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I’ve really enjoyed designing and teaching a data-journalism course for the Communications@SU master’s program. It is part of a three-course Journalism Innovation track within the program. I got to interview rock-star journalists like Ryann Grochowski Jones of ProPublica, Jason Leopold of VICE News and the team behind this amazing piece on deaths in the Texas child welfare system. And the students in the program have been fantastic — adults with families and full plates who still thrive in the program because of their drive to become leaders in the field.


The Newhouse School won in three of the four categories in AEJMC‘s Best of Digital competition at the organization’s huge 2016 annual conference in Minneapolis. Why not in all four, you ask? Only because no one from this amazing school bothered to enter into the last category, that’s why! My co-teacher Jon Glass and I won in the “single class” category for the content and website produced by our Web Journalism & Innovation class. Thank you to Jeff Passetti  who helped design, and largely built, the winning website. And major kudos to the students for producing amazing multimedia pieces that include 360 video, time-lapse video and animation.


My study on the plaintiffs in Freedom of Information lawsuits against the government apparently has some legs. The study first appeared in the IRE Journal, and was then expanded for the FOIA Project.

It then got picked up as part of an excellent Sunshine Week collaboration between USA Today and McClatchy Newspapers. Politico also did a piece.

Somewhat to my surprise and certainly to my delight, the report seems to have a life of its own, forming the basis of this report that just came out yesterday in the Columbia Journalism Review.


foiafailThe engagement initiative I jockeyed for the FOIA Project during Sunshine Week solicited nominations for the worst “FOIA Failure” from six prominent users of FOIA, including Charlie Savage of The New York Times and Jason Leopold of Vice News.

They selected cases where they sought records on everything from the final chapter of the CIA’s history of the Bay of Pigs, to more contemporary records on targeted drone strikes and secret government surveillance.

I then summarized their cases, linked to the supporting documentation in the FOIA Project’s database, invited the public to vote on the worst failure of them all, and pushed the project through a variety of social media channels.

One of the housing projects at the center of the dispute, this one at Fort Irwin in California.

One of the housing projects at the center of the dispute, this one at Fort Irwin in California.

I found what I think is a big, as-of-yet unreported news story in one of the lawsuits in the FOIA Project‘s compressive database. I just wrote it up for a new TRAC special report.

It involves a really nasty dispute between two companies that had been partners in military housing projects valued at more than $2 billion. One of the companies accused the other of poor management and tried to kick it out of the projects. Now the other claims that tens of millions of dollars meant for the housing projects is being used to pay the other company’s legal bills. Caught in the middle are more than 11,000 military families.

Check it out at

knight Check out the post and video I put together for the Knight Foundation’s Media Innovation blog highlighting TRAC‘s new Judge Information Center.

The study I co-authored with the amazing Dr. Tina Nabatchi, which evaluates the effects of Jefferson Action‘s Citizen Jury project on the 2012 Congressional election has been accepted to the Journal of Public Deliberation. We expect the article to appear in the December issue. The piece is: Munno, G., & Nabatchi, T. (2014). “Public Deliberation and Co-Production in the Political and Electoral Arena: A Citizens’ Jury Approach”


As the president of the Newhouse Doctoral Association, I blogged about Newhouse’s amazing crop of first-year Ph.D. students to help potential applicants decide if our program is right for them. Check it out: Research opportunities, collaboration & flexibility define the Newhouse Ph.D. program.

“Framing Latin America in Elite U.S. Media,” a content analysis of 132 opinion pieces from The New York Times and Washington Post that I co-authored with Dr. Guy Golan, has been presented at the World Association of Public Opinion Research conference in Bogota, Columbia

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My profile on Gwen Maturo-Grasso, an extraordinary educator at Syracuse’s Lincoln Middle School and winner of this year’s National Teacher of the Year Award from SECME, appeared in the latest issue of NYSUT United Magazine.

Maturo-Grasso is an English teacher by training who has a deep love of science and an unerring belief that literacy is key to understanding scientific problems on tests and in the real world.

