Articles by

Eric Newton

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    Eric Newton, Knight Foundation’s senior adviser to the president, addressed Dutch educators on Nov. 20 at a conference on the teaching hospital model of journalism education. Above is the video. Below is an edited, updated and slightly longer version of the talk. Thanks to editor-in-chief Bart Brouwers from dichtbij.nl and René van Zanten and Rick van Dijk […]

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    Photo credit: Flickr user Rob Jewitt. In 2011, the Federal Communications Commission released the biggest national look at media policy in a generation. “Information Needs of Communities,” based on the Knight Commission of the same name, declared a crisis in local accountability journalism. Part of the remedy, lead author Steve Waldman wrote, was for philanthropists to increase their support for journalism. “An essential first step,” he said, would be to start measuring foundation media grant-making. That step came today with the release of “Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States,” the most comprehensive study yet done on foundation media grant-making. To me, its findings are both a cause for celebration and a call to action. RELATED LINKS Report: "Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States" "Report on foundation funding for media ignites crucial discussion" by Steven Waldman on KnightBlog The celebration: Foundations are reacting to the digital-age disruption of traditional media. During the study period, 2009-2011, even though a recession was pounding the United States economy, foundations invested more money than ever in media projects. Dollars for media grants grew more than three times faster than overall grant-making and grew to make up a larger percentage of all foundation giving. If media grants were considered a foundation giving category (they aren’t; that’s why a study was needed) media grants would rank seventh, behind the environment and animals but ahead of religion, science and technology. The call to action: The number of foundations giving media grants (about 2/3 of the total) stayed about the same. That means a third of America’s foundations are not on the path to becoming digital age philanthropists.  It can seem a daunting journey. We who have started along the way need to work harder to explain why it’s worth the work. We need to show why foundations need healthy, independent flows of news and information around the topics they care about to achieve their missions. We need to make the case that in the digital age every foundation is now a media foundation, just as every company is a media company. Still, the good news is that most foundations do see the fundamental role media plays in people’s lives. The numbers in “Growing Foundation Support” reveal the “who, what and where” of U.S. media funding, and show how foundations are reacting to the disruption of traditional media models. The report provides a benchmark from which foundations can improve and learn, while also serving as a resource for grant-seekers.
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    Today, Knight Foundation launched a new digital book and teaching tool, Searchlights and Sunglasses. Here author Eric Newton kicks off a series on how students, educators and professional journalists can use the book. We hope our newly launched Searchlights and Sunglasses demonstrates the power of digital books and teaching tools not just to teachers but to students, professors, professionals and community members. The blog series Beta Test Diaries, starting today and running throughout the coming weeks, will light up different pathways through the book. Students, teachers, professors, librarians and journalists will report how they’re using Searchlights and Sunglasses, showing their peers how it can supplement their digital transformation regimen. This first tour of the book comes from Katrina Bruno, a student from Florida International University’s communications school who went on to become a program coordinator at the Posse Foundation. She chose to demonstrate how the book appeals to different people by creating three composite characters, a student, a teacher and a professional, and reporting their favorite pieces in the book: RELATED LINKS Continue the conversation with #edshift and at edshift.org.  Free Poytner webinar Oct. 28: "Six things educators can do right now to go digital."  "New digital book on journalism’s future is call for change and teaching tool" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog "Journalism textbooks have seen their future and it is digital" on Poynter "A journalism problem you haven't considered: Education" an Op-Ed by Eric Newton  "Consortium unveils $1M Challenge Fund to 'hack' journalism education" "Eric Newton: Journalism education isn't evolving fast enough, and you should help change that" on Nieman Lab "New from The Knight Foundation: A Free J-School Self-Help Book" on MeidaBistro "@sdmoeller: How I'm already using 'Searchlights and Sunglasses' in the classroom" on KnightBlog "Pencils down everyone. Your digital toolbox is here': Five lessons from 'Searchlight and Sunglasses" on KnightBlog  "What curriculum innovators can learn from 'Searchlights and Sunglasses'" on KnightBlog "Getting students to ask tough questions: My 5 favorite parts of "Searchlights and Sunglasses" on KnightBlog "Navigating Knight's new book: Choose Your Own Adventure" on KnightBlog THE STUDENT Jose Knight is a junior majoring in journalism. He is an average college student, with a 3.0 GPA, and a decent writer. He thinks he might be able to make a career of it. He doesn’t think he knows much about current media trends, though he hangs out in social media and geeks out online when he needs to dig into something. He’d rather read the Huffington Post than pay for news. He likes education, science and politics. He has an iPhone full of sports apps. He has danced with the idea of writing for some kind of magazine or newspaper, but his professors seem confused about what jobs are out there. He knows he needs experience, worries about getting it. He hears a lot about journalism evolving in the digital age, but can’t really tell you what that means. His classes so far have been basic pre-requisites. This year, in his first upper-level journalism course this year, his teacher assigned readings from Searchlights and Sunglasses. He read it on his iPad. He didn’t really like what was assigned, though, and found himself going to the articles he wanted. His favorite was To journalism students: Yes, There Are Jobs. In Chapter One, he liked A History of the future of news and Ten tools to learn, more to explore. From Chapter Three, it was As social media grows, so does First Amendment appreciation.  In Chapter Five, he liked How much comfort news is in your information diet? Jose felt a sense of relief after browsing the book. There are jobs, social media is a good thing, and the kind of writing and reporting he wants to do will still matter. He likes the lessons in the book that allow him to create, not just turn papers into teachers but put up blog posts, update Wikipedia entries, make things that other people can see and use. He wants to find a way to get into News21. THE PROFESSOR When Ima Ridder went to college, print journalism was king and the digital age was science fiction. She worked at a local newspaper for 20 years before starting her career as a community college teacher. When she goes to faculty meetings she still takes a sharp pencil and a single piece of paper folded into long-thin quarters, an improvised reporter’s notebook. She’s one of the best hands-on teachers around but blooms red with embarrassment when she can’t make the classroom technology work and her students poke fun at her. She wants to move her classroom successes online but doesn’t know where to start. She is sure her students could teach her much about daily digital life but fears losing their respect if she asks. She prints out Chapter Two in Searchlights and Sunglasses. She goes to the Learning Layer Directory, and clicks on the PDF for all of Chapter Two’s learning layers, and prints all 50 pages of that as well. Then she starts noticing individual learning layer lessons in other chapters, such as Expanding journalism education in Chapter Three, and prints those out. She takes the printouts home to read over the weekend. About halfway through, it happens. With a deep, deep sigh, she mutters to herself, “you just have to … go paperless…” No matter how hard you try, she thinks, you can’t print out a video. Next week she’s going to talk with her department head about training opportunities.
