Friday, June 10, 2011

New FCC report: "independent watchdog function" of press "at risk at the local level;" Brooklyn hyperlocal journalism gets barely a mention

A new Federal Communications Commission study, The Information Needs of Communities concludes (as summarized by the Times) that “the independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism — going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy — is in some cases at risk at the local level.”

Among the recommendations, as summarized by Jim Romenesko: have journalism students to more in-the-field reporting; steer more government advertising money toward local media, and encourage donations to nonprofit media organizations.

What about Brooklyn?

There's barely a mention of what was once called the country's bloggiest place:
The most frequent criticism of the teaching hospital model is that student journalists are a source of cheap labor and actually end up displacing their professional counterparts. The students are willing to work for “free,” earning course credit at a time when professional newsrooms are eliminating staff to cut costs. One former editor, Peter Scheer, wrote, “Does it make sense for [J-schools] to be subsidizing the accelerated dislocation of one generation of their graduates to make room for a younger generation of their graduates? In the investment world this is called a Ponzi scheme.” But Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, responded that students are doing journalism that newspapers no longer can. “With the typical metro news editor looking at a half-empty newsroom, the question isn’t whether to cover local issues with journalism students or veteran reporters, it’s whether to cover local issues with journalism students or not at all,” Lemann says. CUNY’s dean, Steve Shepard, admits that his students are “very cost effective,” but adds that without them the hyperlocal journalism in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene and Cobble Hill neighborhoods “wouldn’t get done.”
Um, that's Clinton Hill, not Cobble Hill.

And I wouldn't say that The Local, while doing some useful work, is exactly leading the pack. Nor is its hyperlocal work particularly oriented to accountability journalism, though that does crop up.

What about the AOL-funded Patch network? The report states:
At this point, Patch is more aptly seen as an element in the rise of hyperlocal information than as a solution to the deficiencies in municipal and state accountability reporting.
Then again, Patch says it's filling the gaps.

FCC Report: THE INFORMATION NEEDS OF COMMUNITIES

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