Here’s a quote from former Syracuse City School District Superintendent Dan Lowengard: “There are a couple of things that are really unusual about Gwen. For one, she prefers middle school students and can match their energy and passion,” he said. “For another, she has embraced and manifested a truly deep connection between English and the sciences. She uses literacy as a basis for helping students understand complex scientific problems, and she uses technology as a way to get them excited about reading and writing.”

Congrats to Gwen, and my own personal thank you to her for putting in so much extra work to help Syracuse students succeed.

UPDATE: Check out Willson’s blog at

This photo, by Willson Cummer, is of Ninemile Creek in Solvay as it runs under State Fair Boulevard and 690. Cummer, from a canoe, is looking downstream as the creek flows north before entering Onondaga Lake.

Willson Cummer / Onondaga Lake #43, inkjet print, 2010

Some artists help us expand our sense of the possible by deconstructing or altering reality. Others, like Willson Cummer, do something perhaps even more amazing: They show us the reality right in front of us that we’ve somehow failed to see.

Cummer focuses his camera on the places where the man made meets the natural, like the roofs of parking garages and the forgotten places under overpasses, which CNYSpeaks has written about before. He has a knack for at once showing us the enduring beauty of nature and the destructive force of human development. He juxtaposes the beautiful and the ugly, creating images that deepen our understanding of beauty itself.

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Workers restoring the historic Genesee beer sign in Downtown Auburn.

Asset-based development — the notion that a community is better served by building off existing assets, as opposed to courting outside developers to build projects with little connection to the community’ history and values —  has long been recognized as a best practice.

But what if one your assets is a giant beer sign? And what if it hasn’t been lit in 40 years?

The answer to the first question is easy: All the better!

That’s especially true in Auburn, which knows how to have a good time, a fact that will be on display all weekend, from the Founder’s Day celebration on Saturday, to the sign lighting beer bash on Saturday night, to the party following the Great Race Sunday.

This is a significant selling point for this small city. It’s great that we are embracing our proclivity for fun and taking pride in it. And why not? Austin has become an epicenter for creatives by celebrating weirdness. Surely, there’s worse things to celebrate than knowing how to celebrate. If you have any doubt about that, check out this list. Did you know that two U.S. cities are fighting over the moniker “Cowtown,” or that Charleston, West Virgina, goes by the nickname “Chemicalville”?

The second question has required quite a bit of work for the community to answer. The Genesee Brewing Co. has made the investment to restore the sign with LED lights. The Auburn Downtown Improvement District has handled the event logistics and much of its promotion, two things that were key to making the brewery’s investment in the project worthwhile. The city of Auburn is providing security and other support. Local businesses have stepped to the fore to supplement and compliment the event with efforts of their own, with dozens of places offering various specials and enticements. The local fundraising powerhouse known as Majorpalooza is teaming with with Tinkers Guild to man the Genny Beer truck and raise money for charity during the event.

I personally had absolutely nothing to do with any of this, and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a role in making it happen. Thank you all!

Through this cooperative, collaborative effort, a fanciful idea has become reality, and the Genesee Beer sign will be re-lit tomorrow night. Whether you are from Auburn or not, you should come down and take in the spectacle.

From a public relations perspective, it’s fair to say the event has already been a success. Google it, and you’ll find dozens of outlets have picked up on the story and are celebrating the accomplishment with us. That includes this piece in the Citizen, and this one in The Post-Standard, both of which have more details about the lighting and all the other Founder’s Day events tomorrow.

Working to ensure the success of individuals from under-represented groups in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is not just the right thing to do. It’s also essential to the competitiveness of our country, and to the ability of the entire planet to find creative solutions to the daunting challenges we face.

As I explore in my most recent article for NYSUT United Magazine, STEM fields are expected to add 2.7 million jobs by 2018, far outpacing the rest of the economy.