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    The following blog post written by Eric Newton, senior adviser to the President at Knight Foundation, is cross-posted from the Columbia Journalism Review's website. Above: Security, Freedom, and Privacy in the Digital Age from the Newseum on YouTube. When a Senate committee this month approved the “Free Flow of Information Act of 2013,” applause was heard from scores of media shield law supporters, from theNewspaper Association of America to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. To them, the news came as a relief after revelations the feds had secretly seized Associated Press phone records and labeled a Fox News reporter a criminal “co-conspirator” as an excuse to get his emails. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that the AP story on the bill and newspaper coverage generally was unburdened by complexity: Long-overdue shield law advances; journalists to protect confidential sources and information. Yet magazine websites told a different story, one of a flawed law with holes that worry “even some supporters.” This raises a question: Shouldn’t the critics get more attention in the mainstream coverage? An all-star lineup of industry groups supports the bill. They see it as the best step yet toward extending First Amendment freedoms into the newsgathering process. The critics, however, have been journalists who do the hardest stories, the national security stories. At an event I organized at the Newseum last week, PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff generously allowed one of them, longtime investigative journalist Scott Armstrong, to debate the rest of the panel.  
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    Above: Security, Freedom and Privacy in the Digital Age, via YouTube The digital age has brought America more information than any nation has had, ever. Big data helps us spot threats early, be they flu epidemics or terrorist attacks. But the more we know, the more questions we seem to have. To reap the benefits of the digital age, must we really give up privacy and freedom? Have we already? Related Links Watch "Security, Freedom and Privacy in the Digital Age" here at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sept. 18, 2013. This year revelations have come regularly about the impact of the surveillance work of the National Security Agency, especially its Prism database. High-tech investigations stretched into the media realm with the seizure of Associated Press phone records and Fox News e-mails. Once, government agents knocked on doors with subpoenas to get what they needed for investigations. Now, it can happen digitally, instantly and secretly. Given the flow of news, however, even important issues like these can drop from the spotlight. So  Wednesday, journalists, officials, analysts and advocates will gather at the Newseum beginning at 9:30 a.m. to continue the national conversation about “Security, Freedom and Privacy in the Digital Age.” The program will be live-streamed here. Journalists from major news organizations such as The Washington Post, the Guardian, The New York Times and PBS NewsHour will be there, as well as media lawyers, the civil liberties protection officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and representatives from the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Tweet comments or questions to #NewseumNSA.
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    Photo credit: Flickr user Thomas Brevik The Federal Communications Commission asked for public comment by Monday on its plans to streamline and increase the E-rate program for libraries and schools. Knight Foundation is helping libraries in 27 cities become digital community centers, and the Knight School at Queens University has a goal of raising the digital media literacy rate of its entire community by partnering with libraries and schools. So here’s the public comment I offered to the FCC: There’s a quote, often attributed to Ben Franklin, that sums up why America should expand broadband in schools and libraries: “Tell me, and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Without access to the World Wide Web, without being involved in it, digital media literacy simply can’t be taught – and without that, our nation will never fully enter the digital age. We can’t just tell Americans why broadband matters. We have to show each other how it works by teaching it in our schools and libraries and offering it in the neighborhoods they serve.
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    The digital age is turning journalism upside down and inside out, but it hasn’t done the same to journalism education. Most digitally savvy educators agree the tsunami of disruption that has walloped the news community is now bearing down on education. Institutions that don’t face reality risk being washed away. Changing from top to bottom means reforming all your tools and technologies. Consider the most basic one of all: the book. “The problem with writing a book about the changing state of journalism in the digital age is, well, the changing state of journalism. The subject flat refuses to stand still long enough for proper treatment in a book, a ‘content platform’ which, after all, isn’t much advanced from its 15th century roots,” wrote Tom Fiedler, dean of Boston University’s College of Communication and former executive editor of the Miami Herald, in CommonWealth magazine. Traditional printed textbooks make it difficult for journalism teachers from high school to graduate school to stay up to date with the latest developments. Textbooks can be outdated from the moment they arrive. They’re heavy. They’re expensive. Some school districts and colleges are moving away from them and looking for free educational sources online. If a printed book is 5 years old, in digital media years, it’s too old. If it takes two years to print, that’s too long. Innovations are coming faster than that.  Some teachers are starting to drop books altogether and move to using NewsU, Nieman Lab, PBS Media Shift and other digital sources of journalism news. This summer, I worked with Knight Foundation staff and a team of Reynolds Journalism Institute-selected researchers and educators to experiment with a new type of teaching tool. It’s a digital book that, with a click, turns itself into a classroom edition. We are currently testing the beta version of “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes From the Digital Age of Journalism.”  
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      An appreciation of Haynes Johnson by Eric Newton, Knight Foundation’s senior adviser to the president. Johnson, a legendary political reporter who spent the past 15 years of his long career as the Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Maryland, died Friday, May 24, 2013. Haynes was not just the best of the old school but of any school, a shoe-leather reporter before most of today’s reporters were born, a giant in political journalism whose work shaped the nation, a devoted teacher who went out the way he wanted to, working to the end. He was a Washington Post powerhouse, a frequent best-selling author, a TV analyst and a Pulitzer Prize-winner for his civil rights coverage. But in the decade I worked with him, I never heard anyone call him anything but Haynes.  His work took him to the top of America. But he was always down-to-earth.  This week was no exception. Not quite 82 years old, he finished the semester at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. On Monday, he went to graduation ceremonies. But by Friday he was dead.
  • Speech

