Measuring Informed Communities

We talk a lot about the digital divide and the lack of local news coverage in communities across the country, and how this absence of information affects civic participation, quality of life and our democracy. We are facing a growing information divide that is leaving more and more people with less and less access to the basic information that helps them make choices about their jobs, families and communities. We have to approach the challenge of meeting these information needs with a national effort, as it is fundamental to the health of our democracy and a just society.

But first we have to answer a few core questions: How do we define the information needs of communities, and how do we measure them? What metrics should we use and what tools do we need? Are communities receiving quality news and information? A panel at the Free Press Summit delved into these questions because understanding our communities information needs will shape the policies and solutions we fight for in our quest for a better media system. Continue reading

Lessons and Questions from New News Collaborations

On the last day of the Journalism Innovations conference a group of journalists gathered around a table at the University of San Francisco to talk about struggles and opportunities related to collaboration. The group was a diverse mix of new and old media including Salon, Mother Jones, San Francisco Public Press, Spot.Us, The San Francisco Chronicle, California Watch and others. The conversation was part storytelling, part Q&A, and part troubleshooting.

At first, people were most interested in sharing their experiences with collaboration and describing the projects they were working on currently. However, before long the conversation took on a much more critical tone and the results were a fairly frank assessment of new news collaborations and some initial lessons from those on the front lines of this work. Continue reading

Give The People What They Want

Most people, from local citizens to working journalists, foundations to academics, policy makers and even some publishers, agree that the business model for journalism is broken. The experimentation we are seeing emerge at the local, state and national level is encouraging, but also highlights the fact that commercial media is failing to meet the information needs of communities.

The evidence is clear. We can point to the evening news which is filled with sports, crime and weather instead of public affairs programming and enterprise reporting. We can point to cable news channels that spew an endless stream of celebrity gossip, talking head pundits and sensationalism. And we can point to newspapers that are gutting local political and issue coverage and replacing it with generic wire reports and lifestyle articles. Continue reading