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"Journalism and the New Media Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messengers?"

Publicly Owned and Operated Media

What follows is an honest attempt to document a two-day conference at Yale Law School, "Journalism and the New Media Ecology: Who Will Pay the Messenger?" The reporter is Bill Densmore of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. As with a similar in-the-moment report from a gathering at Harvard University two weeks ago, I make no warranty about the accuracy of direct quotes -- captured on the fly -- but make a promise to have supplied appropriate context as best as possible. The sessions are being videotaped. Consult that source for the final history of this event.

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In this session, we hear Ellen Goodman, Rutgers University Law School; Josh Silver, executive director of FreePress.net; Laura Walker, general manager of WNYC, New York; and Lawrence Grossman, of the Digital Promise Act.

Goodman opens with some observations about what public media should become. She overviews the Public Broadcasting Act enacted during the Johnson administration. She says public media needs to involve technological convergence. The case for public media is that there are still market failures -- failures to provide for the public good -- that need to be addressed. If there is a case for public media, even if you don't buy the market-failure argument, then its three functions are:

  • Creation
  • Curation -- aggregation, synthesis
  • Connect -- Engage in the community where located

She calls public media: "The last locally owned substantial electronic media outlets."

She asks: Can public media save journalism?

CPB funding is only 35% of the funding of public media. But it is critical, lynchpin funding; it allows media outlets to attract funding from other sources. One of the problems with CPB funding tied to infrastructure is it ties up the media in a legal infrastructure. It makes it hard to move broadcast properties off of the broadcast spectrum and

"We need to rewrite the public broadcasting act so that it isn't broadcast focused ... there is no reason why the media experiments we have been hearing about shouldn't be able to get funding." She quotes Bill Kling, who thinks of public broadcasters as being "base camps" for all kinds of other non-broadcast news services.

  • Redifine entities that are entitled to public media funding
  • Insist on enw forms of networking
  • Restructure appropriation to a trus tfund or other sustained funding source