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    The following speech was given by Eric Newton, senior adviser to the President at Knight Foundation, at Queens University’s 2013 Hayworth College and Graduate school commencement.   “A Noble Life in the Digital Age” from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. Greetings, educators, students, friends, relatives and especially the Class of 2013! Queens University encourages you to lead noble lives. Tonight we will […]

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    Support Reporting from Steven Waldman on Vimeo. Journalism does not need to be saved so much as it needs to be created. What did the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities mean when it said that? It’s all about building new and better news systems, which I talked about in Chicago on Monday at the Council on Foundations media policy panel. I joined former Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps, Ford Foundation president Luis Ubiñas and MacArthur Foundation vice president Elspeth Revere. Media policy in the United States is a top-down affair. The Knight Commission was the first major effort to look at news and information at the community level. There, newspapers (which provide most local news) have been cut to the bone. In most cities and towns, digital startups have not yet replaced – never mind improved on – what’s  been lost. The Knight-funded video above tells the story. It was a hit at the session, attended by about 200 funders. Some foundations say “we don’t make media grants.” But media and democracy are two sides of the same coin. The right to know is just as important as the right to vote. It’s impossible for people to cast their votes to solve problems they do not know exist. That said, we tend to get the media we want, not the media we need.  Even at their peak in the last half of the 20th century, newspapers didn’t cover the whole community. Editors who ran newsrooms grabbed as much cash as they could from their monopoly owners and increased investigative reporting and coverage of education, health, the environment and other complex beats. But we still didn’t come close. More than 50,000 “units” of government exist in this large country, from sewer boards to the presidency. Generously, we covered perhaps a fourth of them.