THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS:
Increase the role of higher education, community and nonprofit institutions as hubs of journalistic activity and other information-sharing for local communities.
Nonprofit institutions are reservoirs of expertise. Local community organizations, such as community development organizations, churches, fraternal organizations, and chambers of commerce, are critical in the transmission of information. All should make a priority of sharing information within the community and providing the tools necessary to turn information into knowledge.
This is especially important for otherwise underserved populations. It is critical that all segments of the community be able to locate useful online content that is directly relevant to their needs and interests. Whether the institution provides life-enhancing or civic information, it can strengthen the decision making of community members by providing information that is relevant, accurate, and accessible. A genuine community effort to engage all neighborhoods in effective information flow could entail a variety of information portals run by different not-for-profits.
An especially worthy priority for nonprofit institutions, including foundations, may be financing short-term fellowships for journalists covering state and local government. Given the connection between serious news coverage of government and public accountability, the not-for-profit sector should be especially attentive to addressing reduced coverage of statehouses across the country.
Institutions of higher learning should likewise regard promoting community information flow as central to their mission. Community colleges may have especially strong relationships with adult and working-class students who can be involved in community-based projects. Faculty, staff, and student bodies can enrich a community’s knowledge base in many ways. Universities should reward faculty members who share their expertise through public outreach initiatives. They should promote the dissemination of research-based knowledge in all fields and set up or contribute to online digests of research findings.
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