In the digital age, technological, economic and behavioral changes are dramatically altering how Americans communicate. Information is more fragmented. Communications systems no longer run along the same lines as local governance. Traditional local journalism providers are declining faster than new ones are emerging. The gap in access to digital tools and skills is wide and troubling. This new era poses major challenges to the flow of news and information people depend on to manage their complex lives.
The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy was created as a joint initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute Communication and Society Program to address these challenges. The Communications and Society Program is proud to have served as the institutional home for the Knight Commission.
- Its members — 17 distinguished thinkers and practitioners from the worlds of media, technology, public policy and community building, co-chaired by constitutional lawyer Theodore Olsen and technology visionary Marissa Mayer.
- Its mandate — to articulate the information needs of communities in the digital age and to recommend measures for the improvement of the information ecologies of geographically defined local communities in America. The idea for the commission sprang from an earlier Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program conference.
- Its report — Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age is the first major commission on media since the Hutchins Commission in the 1940’s and the Kerner and Carnegie Commissions of the 1960’s. Among its 15 recommendations, the Commission argues for universal broadband, open networks, transparent government, a media and digitally literate populace, vibrant local journalism, public media reform, and local public engagement. With this report, the Commission set forth a vision for informed and engaged communities – places where the information ecology meets people’s personal and civic information needs.
The Informing Communities report and the Communications and Society Program’s subsequent publication of eight white papers aimed at moving the 15 recommendations from report into action have served as a catalyst for a national conversation on how to bring the benefits and opportunities of the digital age to every community in America. We invite you to explore the Commission’s work, its report and impact here on these pages. Also be sure to check out the Communications and Society Program’s newer work related to promoting more informed, engaged communities and citizenry at www.aspeninstitute.org/c&s.