Rising: Nonprofit media

When Suzanne Turner begins the discussion at next week’s We Media Miami conference about the game-changing journalism nonprofits are doing, the spotlight will be on four groups who’ve found some creative ways to navigate the ever-changing media landscape.

Turner, who heads Washington, D.C.-based Turner Strategies, will serve as moderator of a panel that includes Jonathan Aiken, a former CNN reporter who’s helping the Red Cross runs its own news service from ground zero of the world’s worst disasters, and the Sunlight Foundation’s Ellen Miller, who’s leading the way in exploiting social media as the foundation works to make government more transparent. Jim Barnett – a top strategist with the AARP, which for years has used grassroots techniques to energize millions of seniors – and Andrew Sherry – a key online strategist at the Center for American Progress, known for its cutting-edge digital work – also will share their strategies.

Turner, who’s worked in the media in one form or another the last 30 years, touts the session as a time for We Media participants to learn from four innovators who know how to effectively communicate unique information directly with the public.

That’s more important than ever, given the thousands of traditional media jobs lost over the last decade.

“A lot of people are using the new tools to tell their stories. I’ve seen a complete sea change in the way that all of this is being done with my clients,” Turner says, pointing to the success Environmental Defense Fund has had. But, she adds, “others are really kicking and screaming.”

That shouldn’t be the case, Turner says. One example of “our new reality” is the group of young conservative filmmakers who attempted to take down ACORN. That incident, which got national attention from all parts of the political spectrum, shows there’s still a need for investigative journalism, Turner says.

“If you’re a progressive, it’s a sad example. But it’s an example of what we can and should be doing.”

One reason progressive groups don’t do enough of this kind of journalism – or do it well – is because too few people understand how journalists think and how to create a story that has legs, Turner says.

And there’s another piece: “If you’re a progressive, you have to go out and find the blogosphere and interact with it. It doesn’t find you in the car the way conservative talk radio does.”

Turner expects there will be many take-aways from the March 10 session, including:  “Everything we do depends on three pillars. The first pillar is our unique content or unique perspective. The second pillar is distribution. Who are the people you immediately touch?” That means tapping into your network on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and elsewhere – distributing to people you already know.

And don’t forget the third pillar – the megaphone, she says. “It can be advertising, a small Facebook or Google buy; it could be reaching out from your network to other like-minded networks. To be success, you need to use each of these three things. If you have amazing content, people are going to find you. If you have amazing distribution, you’re going to get your message out. You need some combination of all three.”

And there will be much more wisdom from the panel, Turner says: “I’m really excited to hear what they have to say and what they’re willing to share.”

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