Deans call on FCC to focus on newsgathering


A group of deans from prominent journalism colleges have taken to the OpEd pages of the New York Times, urging the FCC to keep local newsgathering first and foremost in mind when considering rule changes and license renewals. They noted that journalists have largely stayed out of the media ownership debate unless it bumps up against their own focus on First Amendment rights, but they cannot now help noticing the parallel trends of increased consolidation and decreasing newsgathering activity.

They find FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s argument that allowing cross-ownership in the top 20 markets is necessary to allow newspapers to continue paying their own newsgathering staffs. They said it is important that broadcasters do their own work in this area rather than become a support staff for print media. They further wonder, if this is true and important, why Martin is denying journalists in smaller markets to benefit from these rules.

They argue that the Internet, while great for distribution of news and dissemination of opinion, has not as yet come close to spawning full-fledged newsgathering operations to match those operated by traditional media.
They also called for a renewed focus on local newsgathering when considering license renewals. Even though it was easy to earn a passing grade back in the days when broadcasters had to vigorously defend their stewardship of their license, the deans argue that it was still important and much preferable to the current so-called "postcard renewal" regime.

The authors of "A License for Local Reporting" from the 12/22/07 edition of the New York Times included Roderick P. Hart, dean of the University of Texas journalism school; Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; Thomas Kunkel, dean of the University of Maryland journalism school; Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia Journalism School; John Levine, dean of the Northwestern journalism school; Dean Mills, dean of the University of Missouri journalism school; David M. Rubin, dean of the Syracuse school of public communications; and Ernest Wilson, dean of the University of Southern California school of communication.