Wick Communications

Journalism as ‘civic reactor’

In journalism on January 18, 2017 at 6:44 pm
U.S. Department of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy

Nicco Mele is a fascinating guy who may be on to something.

He is director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, an angel investor, a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy as well as a contributor to the Harvard Business Review. He was once deputy publisher of The Los Angeles Times and it’s safe to say he’s thought a lot about the future of news organizations.

In an important and short post to Nieman Reports, Mele makes a potent statement on behalf of our mission:

With a declining respect for expertise, a worldview inextricably shaped by celebrity, and an intense desire for escapism to avoid the pressing challenges of our moment, Donald Trump seems suddenly inevitable. But a resignation to inevitability is not an honest or just response. There is really only one thing to do: Go local. The emphasis on national politics is drawn like a magnet to celebrity. The stories in our own backyards tether us … but that local connection is our salvation. It can redeem our journalism and our politics. …

He goes on to suggest that local newsrooms might morph into “civic reactors. That is to say, places where community literally gathers and activism burbles up through a new kind of journalism.

I think that is tremendously exciting in concept. It reminds me of the trend 10 years ago to invite the public into our sanctums for meetings and other events.

I do think there is a danger there. It suggests a further abandonment of an objective aspiration that could run off the rails and further alienate people who worry that the news is just someone’s opinion. I think it is important for us to remain a reliable pillar that aims to shoot straight — even as we sometimes fail to do so.

That said, I’m very intrigued by this kind of vision: “A possible future for journalism is more in the mold of grassroots organizing, where the newsroom becomes a sort of 21st century VFW hall, the hub of local activity,” Mele writes.

Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Clay

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