Free Press Summit: Ideas to Action

Yesterday I attended the 2010 Free Press Summit: Ideas to Action in Washington DC. The purpose of the event was to try to answer some tough questions about the future of journalism, public media and the Internet. It brought together about 400 people and combined speeches from Washington’s top media policymakers, insight from community leaders, journalists and innovators as well as interactive breakout sessions.

The day started off with a welcome and kick off from Alberto Ibargüen, President of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as well as a keynote speech from Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission in which she talked about the importance of network neutrality and closing the digital divide. You can read her entire speech here.

Following Clyburn, the morning panel included titled “Social Media, Social Justice and the Future of the Internet” featured Jose Antonio Vargas, Huffington Post; James Rucker from; Andrew Noyes of Facebook, and author Deanna Zandt to talk about everything from what social media really means in the digital age, to privacy rights and how media policy affects these issues.

In the afternoon I attended a breakout session titled “Measuring Informed Communities” which was lead by Josh Stearns, Program Manager of Free Press. The session recognized that communities (however they be defined) are facing a growing information divide, and that if we are going to develop concrete strategies, solutions and policies to meet this challenge, we must first know what the unmet needs are. Of course, not every community is the same, and it’s up to each of us to understand and explore how we even measure whether a community is “informed.” The two other breakout sessions which I didn’t get a chance to attend focused on creating public interest policies around the future of media and journalism, and mobilizing communities for better media.

Lastly, the day finished off with a closing session, including a talk by Jehmu Greene, President of the Women’s Media Center.

If you missed the event but are interested in checking out any of the sessions, video recordings of the event will be posted shortly here. They will also be posting transcripts of the talks when they become available. You can also check out the great speakers and their bios. A special thanks to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation who sponsored the event, and the hardworking staff of Free Press who made it all possible.

Also at the event yesterday, Free Press also released a new paper at the summit, titled “New Public Media: A Plan for Action” authored by Josh Silver, Candance Clement, Craig Aaron and S. Derek Turner. In this paper the case is made for why we need public media (examining both the crisis that exists and where there may be opportunity), how it’s possible to fund a public media trust, a section about leadership, diversity and expansion, and lastly, some great conclusions about how to take these ideas and spur action.

Lastly, if you’re interested in these issues, mark your calendar. Free Press will be holding its next National Conference for Media Reform in Boston, MA, on April 8th-April 10th, 2011. This conference brings together thousands of activists, media makers, educators, journalists, scholars, policymakers and engaged citizens to meet, tell their stories, learn tactics, and hear from great speakers and build the movement for better media in America. You can sign up for updates, or visit the conference’s website for more information as it becomes available.