Articles by

Steven Waldman

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    As senior adviser to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Steven Waldman was the lead author of “Information Needs of Communities: the Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age.” Below, Waldman writes about a report recently released by the Foundation Center—and supported by Knight Foundation—on the growth in foundation funding for media. Photo credit: Flickr user Tony Stewart. The Foundation Center’s report on foundation funding of media is crucial, well done, fascinating, often encouraging and occasionally disturbing. I start with the premise that philanthropy needs to put more money into journalism.  By giving both advertisers and readers more choices, the digital revolution has been a boon to some aspects of media (storytelling tools, distribution, publications) and devastating to others (support for labor intensive accountability reporting). In the face of that kind of market failure—one that can have profound effects on the health, safety and well-being of a community—philanthropy must step in. This invaluable report, funded—natch—by Knight Foundation lays out for the first time a clear sense of who's doing what among the major foundations, and provides a benchmark to measure future trends. A few takeaways: RELATED LINKS Report: "Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States" "Foundation media support rises—but can it grow even faster?" on Knight Blog by Eric Newton Growth is good.  Media-related grant-making from foundations grew 21 percent from 2009 to 2011.  Remember: The idea that philanthropy needed to step up its support for media is relatively new. Ten years ago the idea that a philanthropist should put scarce resources into media—where the Murdochs and Time Warners seemed to be doing just fine—would have been downright offensive. So it’s a good sign that many foundations “get” that the world has changed and that certain types of media need to be subsidized. Journalism education gets much more than journalism job-creation. During the 2009-2011 period, more than five times as much money went to journalism education as to investigative reporting. In fact, if you subtract the big increase in support for journalism education, the total philanthropic support for the category of “journalism, news and information” actually went down. As the profession transforms, journalism education is crucially important. Many schools are deploying students in the field as reporters, and are better training them for modern journalism jobs. The problem is that there aren’t enough jobs that put to use their highest-end reportorial skills. To be sure, some philanthropic money that has gone into investigative reporting is from individuals and thus not captured in this report.  Nonetheless, foundations need to put as much money into the creation of journalism jobs—opportunities to actually do labor-intensive accountability reporting that helps communities—as they do training the job applicants.
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    Steven Waldman was Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the FCC and the lead author of the report "Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age." He is now Visiting Senior Media Policy Scholar at the Columbia Journalism School. The following is crossposted from Poytner. Steven Waldman With little fanfare, the Federal Communications Commission has issued rules that could greatly help the cause of journalism – if they’re not watered down in the next two months. Why these rules matter These rules are important and people who care about journalism and the public’s right to know can weigh in effectively by December 22. In response to the report on Information Needs of Communities (INC), of which I was the lead author, the FCC in October approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the nondescript title of “Standardized and Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Television Broadcast Licensee Public Interest Obligations.” The Commission (appropriately) requires broadcasters to disclose certain information as part of the compact that resulted in them getting these valuable licenses. Mostly, this “public inspection file” sits, ignored, in filing cabinets.
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    Steven Waldman was Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the FCC and the lead author of the report "Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age." He is now Visiting Senior Media Policy Scholar at the Columbia Journalism School. The following is crossposted. During the FCC’s consideration of the Comcast-NBC merger, Comcast had  suggested showing their commitment to communities by increasing the hours of local news at the stations. At the time, I was running the FCC “future of media” project (which later produced the Information Needs of Communities report---fcc.gov/infoneedsreport) , so our team was called in to study this merger condition.  I was suspicious of the original proposal since most stations were increasing their hours already – but doing by adding 4 a.m. newscasts, with little additional reporting.
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    Earlier this month, Knight Foundation announced several new efforts to help ensure that important public policy recommendations in the FCC's Information Needs report become fully realized. Included was the appointment of Steven Waldman, the report's lead author, as a senior media policy scholar at Columbia University. Today, Waldman writes about other exciting developments regarding the report. Steven Waldman: The FCC today took two important steps on the recommendations in our Information Needs of Community report.  First, it approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking – its way of making an official regulatory proposal – to take the current “public inspection file” online.  The public file is full of material broadcasters are required to disclose as part of their public interest obligations to communities. But it is on paper, sitting in a filing cabinet, where the public can only “inspect” it by going to the station offices. Almost no one does. Suffice it to say, in an Internet era this makes no sense.