A report released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week examined the state of local media in the changing digital landscape and came to a rather grim conclusion: while the proliferation of online media has increased accessibility to news sources, there is a significant deficit in the quality and accountability of local news reporting around the nation.
“The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism—going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk at the local level,” writes Steven Waldman, former journalist for Newsweek and U.S. World Report. The report, titled The Information Needs of Communities provides a comprehensive look at “the changing media landscape in the broadband age,” concluding that some federal regulations are not in line with the information needs of local communities.
The report recommends several measures to improve the current state of the media. Waldman highlights the need for in-the-field reporting at journalism schools, and suggests a new tax code that would encourage donations to nonprofit media.
As for the role of government, Waldman calls for more transparency by the government to “reduce the cost of reporting, empower consumers, and generally improve the functioning of media markets.”