Journalism education leaders stand up for local news: ‘Democracy is at risk’

January 9, 2024

For Immediate Release
January 9, 2024

Leaders of journalism programs across the United States are coming together to explore how they can best collaborate to bolster beleaguered local news — considered essential to accountability for state and local governments, education, policing and more — because its demise jeopardizes the foundation of democracy and rule of law. 

“What’s at stake cannot be overstated: Without robust local news that provides a critical eye on local spending, school board decisions, policing, housing, and the quality of life for local residents, our democracy is at risk,” said Dean Geeta Anand, from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. 

The initiative from journalism education leaders nationwide comes at a time when local news outlets are disappearing at an alarming rate: Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism just issued its annual State of Local News report that maps so-called “news deserts” in 204 counties nationwide, with more than 228 counties at risk of losing their news source. Medill notes that news deserts are considered areas without local publications, including newspapers, digital sites, public radio newsrooms or ethnic publications.

“We know that communities across the country are experiencing an information deficit because of the demise of local commercial news outlets,” said Dean Hub Brown, from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. “We also know that around the country, universities are becoming part of the solution — finding innovative ways to address that deficit.”

A consortium of journalism educators signed a statement in support of local news initiatives as a prelude to sharing information for a report that is being prepared to explore ways they can collaborate to strengthen local news in the communities and states where they are located.

The report will be shared at the Knight Media Forum, an annual gathering of leaders to discuss the state of the field, to be held in February of 2024. The journalism program leaders will explore opportunities for collaboration and consider the best options to strengthen local journalism. A major thrust will be expanding student-led coverage of local and state government. 

The statement of intent to collaborate, signed by 23 deans and directors, says: “Our pledge is to work together to build on the impact of our individual institutions. Our faculty and our students have the skills, the commitment and the vision to write a new chapter in American journalism — one in which local news, and the democracy it serves, emerge stronger.”

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For more information or to speak with a dean or director who is engaged with this initiative, contact Berkeley Journalism’s Communications Director Andrea Lampros at 510.847.4469 or alampros@berkeley.edu. 



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