What is the Value of Journalism to Our Communities

Submitted by PeggyHolman on Wed, 03/11/2009 – 2:46pmin

Session Convenor:  Bill Densmore

Session Reporter:  Hannah Miller

Discussion Participants:  A large group

Question: What is the value of journalism? What does it offer to our communities that isn’t already there?

It has to do with trust.  People need to see the value added.

Telling stories of people.

News as currently done – there’s something wrong. I think we have a content crisis.

Creates new story for the possibility of the community.

Journalism – used to be only gatekeepers – now afraid of losing control.

Provides the police blotter.

If it went away, would we miss it?

Provides identity/local news. The term “information sharing” is demeaning.

If your local park is crappy, you need a newspaper to fix it.

USA today is news from nowhere. The community it refers to is too vast. It’s not a community.

Journalism provides a sense of belonging.

Tells you what’s going on in SF, and what’s going on nationally. Tied up in concept of the citizen.

The newspaper tells you who you are. Cultural cohesion that ties us together. That’s more important than the news.

Corporate consolidation killed grassroots voice.

Corporate consolidation killed radio. Used to be a profound political force. Maybe digital shakeup will get us back to community news.

There are very few national newspapers in this country – we have many of them in the Dominican Republic. TV does that here.

What if the government had a paper? Profoundly disturbing.

Reading the newspaper is a ritual. Read in the morning with coffee.

We were taught to read it. My teachers used it in class. We still have high school papers. There will also be a class of people who want to document history. I don’t know if people want to read it, but they still want to produce it.

Horoscope/advice column/crossword/comics. It’s been an essential experience for a long time.

Movie listings.

Question: What would SF lose if the Chronicle died?


A sense of identity.

Knowing about events and issues.

I value Boston Globe – best sports section in the world.

I value New York Times style section on Thursday/Sunday.

Journalism is context/coherence/sense of history.

I don’t trust random bloggers.

The Cincinnati Inquirer is a terrible paper but it lets Cincinnati know there’s a place called Cincinnati.

In rural areas, they are especially important – community papers give a sense of being embedded in a community.

In one situation in NH, the local paper died and no one ran for office. Librarians had to start a place blog.

Valuable for voting – getting people to come out.

The most medieval and patriarchal organizations I have ever touched are the media.

Journalists psychologically all about control. Like physicians.

Value: attachment to community

Love, engagement with the community

Way to challenge power, outrage, outlet for anger
Counterweight to powerful. Mediator.

Learn about things that are important but don’t have time to directly experience them.

Black radio was once a political force.

Rich people have the Internet, can keep reading. Non-native English speakers underserved.

Value if reporter is reflecting my values and community – ethnicity, gender diversity. Problem now in coverage that doesn’t cover all neighborhoods: “the only time people read about my neighborhood is when someone is shot.” Non-existence of black women. Racism. They show cute white kids in galoshes.

Problem: coverage based on crisis, disaster, conflict.

Value in what Al-Jazeera calls “contextual objectivity”.

Show where national budget is going in a pie chart. A sense that our government belongs to us. Education – this is where your tax dollars are going.

Value in the research and expertise. Scientific expertise – global warming.

Giving the public enough information about policy to engage politicians. Meritocracy of content.

Value in the Daily Show: backstory, fun, perspective, entertainment. Have an opinion but not propaganda. Saturday Night Live coverage of Sarah Palin made TV news more challenging.

About Peggy Holman

Peggy Holman supports organizations and communities to uncover creative responses to complex challenges using innovative engagement processes. The Change Handbook, co-authored with Tom Devane and Steven Cady, documents many such processes. The book is the considered the definitive resource for leaders and consultants working to increase resilience, agility, and collaboration in organizations and other social systems. Peggy co-founded Journalism that Matters in 2001 with three journalists to support the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecology. Peggy’s latest book, Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval into Opportunity, supports people facing disruptions to invite others to join them in realizing new possibilities.
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