Knight Commission, PBS take on journalism


The sorry state of the print journalism business is getting lots and lots of attention. Now The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy is partnering with PBS to study how citizens are currently meeting their information needs.

The question is this: “How do citizens get their news and information today, and how would they improve the quality of information available to them?” In particular, Knight wants the answer to the question in the context of the new digital media environment.

The first step is to offer citizens a chance to see work done on the topic already and at the same time offer their own input. This is where PBS comes in – it is using a portion of its website to advance the project at from Tuesday April 21 – Friday May 8, 2009.

The website will “…feature a preliminary analysis of the Commission’s work, videos of the Commission’s public forums and meetings, blogs about the Commission’s work and a forum for citizens to express their thoughts and opinions.”

The Knight Commission has been at it since June of last year and has held seven public forums on the topic already.

“The business models we’ve relied on to provide news and information to our communities are stressed and changing. New platforms offer an astounding array of choices, creating the most connected world we have ever known with the greatest volume of available data,” said ex-officio Commission member Alberto Ibargüen, a longtime newspaper executive and former PBS chairman who also chairs the Newseum board. “But as those choices proliferate and as those virtual communities connect us globally, we see little evidence that the World Wide Web is effectively replacing the local news and information function of traditional media — the kind of news and information that binds and defines community and that is essential for a well-running democracy.”

RBR/TVBR observation: We’re seeing studies in progress while others call for even more studies in the near future. Meanwhile, the open market is trying to sort it out the old fashioned supply and demand way. There seems to be only one sure bet: Whatever the answer is, we don’t have it yet