The country needs an “all hands on deck” approach to filling its STEM jobs, something President Obama has recognized in speeches and backed up with Race to the Top funding to states like New York, which received the money in part because of its commitment to STEM education.

I’ve scored a truly great gig promoting the Camel’s Garden Hotel in Telluride, Colorado, on various social media platforms. Telluride is a magical place, a cosmopolitan oasis in the midst of rugged wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. No other town gives you easy access to so much adventure and comfort at the same time. And no hotel does a better job of positioning you to take advantage of all that Telluride has to offer than the Camel’s Garden.

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One of my clients, WowWe Inc., is now offering its incredible video email platform for free.

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The conflict between shape-shifting Indian warrior Jake (shirtless) and the vampire Edward centers on their group identities -- and their competition to win Bella's heart.

I’ve been taking an amazing class at the Maxwell School this fall — Fundamentals of Conflict Studies with Pofessor Bruce Dayton. Among the requirements are two “external activity reports” that examine events of our choosing using the theory we learn in class.

I’ve attended several events recently that would make excellent fodder for conflict analysis, including a lecture by Ines Mergel that examined networks within organizations and how they can create and manage conflict.

However, perhaps recklessly and certainly in bad taste, I choose to focus on a movie – the spectacularly bad The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The third-installment in this teenybopper, melodramatic, vampire-love series is remarkable in that its subtext seems ripped from the pages of a conflict resolution textbook.

The characters in the movie are all trapped in conflict. Many of the conflicts would be defined as group identity conflicts, a major component of conflict from a cognitive perspective.  The conflicts also end up being transformed via several conflict resolution mechanisms —increased contact among the parties, the rise of an effective mediator, increased costs of continuing the conflict, and, most importantly, the forging of a “super identity” via the rise of a common enemy.
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A capture of how a foursquare update, known as a "check in," appears on my Facebook page.

After hearing Antony Rotolo of Syracuse University‘s iSchool talk about the power of location-based social networking tools like fourquare, I decided to open an account and give it a whirl.

Foursquare (which writes its name lowercase except at the beginning of sentences) allows users to connect with each other and to share their locations through a process called “checking in.”

You can use foursquare on a computer, but it is most powerful when launched on a smartphone, as it can tap into the phone’s GPS and help users determine exactly where they are and what’s around them. Foursquare ties into users’ Facebook and Twitter accounts, which makes it easier to find contacts who also use foursquare. Additionally, this feature turns foursquare into a blogging tool that can enhance posts to those platforms. There is also a foursquare plug-in for WordPress, which I have yet to play with.

As Rotolo explained to students in Ines Mergel‘s New Media Management class, foursquare has clear value to businesses, who tie it into their customer loyalty programs. Customers who “check in” at certain locations get discounts and freebies, which in turn motivate the customers to utilize foursquare more.

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Connect. Communicate. Create.

September 29, 2010 — 2 Comments

(Click image to enlarge)

I love alliteration, maybe to a fault.

But “Connect. Communicate. Create.” is far more to me than just a catchy motto.

Rather, it precisely sums up my philosophy on solving problems, particularly the type of complex problems we face today.

On this blog, I will examine best practices in areas such as social media, civic engagement, journalism, audience development, policy analysis and formation, strategic planning and communications, conflict transformation and consensus building.

The focus will be how individuals, nonprofits, governments and companies can harness these best practices to solve problems and overcome barriers to success.

I invite you to connect with me in the manner in which you feel most comfortable. Comment on this blog, call me at 315.730.4621, email me at, friend me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow my tweets.

While you’re here, check out my resume and bio, and browse through some examples of my work.

Some of the work I am the most proud of are the series I articles I wrote from the Gulf Coast after Katrina and the CNYSpeaks Civic Engagement Initiative.

CNYSpeaks exemplifies the type of project I love: Connecting people, fostering constructive dialog and using that communication to catalyze creative solutions. As such, civic engagement is the basis for much of my journalistic and academic work.

Thanks for stopping by.