The Great Improvisation: Jeff Bezos, Duke Ellington and the Washington Post

I’ve been listening today to Duke Ellington’s “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.” It’s a track that I’ve been saving all summer, recommended by Tom Stites who passed the album along with the advice that I play it before reading anything, then read the liner notes, then listen again.

Others recommended this track, too, so I had some sense of what I was listening for: the moment when a woman disrupts the performance by dancing, sending Paul Gonsalves on the tenor saxophone to 27 straight choruses, changing the mood, the jazz, the audience permanently.

I thought of this track this morning as I reflected on the sale of the Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, an outsider, off stage, suddenly shaping and changing how one of America’s most iconic newsrooms is playing.

Just as that moment at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 was a pivotal moment for jazz, the sale of the Washington Post is a pivotal moment for journalism. It is the moment in which we realize how actions off stage connect deeply to what happens on stage. How outsiders can become insiders. How disruption– from a single dancer or billionaire buyer– can change the future.
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Covering Murder: Blogs, Maps and Databases

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

The reality is that Chris and I looked at lots of other projects that were trying to do what we were thinking of doing with Homicide Watch DC.

Those projects, many of which were excellent, helped us think about our priorities, our editorial approach, and our goals before we even started designing a website or reporting stories.

Because I know how important that research is, and how valuable that conversation between what’s-been-done and what-we-can-do is, I am now so incredibly proud to see Homicide Watch used as inspiration for other projects, and I am always interested to see how others interpret how Homicide Watch DC works… and how it might work for their communities.
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Song of the Day: “The Best Thing for You”

Today’s Song of the Day is “The Best Thing for You” by Bud Powell. It was submitted by Jeanne Brooks. Thanks Jeanne!

Have a suggestion for song of the day? Tweet to @LauraNorton

From Disruption, Journalism

Blogger launched as I entered my senior year of high school in 1999.

I didn’t know about it until 2006 when I was on my way to Madagascar as a Peace Corps volunteer and wanted to document my life abroad. That site, abandoned after I grew tired of blogging in just a few short weeks, is so buried in the interwebs that not even I could find it.

To be clear: I’m not someone generally quick on the uptake of new technology. Yet my professional life has been marked by great technological upheavals. Upheavals that have disrupted what we know about journalism, what we believe it is, and what we hope it can be. And this has been the greatest opportunity of my life.
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Berkman Center Luncheon Series: The Debut of Jazz and Journalism

The Berkman Center hosted the debut of Jazz and Journalism on June 11 as part of their Tuesday luncheon series.

Thanks to all who attended and joined in the conversation, particularly Tom Stites, founder and president of the Banyan Project, who provided an introduction for the event and helped with my thinking in the early weeks of this project.

I’m new to jazz. And though I’ve spent much of the past year thinking about my experiences with journalism innovation, theorizing is new to me, too. But I am certain that there is a thread here, at the intersection of jazz and journalism, improvisation and innovation, that can offer us a way forward.

Many thanks to the Berkman Center, for hosting not only this talk but also for hosting me as a fellow in the 2012-2013 academic year. My gratitude also to the Nieman Foundation for hosting me as a Nieman fellow over the same time period. And a very special thanks to Tom, whose friendship, among the many treasures of the Berkman Center, I so value.

Let’s begin!

Watch the video on YouTube or listen on SoundCloud below.