Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight CEO kicks off Free Press Summit: What policies do we need to create informed and engaged communities?

May 11, 2010, 1:40 p.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Alberto Ibarügen gave the kickoff talk this morning at the second annual Free Press Summit: Ideas to Action, held at the Newseum in Washington D.C. Alberto wore two hats, at least ' one as president and CEO of Miami-based Knight Foundation, the summit sponsor, and another as chairman of the board of the Newseum. The daylong summit, which is being streamed live over the Internet and includes a lively real-time online chat, features a mix of speeches from Washington's top media policymakers; commentary from panels of journalists, innovators and community leaders; and interactive breakout sessions about the future of journalism, public media and the Internet.

Alberto told the crowd that Knight sponsors this summit because of the foundation's key beliefs ' that information is a core need in a democracy, which thrives on 'informed and engaged communities,' and that every American needs universal broadband access as a matter of basic equality.

He also referred to the universal access recommendations in a report by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. 'The central goal is for a broadband plan. Our attention and energy must turn to the structure, laws and incentives to achieve that goal.'

Rather than focus on the policy controversies, Alberto said, everyone must work together in an open debate and be guided by three principles: (1) Competition and innovation must be encouraged; (2) The Internet must remain open and neutral and; (3) Broadband access must be universal and affordable.

Alberto shared a hopeful sign ' that other foundations across America are beginning to understand the crucial role broadband plays in the nation's vitality and are turning their resources toward this issue. He applauded Ford Foundation for committing $50 million over the next few years to support broadband access.

He concluded his talk by highlighting Knight Foundation's partnership with community foundations across the country, which also are coming to understand the necessity of promoting informed, engaged communities through the free flow of information. Knight awards matching grants to community foundations through its Community Information Challenge, now in its third year. The goal, Alberto explained, is to fund creative projects that inform and engage residents about important issues in their community.

He urged summit participants to seek out support and input from all people ' because everyone is part of this information challenge in the digital age. 'Don't just look at people interested in media and information to find allies in this fight.'

You can follow Alberto Ibarügen on twitter at @Ibarügen, and the live conversation at the Free Press Summit at #fpsummit.