After a year of study, countless meetings, and at least two conferences, a team of researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have released a series of papers exploring the potential and challenges of the emerging networked digital media environment (note: I played a small role in this work). If you are sitting there thinking that this is a BIG topic rife with thorny questions about the future of journalism, you’re right.
Which is why the papers’ authors conceived of the project as a conversation, facilitated by a series of papers that look at different facets of these issues. The series includes a fifty-page overview, News and Information as Digital Media Come of Age, followed by seven issue papers:
- International News: Bringing about the Golden Age by Ethan Zuckerman;
- Principles for a New Media Literacy by Dan Gillmor;
- Public Broadcasting and Public Affairs: Opportunities and Challenges for Public Broadcasting’s Role in Provisioning the Public With News And Public Affairs by Pat Aufderheide and Jessica Clark;
- Digital Media, Democracy and Diversity: an Imperfect Discourse by Ernest Wilson III;
- Pride of Place: Mainstream Media and the Networked Public Sphere by John Kelly;
- Editors — the best is yet to come? by Tom Stites; and
- A Typology for Media Organizations.
And four case studies:
- iReport: Participatory Media Joins a Global News Brand;
- The Gothamist Network: Gateway to Local News?;
- The Forum, Deerfield, NH: Seeking Sustainability in Hyperlocal Journalism; and
- The Chi-Town Daily News: Creating a New Supply of Local News.
The project was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and was led by Berkman Fellow Persephone Miel and Berkman Research Director Rob Faris who spent a year talking to journalists, bloggers, citizen media creators, public broadcasters, publishers, advertising networks, researchers, technologists, lawyers, and many others.
On balance, the papers present a cautiously optimistic picture. There is enormous potential to expand the reach of journalism and to bring it closer to the people who need it. The tools that enable new kinds of reporting, flexible ways to combine information, and networks that connect people to information and to each other are getting better. Tough challenges remain, but it’s great to see such smart and dedicated people focused on these issues.
If I haven’t convinced you yet that it is worth your time to download the papers, take a minute to watch the video trailer (it’s literally a minute long):
(Note: I am a fellow at the Berkman Center and the project I direct, the Citizen Media Law Project, is hosted there, along with Media Re:public.)