MIAMI, Feb 3, 2012—Joining an effort to study community news issues raised by the FCC report “Information Needs of Communities,” the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Texas at Austin will receive $20,000 each to study the effectiveness of journalism schools becoming community news providers.
Researchers at each university will study efforts to improve the quality and quantity of information in rural and other historically undercovered communities, particularly in Nebraska and Texas. The goal of the project is to produce a blueprint to help universities across the country create and sustain community news operations that provide useful information to residents.
The studies are two of 11 being conducted at leading universities in response to the FCC report, the most comprehensive look at media policy in a generation. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York are dedicating more than $800,000 to help implement the report’s recommendations, including projects to examine how tax law is affecting nonprofit media, to create a plan for state-specific C-Spans and to develop reliable ways to measure media philanthropy.
“The FCC’s study will be either a catalyst for improving the flow of news and information in communities, or a book that sits on a shelf,” said Eric Newton, the senior adviser to Knight Foundation’s president. “We hope America's journalism schools will lead the debate on the report’s recommendations and the news community will make its views known. That's a good first step in the right direction.”
The digital revolution has created new vehicles and opportunities for journalism, but at the same time has shattered the business models of traditional media organizations. The result, according to the FCC report, is more information than ever, but less reporting that holds local and state institutions accountable.
Journalism schools have sought to fill the vacuum by creating ambitious new courses and student-produced local news websites. The projects have the potential to significantly increase the quantity and quality of watchdog journalism in undercovered communities, as well as improving the quality of journalism education.
These ambitious efforts have mushroomed throughout the United States. Until now, however, few have been studied to assess their structures and methods, the obstacles they face, the impact on their communities and the paths they may take as they evolve.
“The FCC has recognized that universities need to be an essential part of the community news environment. This is all the more true for universities in small cities and rural areas. We hope this research points the way for other universities to improve the information flow in their communities, too,” said Gary Kebbel, dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“These projects are among the most innovative and promising in the journalism landscape,” said Glenn Frankel, director of the School of Journalism at UT Austin. “But they face many obstacles – lack of funding, lack of sustained coverage by students and at times lack of standards to ensure excellence. They are expensive and labor intensive, and at times there may be conflicts between pedagogical goals and journalistic ones. I hope our study will contribute to making them more effective and sustainable.”
The two schools are among 12 universities convened by the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation over the past five years to improve journalism education and raise the profiles and contributions of journalism school deans, directors and students in the ongoing public debate over the future of journalism.
Texas and Nebraska will study student journalism efforts in their states, then produce a joint white paper. Each university will hold community events in which Steven Waldman, principal author of the FCC report, will discuss ideas for responding to its recommendations.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.
About Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to do "real and permanent good in this world."
Glenn Frankel, Director, School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, 512-471-1845, email@example.com.
Gary Kebbel, Dean, College of Journalism and Mass Communications at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 402-472-3041, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Sherry, Vice President/Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, email@example.com.
George Soule, Manager of Strategic Communications, Carnegie Corporation of New York, 212-371-3200, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.