Downie and Schudson on Restructuring American Journalism: Implications for Science Media

In today's Washington Post, former editor Leonard Downie and communication scholar Michael Schudson preview the release of a major new study on the future of news. Below are some of the key recommendations of the report which reflect similar themes I have described in recent articles and at this blog specific to new models for science journalism. In particular, Downie and Schudson echo the need for government funding of new journalism ventures in areas such as science and health and the vital role at the local level that public media organizations and universities can and should play. [Related: See also this recent report authored with colleagues here at AU identifying best practices in digital journalism.]

From the Downie and Schudson op-ed today at the Washington Post:

Rather than depending primarily on shrinking newspapers, communities should have a range of diverse sources of news reporting. They should include commercial and nonprofit news organizations that can both compete and collaborate with one another, adapting traditional journalistic forms to the multimedia, interactive capabilities of digital communication. In a comprehensive report commissioned by the Columbia University Journalism School, "The Reconstruction of American Journalism," to be published this week, we suggest a number of public sources of support for this news reporting:

-- The Internal Revenue Service or Congress should clarify tax regulations to explicitly allow new or existing local news organizations to operate as nonprofit or low-profit entities, allowing them to receive tax-deductible donations, along with advertising revenue and other income.

-- Philanthropists and foundations should substantially increase support for local news reporting -- at both commercial and nonprofit organizations -- to levels they provide for arts, cultural and educational institutions.

-- Public radio and television should be substantially reoriented, through action by and reform of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to provide significant local news reporting in every community served by public stations -- reporting that too few of them do now.

-- Universities and colleges should become institutional sources of local, state and accountability news reporting, following the lead of pioneering journalism schools whose faculty and student journalists staff community news and investigative reporting Web sites.

-- A national Fund for Local News should be created with fees the Federal Communications Commission collects from or could impose on telecom users, broadcast licensees or Internet service providers. Grants should be made competitively by independent state Local News Fund Councils to local news organizations for innovations in local news reporting and ways to support it.

-- Governments, nonprofit organizations and journalists should increase the accessibility and usefulness of public information collected by federal, state and local governments, taking advantage of digital tools to analyze and use it for news reporting.

These are reasonable and achievable measures. They require only leadership in journalism, philanthropy, higher education, government and the rest of society to seize this moment of challenging changes and new beginnings in the media to ensure the future of news reporting.



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