Friday, December 4, 2009

FTC Opening Comments...

Here are my opening comments from the panel on the future of journalism that I participated in earlier this week....

Opening Comments by Alisa Miller
“How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” Workshop
Reducing the costs of journalism panel
The Federal Trade Commission
Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to talk about what I believe is a incredibly important time for our democracy – how can we sustain quality trusted journalism in our county and the important role journalism plays in our society to inform, enlighten, hold power structures to account, and at its best, inspire people based on powerful story telling to live their lives better.

I am CEO of PRI, the public media network and organization focused on providing and creating global news and cultural perspectives, reaching millions each week.

In this role, I have listened to and participated in many sessions over the last year about the future of journalism, and I would like to underscore a key point that I think is missed in some of these discussions. I believe that we are not just facing a journalism business model problem, but that we are currently suffering a journalism scope and quality problem in America. Why? Because even when profits were high, the fact is that in many communities and even from mass media news sources, key beats have not been represented for years. And certainly not at levels that are sufficient given these topics importance to our society. This had much to do with what incentives were present in the commercial sector and the mass consolidation of sources and channels over the last decade or so.

With that said the impact of new media, shifts in advertising revenue and the economic downturn have only accelerated the decline.

So what can we do? I am optimistic that much is possible. I believe the future is about how we can strive to practice more what we call at PRI, “Galvanizing Journalism” PRI’s Galvanizing journalism model is driven by five major principals and is more possible than ever in our digital world:

Number one, Meet the need. It starts from asking ourselves, what are the unmet content needs that Americans have in terms of functioning in our democracy and living successfully in our interconnected world.

For PRI, this means making the local to global connection and have content that reflects the changing face of America and diverse and robust voices.

Number two, Focus resources and provide context. Focus resources on contextualized journalism and producing this journalism in a sustained matter, each day and week, responsive the news cycle and also responding to user needs

Number three, Leverage the power of partnership to tell stories differently.

This means featuring diverse voices and focusing on non-duplication of resources. We believe partnership, done right and with experience, can lead to a model that can be 3-5 times more efficient than traditional vertical journalism operations. We are a complement to and very different from these institutions. I look forward to sharing some examples as we get into our discussion.

In other words, don’t look at your editorial capacity as the beginning and end of your editorial capacity. As Jeff Jarvis said in the web world, cover what you do best and link to the rest. That should just be the start.

We can also partner far more with our public and blogs. They can provide I-witness accounts, highlight and bring issues to the fore, and crowd source to attack complex topics together with journalists.

Number four, Operate as a catalyst /galvanize organizations and resources. It isn’t just enough to create the content anymore. How are you helping and leading others to create the content too. In PRI’s case we use and create both broadcast and increasingly digital platforms to publish content and spark engagement. All at a relatively low incremental costs in order to reach people where they are.

And finally, Five, Model the transparency we seek. Use semantic web to help people make connections and understand our content better and use it to improve their lives and their communities. We also believe this will help people trust the sources of their news more.

I look forward to our discussion today and thank you again for the opportunity.

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