Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Nov. 10, 2011 Volume 33, No. 12

RJI plans forum on maintaining quality local reporting


Forum follows FCC report on state of industry

Following a report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the state of American journalism, the Reynolds Journalism Institute will host a forum Nov. 15 on how to maintain quality reporting at the local level.

“What’s important in the digital age is that there are major changes in how we get information,” said Amy McCombs, Lee Hills Chair in free press studies at the Missouri School of Journalism, who is coordinating the symposium along with Barbara Cochran, Curtis B. Hurley Chair in public affairs journalism. “The FCC is in a perfect position to look at communication needs, and we’re trying to examine the impact their recommendations would have on local news coverage. We’re at a once-in-a-generation moment now, so this is a critical point for the industry.”

Highlights of the event will include a keynote speech by former FCC official Steven Waldman, who directed the commission’s report, and a series of panel discussions with industry executives, moderated by faculty members in the School of Journalism. Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation, the symposium will look at the FCC report’s implications for commercial and nonprofit media outlets.

“Steve has reviewed the information industry extensively, and he has a comprehensive knowledge of how communication works,” McCombs said. “The support we’re receiving from the Knight and Carnegie foundations adds a lot of credibility to this discussion.”

Local coverage has fallen behind in the transition to online-based news, the FCC found. The report lists increases in government waste and local corruption and a decrease in student performance as consequences of this lack of local coverage.

“The Internet has undercut the traditional business model, driving away advertising and audiences,” Waldman said. “Newspapers have cut staff, and radio and television have not filled the gap. There are a lot of media outlets like blogs and phone apps, and the missing piece is full-time reporters. There is a tremendous lack of accountability.

“People don’t turn over rocks and look into the shadows, and this will lead to wasted money, increased pollution and a host of other problems that come up when the government and other organizations are not held accountable.”

The Reynolds Journalism Institute symposium will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in 200 Fred W. Smith Forum. Attendees must register for the event, which is free and open to the public.

More information is available on the RJI website,

— Ryan Schmitz