Following on the release of his recent white paper, “Re-imagining Journalism: Local News for a Networked World,” Mike Fancher turns his thoughts to the Federal Communication Commission’s report on the state of the news media. In this op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Fancher writes that journalism must be reinvented as an interactive endeavor.
A Tipping Point for Journalism
Initial reactions to the recent FCC report have uniformly praised its exhaustive diagnosis of the problems facing local news reporting. But there also has been disappointment that the report didn’t offer remedies.
Can that really be a surprise?
American journalism is at a tipping point. The Internet has disrupted the business model that underwrote local news for more than 100 years. The Great Recession made matters worse, resulting in local newspaper and television newsrooms dramatically cutting staffs and other news resources. Another economic shock would hit the media like the tornado that devastated Joplin. Little would be left that we could recognize as local news coverage. If remedies to this were obvious, they would be working by now.
So, I sympathize with the FCC working group that produced the report, “Information Needs of Communities.” I was on the writing team for the 2009 Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, which was an impetus for the FCC work. The Knight Commission also offered no easy answers for local news, but it did make a counter-intuitive assertion:
Journalistic institutions do not need saving; they need creating.
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