The Annenberg Public Policy Center today released a report "On Behalf of Journalism: A Manifesto for Change" by Geneva Overholser, writer, critic, and currently the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Reporting for the Missouri School of Journalism, in its Washington, D.C., bureau.
The report, a project of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with the Annenberg Public Policy Center, is the result of more than a year’s worth of research and interviews. The project grew out of a June 2005 conference at the Annenberg School that brought together 40 journalists, scholars, and news executives to discuss the role of the press in a democracy and what might be done to enhance it. In the process, topics such as the growing financial pressures on newspapers, the benefits of public vs. private ownership, credentialing of journalists, the role of government in a free press, and new forms of media were discussed. At the conclusion of the conference, Overholser conducted additional analysis of media problems and potential solutions before writing the report. She also created a list of "action steps" – recommendations designed to keep the nation's media vigorous and independent, while recognizing a dramatically different information landscape.
"We are not lacking for ways to deliver information," she concludes. "What we are lacking, increasingly, is the particular kind of information that keeps free people free... The first step toward solving this challenge is understanding its magnitude. Then will come necessary actions from many different constituencies. We intend to pursue these solutions vigorously, in the fine company of others working on behalf of journalism."
Introduction to the report: "On Behalf of Journalism" is a document of hope for a difficult time. To journalism's many daunting challenges, it offers no easy cure, but a panorama of possibilities. To embrace opportunity, of course, one must believe in the future and be open to the unknown. These are not common attitudes among journalists today, for all the old familiar reasons - from the falling consumption of traditional media to the building distrust of those who provide it; from the relentless pressure on media companies to produce unusually high profit margins, to the fact, made so dramatically evident in the sale of Knight Ridder, that even aggressive efforts to comply do not ensure survival. No wonder journalists find comfort in the way things were... This document seeks to bring attention to the bright spots and open prospects on a troubling landscape, to recognize promise where peril is more apparent. Different people will incline toward - and reject - different possibilities. But, taken together, these efforts to distinguish between what must be carried forward and what must be jettisoned, and to embrace new and hopeful steps into the future, can lead to a reinvention of journalism that is richer and better than the old, with its essential values intact. The story of American journalism is undergoing a dramatic rewrite. The pace of change makes many anxious, and denunciations are lobbed from all sides - and from within. It's easy to overlook the promise of the many possibilities that lie before us. Our focus here is on those possibilities.