The Future of Journalism and Foundations

On Tuesday, I attended a program at Philanthropy New York called American Journalism: Views on Reconstructing the Falling Industry. I wanted to post my thoughts earlier, but the Foundation has had quite a busy week with Committee Meetings and gathering together our Board Materials for an upcoming meeting.

Speakers on Tuesday's event were Michael Schudson, co-author of The Reconstruction of American Journalism and Professor of Communication at Columbia’s University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Calvin Sims, Program Officer at the Ford Foundation. Vincent Stehle moderated the discussion.

The discussion started off with a series of thoughts about the role that government should and could play in this crisis. While Schudson have several recommendations urging further government support for media (including expanding support for public media such as NPR and CPB, and funding for more local news). He laid out several justifications for this view, such as the fact that historically the government as played this role, and we do it in a lot of other capacities such as social sciences etc. Sims on the other hand, appeared a bit more cautious about the role of government. Although he did advocate for some role, he had more serious questions about what impact government support would have and how exactly it would play out. He advocated for more media education, media literacy and. He also discussed how competition invariably leads to better news production and said we need to look at media ownership issues to ensure there isn't increased media concentration, as well as developing new tools in the digital media landscape.

With respect to the role that foundations can play in this crisis. Both the speakers and participants realized that foundations will not be a panacea for this crisis, but there are ways in which they can help the industry as it is in transition. Some ideas including funding online investigative news organizations (although you must think about long term sustainability), funding collaboration, finding new models for reporting and disseminating journalism, keeping competition alive and studying the transition to an online media system.

It was a great event overall, and even though I couldn't stay for the whole thing, I found it to be quite helpful in thinking about what role foundations can play in revitalizing media. Philanthropy New York does a really great job of posting resources after each program, so if you missed the event, or just want to have a list of more resources that were mentioned on Tuesday, you can go here. It actually looks like the summary isn't up yet, but I'm sure it will be shortly.

Thanks to everyone involved, both speakers and other participants!