A Call to Action for Journalism Schools

Earlier this summer, I attended the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) conference in Boston. It was interesting to see how the challenges facing news organizations nationwide are filtering down to those who are trying to prepare the next generation of journalists.

The attendees asked questions that were slightly different from those asked in other journalism conversations; instead of “What’s the future of News?” I mostly heard people ask, “How do we prepare students for an unknown future?” But the questions not being asked remained the same.

While I saw distinct interest in new models – especially nonprofit models for journalism – there was little discussion of the policies we need to ensure a level playing field for these new models. When questions of public policy did arise – like David Westphal’s excellent session on his research into journalism and public policy – they tended to be treated as academic exercises rather than points for action. Continue reading

Beyond Blue Ribbons

In general, there have been three kinds of responses to the calls for President Obama to endorse a commission to on the future of journalism and public media in America:

1. “Keep the government out of my journalism.”
2. “What good will a commission do?”
3. “Thank goodness, it’s about time!”

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post exemplified the second and third responses in his article earlier this week, essentially arguing, “We don’t need no stinkin’ presidential commission.” My colleague Josh Silver has already outlined a few of the flaws in Kurtz’s article, but I want to step back and explore these responses to the commission idea in more depth. Continue reading

Imagined Communities and the Future of News

There’s a great blog post from Chris O’Brien over at Next Newsroom on the role of passion and community in the future of news.

In his post “How Passion For Newspapers Points To A Way Forward” O’Brien taps into a vital aspect of the work we are all doing in media reform and the future of journalism. Like so many current social movements we get bogged down in the stats, figures, and data and lose sight of the role of emotion in the fights we wage. It doesn’t just matter how people read the news or where advertisers spend their money – we also need to be concerned with how people feel about news organizations and why people read the news.

“Too often, we boil a newspaper down to the idea that it’s just about journalism. In fact, at their peak, a printed newspaper provided about 50 different services to readers, one of which was journalism. Taken together, these things created not just a product, but also an experience. This is where the emotional component kicks in.”

While it is easy to talk about the vital role of journalism in democracy, and we have to keep doing so. By focusing on such huge abstract issues, we risking missing the more local direct way that people experience the news and the immediate role journalism plays in our lives. As O’Brien notes, this role is not just about providing news and information. And its not just about creating a local marketplace. The sum is greater than its parts here. News orgs are vital civic orgs – they organize information (or help people organize information) and in so doing they help organize people themselves. This is the community building power of the media – that has for the most part been forgotten (or abandoned). This is what the best community newspapers, community radio stations, and community access TV still do. Continue reading