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New approach to journalism to spark deeper public engagement on policy issues


Knight Foundation funds Reframe It to help measure community information needs through unique polling model

SAN FRANCISCO. A research model developed by Reframe It, a San Francisco-based tech company, will measure the most effective ways for journalists reporting on public policy to help people learn about a topic. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will support Reframe It with just over $165,000 to test the model and share results with the public and other news organizations. Partners on the project include social development company, Center for Greater Good and technology news website, TechCrunch.

The Reframe It model uses a combination of Deliberative Polling® and patented technology to discover what people would think about an issue when given balanced information and the opportunity to discuss it. With Knight Foundation funding, Reframe It will work with partners to implement this model by engaging random members of the TechCrunch community around technology policy. Because of its history of technology reporting and its large, engaged user base, TechCrunch will lead journalism work on the project.

“Journalists all over the world cover policy and legislation on a variety of topics and in a variety of communities. However, not very much is known about the impact of that reporting and what it means about people’s preferences or their grasp of the topic at hand,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president of journalism and media innovation.

To address this problem, the project aims to develop a new approach that journalists who focus on legislation and policy can use to shape their reporting. In this way, the media can gain a deeper understanding of the best ways to deliver information and the most effective tools for engaging audiences around an issue.

“Never before has a journalistic enterprise been able to understand what their readers would think about a certain issue of shared concern if they understood it really well,” said Bobby Fishkin, Reframe It CEO. “Our process will create insight into what the TechCrunch community would think about current legislation under excellent conditions for them to understand it.”

"This project has the potential to uncover how different information tools can transform the way people think, act and engage with community issues and their government,” said Maness. “The implications for journalists are huge; through the findings they can develop deeper, two-way relationships with the people they are trying to reach and actually gauge the effect of their reporting.”

“Polling is an incredibly important tool for the media. However, public opinion can often be manipulated by minor changes in the poll questions,” said Gregory Ferenstein, founder of CrunchGov and writer at TechCrunch, which will manage the journalism work on the project. “We hope that Deliberative Polling will give the media industry a better way of measuring popular opinion and provide valuable insights into how democratic decisions change under an educated population.”

“Deliberative Polling is a powerful way to connect policymakers to the views and perspectives of an informed public,” said John Belluomini, CEO of the Center for Greater Good, which works to help social organizations use deliberative methods. “We are excited to work with the Knight Foundation, TechCrunch and Reframe It to change how editorials and important public policy debates can be better informed by their readers.”

Deliberative Polling involves questioning a random sample of people about their opinions on a particular topic. After an initial survey, the sample is provided with detailed information that gives equal weight to different perspectives about the topic. This information is discussed in small groups and then altogether with experts. The sample is then asked the original questions again. By comparing the “before” and “after” results, researchers can discover the best information tools for a particular audience.

Using this method, Reframe It will work with TechCrunch and the Center for Greater Good to establish an expert briefing committee and a randomly selected working group of U.S.-based TechCrunch readers. The committee will summarize a specific piece of technology policy legislation and include arguments for and against each major point. Readers will help revise the materials using the Reframe It online platform and add their creative suggestions. These suggestions will be reviewed by experts and incorporated into the Deliberative Poll.

This process, which combines Deliberative Polling and the Reframe It annotation software, won the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey Management 2.0 Challenge in 2011.

Applied to this project, the process is designed to reveal conclusions that readers in the technology community would reach if given the opportunity to become more informed and immersed in the issue. TechCrunch will use the results in its editorial process when reporting on technology policy legislation.

Additionally, results will be shared widely among journalists to promote a new approach when reporting on such issues. With Knight funding, Reframe It will release data on the research and produce a report on how the model was used. The report will be made available online and distributed through journalism circles.

Deliberative Polling was invented by Professor James Fishkin, Reframe It board member, chairman of the Communications Department at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Center for Deliberative Democracy. The methodology has been applied dozens of times around the world.

About TechCrunch
TechCrunch is a leading technology media property which attracts millions of unique visitors per month. Its voice on public policy issues has informed the technology community on a variety of debates about technology policy in Congress. Coordinating this project for TechCrunch will be Gregory Ferenstein who has been working with TechCrunch to create technology policy learning and engagement.

About Reframe It

Reframe It, Inc. won the Harvard Business Review/McKinsey Management 2.0 Challenge in 2011 for a collective intelligence methodology that is being applied to the TechCrunch community. Reframe It’s methodology is designed to let everyone in a community be creative in their participation, and yet to not have any faction be able to manipulate or game the outcome of a decision-making process. Reframe It’s approach builds on its work developing digital annotation systems to allow a community to discuss a text with specificity. Reframe It applies technology and processes for decision-making within companies and to help governments make better decisions domestically and internationally.

About the Center for Greater Good

The Center for Greater Good is a partner of Reframe It and has successfully created coalitions of citizens, philanthropic, corporate and governmental partners to solve problems across sectors. CGG and its network of partners have organized some of the largest nonprofits and businesses in the United States, including development of its Collective Impact strategy—a compendium of 100 policies and social innovations that produce a positive social impact—and innovative approaches to cross-sector solutions for Shell, the new Presidio Institute and the Marin Community Foundation. CGG has secured $240 million for investments into U.S. communities, directly impacting the lives of thousands of people.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.


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