I came to journalism through community organizing, so for me, news and information has always been important in the context of our communities. That’s perhaps why I was so struck by the way Melanie Sill, executive in residence at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, puts community at the center of her new report “The Case for Open Journalism Now.”
Like many journalism reports released in the last five years, her report begins by asserting that journalism is a “public good.” However, where other authors have used that frame to explore business models or argue for new funding streams (including my own 2009 report), Sill is more interested in how the journalism itself needs to change.
“We need a new orienting idea for journalism,” she writes. If journalism is a public good, she asks, how must it change and adapt to the new digital public sphere and the demands of newly connected (and disconnected) communities. “To bring real change,” Sill argues, “we must reorder the fundamental processes of journalism toward the goal of serving communities.”
Sill sums up this shift under the idea of “open journalism,” a term that doesn’t immediately explain itself. Here is Sill’s definition:
“Open journalism’s core principles are transparency, responsiveness, participation, collaboration and connection. … It’s an idea for making quality journalism a collective endeavor and transforming it from a product driven by factory processes to a service driven by audience needs.”
In this way, open journalism brings together the democratic needs of communities with the increasingly networked technological shifts in media and information. Part argument, part case study, and part handbook for newsrooms, her paper offers a wide range of concrete examples drawn from a diverse set of journalism organizations across the country. As such the paper reads as a study of an emerging movement, one which is gaining steam but still facing very real challenges.