Ten Policy Debates Shaping Journalism Right Now

The wide-ranging debates and policy proceedings happening in DC right now regarding the future of media could have an enormous impact on journalism in America. Here’s a rundown of the key debates that will shape journalism in the coming years. Continue reading


A Growing Inventory of Journalism Collaborations

{NOTE: This list is now a bit dated, but I continue to work on issues surrounding journalism collaborations. Reach out on Twitter at @jcstearns to chat more about these issues}

News sharing, editorial collaborations, business partnerships – journalists and newsrooms are increasingly exploring new ways to collaborate. Some of these efforts are resulting in exciting new kinds of news, pushing stories beyond what could have been done by any one person, and producing more local news for communities. Others, however, are leading to further consolidation, newsroom layoffs and a notable decrease in the amount of local reporting in communities.

In seeking a way to organize, evaluate and better understand these collaborations and their impact on local news and local communities, I have begun breaking them up into categories (so far these categories include: News Sharing, Public/Private Partnerships, Public and Noncommercial Media Collaborations, and University News Partnerships). Obviously, there are other ways of organizing this, and many of these collaborations straddle multiple definitions. In the future I’ll be developing these ideas further and looking at these partnerships from different angles. (It’s also worth noting here that I am most interested in long term collaborations, not one-time partnerships, though I have included those when they are unique or notable.)

In the sections that follow I begin to outline a few of the most well known partnerships and collaborations. I have collected some, but many came from this initial post, collected from my Twitter followers and others. There is many more, I am sure, and I hope you’ll add others in the comments. (Thanks to everyone who gave feedback on my original post here: http://bit.ly/9qhqC2) Continue reading

Congress Takes Another Look at Comcast/NBC

Although the Congressional hearings on Comcast’s proposed take over of NBC are over, the issues is still clearly under debate in the halls of Congress. In the last week two members of Congress have taken significant steps to ramp up pressure on Comcast and ensure a fair merger review process that fully engages the public, who will be most impacted by this deal. Continue reading

Will The FCC Hold Public Hearings on Comcast/NBC?

In the last few years, the Federal Communications Commission has held local public hearings on media ownership, localism, broadband expansion, Net Neutrality, and more. Now, we are facing one of the largest media mergers our country has ever seen; will the FCC hit the road to hear local people’s concerns about it?

This week, we sent a letter to the FCC asking them to do just that.

As part of Comcast’s takeover of NBC, the cable giant hopes to get its hands on a number of valuable NBC and Telemundo broadcast stations in local communities. But those airwaves belong to the public, so Comcast has to ask the FCC for permission to transfer the broadcasting license from one company to the other. Continue reading

The Localism Movement in Journalism

In my day to day work I get to talk with a lot of journalists about why they do what they do. As you might expect, the answers tend to share some similar themes: commitment to truth and facts, desire to hold leaders accountable, passion for amplifying the voice of people whose voice is often silenced, love of language and storytelling, the thrill of the hunt, an eagerness to help people understand the world around them.

These are motivations I understand and can relate to in my own work. But I’m not a journalist. I am fighting for the future of journalism at a structural level. I have long worked as a community organizer, concerned with how we can build better, stronger communities. While I have worked in conservation and environmental advocacy, education and national service, media and telecommunications reform, at the root of each of these issues has been a concern for the unique local civic infrastructure that I believe undergirds so much of our lives. Continue reading

What’s the Role of Policy in Times of Collapse?

Clay Shirky has a thoughtful piece on his blog on “The Collapse of Complex Business Models” where he applies the lessons of Joseph Tainter’s 1988 book, The Collapse of Complex Societies to the shifting media industry. Shirky’s reflections on the challenges and opportunities that exist in times of collapse pose some interesting questions for public policy.

Tainter’s essential theory is that complex societies collapse not in spite of their complexity but because of it. Shirky summarizes: “Early on, the marginal value of this complexity is positive—each additional bit of complexity more than pays for itself in improved output—but over time, the law of diminishing returns reduces the marginal value, until it disappears completely. At this point, any additional complexity is pure cost.” For Shirky, this tension is at the heart of many questions about the future of media and he suggests that paywall advocates are essentially arguing that they need to find ways to make web users pay up because otherwise, “we will have to stop making content in the costly and complex way we have grown accustomed to making it. And we don’t know how to do that.” Continue reading