Dorothy Jean Carner, head of the U. of Missouri Journalism Library, and I spoke today about our shared interests in the upcoming conference. She noted her deep concern over the preservation of digital content — news, photos, audio, multimedia — which commercial newspaper owners often don’t care about, yet the community does and posterity will. So how to get these interests in alignment? Dorothy mentioned how some libraries are experimenting with the LOCKSS system, “Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe,” which distributes content to multiple nodes to ensure its preservation in an efficient way.

Dorothy also expressed concern that librarians have a different approach to community engagement than journalists; libraries are neutral providers of information, while journalists tend to have a point of view and be more proactive.

I share Dorothy’s concerns about unmet public needs. I think there are LOTS of public interest concerns that are not being well-served by contemporary news organizations (because they are not seen as profitable or profitable enough) which might be well-served by a tech platform and bottom-up revenue model. What the market considers financially unattractive, a community-managed commons might consider entirely feasible, drawing upon the volunteer participation, in-kind community support (the schools, local businesses, etc.) and through innovative revenue models that together support a shared tech platform. The idea would be to federate many (unmet) public interests….for serious journalism, for archival preservation of a community’s history…. for a public square to discuss issues of the day…. for a community-owned “Craigslist”…. for servicing the info needs of public schools; etc., etc., onto one tech platform with a new institutional form, perhaps drawing upon the best of what libraries and newspapers have been historically, but pointing in new directions.

We both agreed that young people, especially the “digital natives,” may have some imaginative new ideas for bring to the table. And we both agreed, also, that the conference should be a provocative meeting of minds that hopefully will suggest some constructive new directions.