The Future of News

On Monday, a crowd of 150 leaders in journalism, philanthropy and business gathered in St. Paul, Minn., to address the crisis of declining local and regional journalism. The Future of News summit, hosted by American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, tackled complex questions facing the worlds of commercial and public media alike.

On this week's Media Minutes (click for audio), Andrew Haeg, public insight editor at American Public Media, talks about the event and the state of regional and local journalism today.

Andrew Haeg: When the economics of local and regional journalism don’t work the way they have traditionally, how do we think about how to support that kind of journalism in the future?

Heag says that the summit came together quickly out of the necessity to address major questions about how to sustain a future journalism on the local level.

Andrew Haeg: Content has been atomized and the unit of content isn’t the publication, it’s the story or the piece of journalism. How do you adjust in an environment where the ability to aggregate a mass audience and to “monetize” that through advertising is no longer really possible. And as we talk about how to move forward, are we attempting to preserve the structures and institutions that have traditionally produced this kind of journalism? Or are we trying to preserve the values of journalism that have informed how we produce socially valuable journalism and public service journalism. And I think the consensus in the room is that yes, we are trying to preserve the values of journalism.

Those values were laid out by Tom Rosentiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, as being that journalists provide facts, make sense of what’s happening, stand as watchdog, show up and bear witness, serve as a forum leader to engage community, aggregate and distill information, empower their audiences, and provide a role model for citizen journalists.

There was also a lot of discussion over whether there should be an increased role for federally subsidized, public service journalism. But attendees disagreed over whether journalism should be considered a public or private good.

Andrew Haeg: That’s an interesting tension that’s going to play out over the next several months or years and that’s trying to figure out where are the gaps in journalism where has the market failed and therefore where does the federal government need to step in. And I don’t think that’s at all clear right now.

The day’s discussions were distilled into an “instant white paper,” co-authored by Haeg, which laid out the major findings and lingering questions to come out of the summit.

Andrew Haeg: I think it’s just the perfect way to wrap up a conference like that. So many times what happens at these kinds of these things there’s a lot of energy and a lot of heat, but then not a lot of light at the end of the day and you walk away saying, “Gosh, there seemed to be a lot of interesting strains and conversations that had similarities ”and there’s no kind of summing up that happens. And I think that’s what we did with the white paper was attempted (in a kind of low resolution way) to sum up what we heard and bring it all together into a format that people can react to.

To read the white paper, visit