In 1787 in England, news reporters were officially welcomed into the proceedings of Parliament. On this occasion, Edmond Burke is reported to have said there were “Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.” (Wikipedia).
If we care about our community, and want to focus on its abundance, we have to track the role that this fourth estate, call it journalism, plays as a major narrator of the stories of our culture and our neighborhood.
It is a good time to get interested in the news, for it has been disrupted, to state it mildly. The print media have lost major revenue, the traditional TV outlets and newspapers are barely surviving. The Internet is a major player now that each of us owns a printing press and a video broadcasting facility.
While the news profession mostly talks about the new media and all the competition, even from citizens, the real question is about what kind of stories are being told.
Until recently, the news industry has primarily defined its role as watchdog. Investigative journalism. Protecting the interests of democracy by exposing the errors and faults of society. If we want to know what is wrong with us, read the paper, watch the local evening TV news, go online to all the sites reporting on our deficiencies.
The Abundant Community stands for a different storyline, one that is about the gifts, hospitality and associational life of neighbors. We want to produce stories like this and support that segment of the journalism world that shares our belief in this storyline. There is a growing movement in the news world that believes journalism can play a civic role in building community. We want to report on that here and we want to hear your thoughts on this.
We call this pursuit “New Journalism” in hopes that that the content of journalism will gain as much interest as the new media. Here are examples of stories we seek and what we want to document:
There is another role for journalism that is emerging which tells the story of what is working in our communities. It documents stories of compassion and generosity and citizens making a difference. This section reports on the shift in thinking about the contribution journalism can make to bring our communities together. Peggy Holman and Bill Weaver are two pioneers we want to stay in touch with.
Many of our news outlets have become increasingly politicized. This is why public broadcasting, which has maintained its independent viewpoint, has an important role to play. There has been a growing politicized effort to end its public funding which accounts for about 17% of operating costs. Democracy needs an independent press. We want to keep track of what is happening to sustain Public Broadcasting as one of the last bastions of democracy.
There are many who are committed to a free press that are concerned about the steep decline in most print and broadcast news organizations. This section keeps you in touch with this crisis from some very knowledgeable people like Alan Mutter with his Newsosaur blog, NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen with his newsletter and lectures, and author Clay Shirkey.
With the new media at our fingertips every person becomes a publisher and reporter. This is causing a resurgence of civic or citizen journalism. With the help of Mike Phillips, a retired newspaper executive, this section teaches citizens how to tell the story of their communities. Mike shares his insights about new story forms and how the new media is another democratizing force.