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First Hint: Public Is Ready to Save Journalism

On Sunday night at 5 p.m. I was a member of the last of three concurrent panels at the Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Ga. The topic of the panel: The Future of Newspapers.

I anticipated that maybe a couple of dozen people might show up. So I was a bit nonplussed when I came on stage — really an altar — and saw at least 200 people seated in the church’s pews to hear our panel.

My message was that if the public doesn’t step up and start to support journalism, it was going to disappear and our democracy was in trouble. I repeated a line I have given before: If you the public don’t find enough value in what we do, then why should we do it?

I pay for my haircut and every other service, so why not pay for journalism? The days of advertisers paying for your journalism is waning, if not over.

So who in the audience, I asked, will step forward and help save journalism? The answer was the 25 citizens who filled out forms saying they were ready to help. We at the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University will meet with these 25 citizens and anyone else interested in advancing the cause of sound journalism. Maybe this is the beginning of a national citizens’ movement to advance high quality, ethically sound journalism. We will see.

I must tell you, I have seen indications of this coming. In casual conversations I have had with people, a fair number of them realize that journalism is in deep trouble and they are afraid, as am I, of a world without journalism.

Remember the proverd: Mighty oaks from little acorn grow. If you want to be part of our pioneering effort, get in touch. Be part of our charter meeting which I will be call in early October.

By the way, I shared the panel with Leon Levitt, Vice President of Digital Media at Cox Newspapers, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Hank Klibanoff, coauthor of The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle and the Awakening of a Nation, who until recently was the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s managing editor.

4 Responses to “First Hint: Public Is Ready to Save Journalism”

  1. Notes from a Teacher - Tuesday squibs Says:

    [...] First Hint: Public Is Ready to Save Journalism. Some encouraging anecdotal evidence from Len Witt. [...]

  2. griftdrift Says:

    “My message was that if the public doesn’t step up and start to support journalism, it was going to disappear’

    No it won’t.

    And I’m ready to talk. Are you willing to listen, Len?

  3. Josh Says:

    Lenn – I had a similar experience at the recent event in Denver where 200 people showed up to a forum on the future of journalism. The unique thing was that it was split between community members and nonprofit leaders (about 100 ppl) and about 100 journalists and former journalists. Both groups were eager to talk about the future of the news, and strategize creative tactics for supporting newsgathering.

    I had journalists come up to me afterward in awe of the outpouring of community support and I had community members marveling that journalists actually wanted to hear from them. In the end, it was not just about getting the public to pay for the news, but looking at a full range of strategies for fostering local journalism – from business models, to donations, to public policy.

    There is more info on the event at our blog

  4. Leonard Witt Says:

    Hello Griftdrift and Josh:

    Let’s keep talking. Something very interesting is afoot here.