Along with my recent column updating readers on The Seattle Times’ “Save the Free Press” initiative, we asked readers “What do you want to know about the local journalism crisis?”
Here is the second batch of their questions and answers about our efforts to shore up America’s free-press system.
If these questions and answers trigger new questions, you’ll find the “Ask the Free Press Editor” link at the bottom of this post. Please use that instead of my email and note carefully the choice you make about anonymity, as I’d like to include your names whenever I can.
Q. How will you coordinate with and learn from others doing this work longer? (e.g., freepress.net)? How will you prioritize equity? — Mel Howlett, Seattle
Free Press Editor: So far, the Save the Free Press team at The Seattle Times has convened two informal gatherings of other leaders and allies in this work, including Free Press Action, the group you mentioned. We learned more about what’s underway and what is needed by gathering like-minded folk in Seattle in December and in February in Washington, D.C. More than two dozen groups are working on various elements of the problem, and we have yet to meet with all of them.
While almost every journalism organization in the country devotes some time to the problems facing local newsrooms, here is a partial list of those focused specifically on local journalism:
- The Rural Reporting Plunge at Washington State University’s Morrow School of Journalism
- American Journalism Project
- The Center for Sustainable Journalism, Kennesaw State University
- The Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media
- Institute for Nonprofit News
- Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION)
- Local News Initiative at Northwestern University
- Report for America
- The Save Journalism Project
Q. “Why do smaller, local papers not join with public and private colleges and universities to create a journalism partnership? Mentor and share?”
Free Press Editor: They already do. Newsrooms of all sizes carry out a variety of teaching hospital-style programs in which students get early professional experience while serving the public need for reliable information.
Here is the University of Washington’s latest announcement of students reporting on the Legislature for weekly newspapers and others. When I was editor at the Port Townsend Leader, we had two excellent summer interns funded by the Washington Newspaper Association Foundation.
One plea to readers: Please urge your workplace to always pay interns. Internships are the single most important pathway to entry-level jobs, and several of my excellent students at Western Washington University last year and at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where I taught for six years, would not have been able to afford an unpaid summer or semester learning professional standards and habits.
Unpaid internships are out of reach for undergrads of modest means, which hurts every profession’s efforts to build a more diverse workforce. Journalism needs more loggers’ kids from Forks, grape-pickers’ kids from Walla Walla, homeless kids from Tacoma and maybe fewer Mercer Island children of doctors, lawyers and Amazon executives.
If you want to add your question, please use this Ask the Free Press Editor link instead of my email.