CPB's New Initiative: Local Journalism Centers

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has a pretty simple proposal for how to counter the decline in local journalism that has hit communities across the country: invest in local reporting.

Last Thursday, the CPB announced that it’s investing $10.5 million to create seven “Local Journalism Centers” across the country – multimedia hubs that will cover local issues.

The idea of expanding local reporting capacity, while not necessarily ingenious, is certainly encouraging. Between the launch of the LJCs and NPR’s just-gearing-up “Argo Project,” it appears that the CPB wants to invest in new, local projects that are focused on providing quality journalism and move beyond the old broadcast model. As Pat Aufderheide, director of the Future of Public Media project at American University’s Center for Social Media, put it: “Pubcasters could be building new strength in a decentralized, participatory media environment, and facilitating public culture.”

Many are looking to public media to provide the sort of reporting that’s been lost as commercial newsrooms have slashed budgets and staff. The blue ribbon commissions and journalism studies of last year point toward public media as one component needed to stop the bleeding. And with the FCC’s new National Broadband Plan giving the nod to public media as well, the pressure is on the CPB to deliver.

A $10 million investment is a solid step in the right direction, but it barely scratches the surface of what has been lost in the past few years as local reporting outlets have vanished. It is fantastic to see the CPB recognize that local reporting is where the money needs to go, but to create systemic change, we need to significantly increase investment into the system itself. Simply looking toward the annual appropriations process won’t cut it. We need new public policies that will dramatically increase public funding, shore up the political firewall and expand the tent to include a wider array of public media makers.

This post originally appeared at NewPublicMedia.org.