pentagon.” Here’s a full synopsis. The studios, sadly, just couldn’t take it and passed.
    • My take: Cave may be the most singular artist alive. Anything he does, or is rumored to do, is . . . well, it’s just cool.

Thanks for reading.


* Shoplifting Up
* Have A Drink
* All The News That’s Fit



Contra la ley by flickr user Daquella manera

"Contra la ley" by flickr user Daquella manera

Here are the stories that interest me this morning, along with my take on why they may be of interest to philanthropy and nonprofit leaders.


  • Study: Shoplifting up amid worsening economy. A study released yesterday by the Retail Industry Leaders Association found shoplifting to have increased across the board over the last four months.  61% of the stores surveyed found increases in “opportunistic” theft, and 72% say they’ve seen a rise in organized retail crime.
    • My take: No surprise but it will get worse.
  • Study: Drinking up amid peace dividend. A study by the Rowntree Foundation finds a clear increase in drinking in Northern Ireland since 1986. It’s gone up on the Emerald Isle more than it has in neighboring Great Britain. Researchers say the trend may be due to a higher standard of living stemming from the peace process.
    • My take: While it sounds like a minor issue, lost productivity and illness from over consumption of alcohol is a large problem worldwide. Yet because it is so ingrained in Western culture, it is hard to address in the same way that smoking and seat belt use have been. Watch for this to change over time. 
  • Student: Teacher scolded me for reading the news. The case of a  Traverse City, Mich. student is getting attention after he called the Rush Limbaugh show to complain that, while reading news headlines during free time at the computer lab, he was told to turn off the objectionable material by the teacher. The problem? He was reading FOX News and not the BBC. From the transcript: “[T]oday I was on the Internet reading Fox News, and my teacher came up behind me and found out I was reading Fox News and yelled at me in front of the whole class and said I was not allowed to read Fox News in class, that I’m only allowed to read BBC and stuff of that nature.” The school says it is investigating.
    • My take: Episodes like this don’t help counteract charges of bias in the nation’s classrooms and on campuses. Many of the charges leveled by conservatives have merit. Journalism, public education, philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and academe really ought to look carefully at such charges rather than dismiss them. 

Thanks for reading.