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Cronkite Hosts Symposium on Philanthropy and Local Accountability Journalism

February 1, 2012

Journalists, philanthropists and community leaders will gather at Arizona State University this week to discuss the role of philanthropy in the future of local accountability journalism.

The symposium, which will be held Thursday evening and Friday at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Representatives from a diverse array of community and national foundations and nonprofit news organizations will participate in panel discussions on how local accountability journalism affects the information health and civic engagement of communities as well as how funders can best support it.

Leonard Downie Jr., Cronkite’s Weil Family Professor of Journalism and vice president-at-large of The Washington Post, will host the event and deliver the keynote address Thursday evening in the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum.

“Local accountability journalism, so essential to the well-being of American communities, is at risk because of the severe cutbacks in reporting resources at most local newspapers,” said Downie, who led The Washington Post to 25 Pulitzer Prizes during his 17 years as the newspaper’s executive editor. “The relatively new nonprofit news organizations and their funders gathering here are in the vanguard of efforts to fill that gap.”

The symposium is one of 11 being conducted at leading universities in an effort to take action on a 2011 Federal Communications Commission report. The report, “Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age,” is the most comprehensive look at media policy in a generation. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York are dedicating more than $800,000 to help implement the report’s recommendations, including projects to examine how tax law is affecting nonprofit media, to create a plan for state-specific C-Spans and to develop reliable metrics on media philanthropy.

"The FCC’s study will be either a catalyst for improving the flow of news and information in communities, or a book that sits on a shelf," said Eric Newton, Knight Foundation’s senior adviser to the president. "We hope America's journalism schools will lead the debate on the report’s recommendations and the news community will make its views known. That's a good first step in the right direction."

In October, more than 350 people gathered at the Cronkite School to participate in an FCC hearing on the report.

Participants at the ASU symposium include:
Christopher Callahan, dean and university vice provost, Cronkite School
Kevin Davis, CEO and executive director, Investigative News Network
Andrew Donohue, editor, voiceofsandiego.org
Leonard Downie Jr., Weil Family Professor of Journalism, Cronkite School; vice president-at-large, The Washington Post
Sue Hale, media consultant, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation
James T. Hamilton, Charles S. Sydnor Professor of Public Policy, Duke University; director, DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy
Joel Kramer, CEO and editor, MinnPost
Laurie Kramer, chief revenue officer, MinnPost
Terry Mazany, president and CEO, Chicago Community Trust
Grant Oliphant, president and CEO, The Pittsburgh Foundation
James O’Shea, co-founder, CEO and editor, Chicago News Cooperative
Jim Pitofsky, chief strategy officer, Arizona Community Foundation
Robert Rosenthal, executive director, Center for Investigative Reporting
Sandra Mims Rowe, Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics, Cronkite School; former editor, The (Portland) Oregonian
Julie Sandorf, president, Charles H. Revson Foundation
R.F. “Rick” Shangraw, CEO, ASU Foundation for a New American University
Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief, The Texas Tribune
Laura R. Walker, president and CEO, New York Public Radio
Sharon Walsh, editor, PublicSource
Buzz Woolley, president, Girard Foundation