Humanosphere’s experiment in collaborative journalism

Great to see you all last night at the monthly ChangeUp gathering at Paddy Coynes Pub. It was as always loud, boisterous, fun and informative. And by the way, who ate the other half of my shepherd’s pie?

Anyway … To follow up and provide info for those who didn’t make it, I’ll reiterate here what we tried to explain – amid the beer, food and background music — is being proposed. We want to make Humanosphere serve as a hub for an experiment in collaborative journalism, social media, new media and citizen journalism. This is a much bigger kind of ChangeUp.

It is still a work in progress, but what isn’t really? We are excited about its potential, and about enlisting your participation.

And because we can’t help but try to have fun with it, we are calling this initiative for now the Development News Network, DNN.

Forget about that old cable news network CNN and Sanjay Gupta and all those well-coifed talking heads. This is DNN and it’s intended to be your news network, reporting on the community by the community.

Why are we doing this? We are trying to solve what we see as a major problem — the lack of coverage of global health and development issues.

Humanosphere is today one of the few news sites out there devoted to covering global health development. As part of the NPR and the public media family, we see it as an obligation to do what we can to improve coverage of issues of interest to the community.

Clearly, global health and development is big in Seattle.

But it is obviously much bigger than Seattle — and it is not covered very well by the American media due to a number of factors beginning with the financial incentives of commercial media, the drastic shrinkage in international coverage, a narrow and parochial view of “national interest” and, we would argue, a somewhat fossilized view of journalism.

We are doing what we can daily at Humanosphere to cover these issues, and have been trying to grow the ranks of our freelance writers as well as encourage guest posts and outside contributors. We will keep doing that, to the extent our resources allow. But to really expand the Humanospheric universe, we will need your help and initiative.

Given the nature of online news today, social media and the increasing number of expert voices out there who know these issues well, we are embarking on an experiment in collaboration. It’s the outgrowth of a two-year conversation among a group of Seattle folks who have been gathering together to explore this idea under the auspices of the Journalism That Matters initiative.

We would like to make Humanosphere a clearinghouse of sorts, a news hub, for global health and development stories. News stories but also stories from “content providers” out there who are already writing about these issues — or could be.

Here’s a simple sketch of the concept we presented at the pub last night (which may explain some of the vaguer aspects of it …):

This flow of stories and information presented in the sketch already happens, of course. PATH often does stories about its work that I link to on Humanosphere. Or something said by an aid worker at the new social media site AidSource (more on them later) may prompt me to do my own story, which may then get re-published by NPR, MSNBC or the Seattle Times.

We want to try to enhance this flow, with each contributing ‘node’ managing and editing its own content, sending potential news stories to DNN (in addition to sending out directly to media, or whatever). At DNN, an editor will evaluate and publish stories that have news angles — which any media can pull from, or seek further information to flesh out.

The value to setting up this kind of a news architecture is that stories coming from all kinds of sources — NGOs, aid worker blogs, government press offices, advocacy organizations — will be vetted and filtered through a journalistic sieve for reliability and public interest. It should help rationalize and stimulate coverage of these neglected issues. That’s our goal anyway.

Precisely how this will work is still evolving. But we think there is enough interest, creativity and demand in this community to make this crazy idea work. Send us, me and KPLU online news manager Jake Ellison, your thoughts, critiques and suggestions. It’s early days and we would appreciate your assistance and feedback.

Tom is at and Jake is

In subject line write DNN



About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.