Stepping Up to the Plate


I’ve been in New York for a couple days talking with various foundations, along with a couple of our grantees, about the work of Sunlight, particuarly about how there is a paradigm shift in how disclosure happens in the Internet age — how information is collected and disseminated and what people can do with it. So, when I was catching up on my reading this morning I was psyched to see that Dan Gillmor (a 2006 grantee), director of the Center for Citizen Mediahas challenged the nation’s community foundations, suggesting that they put the survival of quality local journalism squarely on their agendas. He compares the disintegration of the country’s infrastructure to the shedding of editorial staff and investigative reporters by newspapers. Just as falling bridges and crumbling highways threaten the country’s economy and public safety, the demise of vibrant local newspapers spells trouble for a well-informed citizenry and the foundation of our free and open society. He’s so right.

Dan argues that community foundations are ideally positioned to fill the gap. He has several suggestions of what foundations can provide:

* Seed funding for a network of local bloggers and other community sites;

* Fund the salary of an investigative reporter at the local paper;

* Put local government data online in a user-friendly format.

Dan rightfully argues that we need an engaged and informed society that comprehends the issues and problems we face. The emerging tools of Web 2.0 offer great promise to citizens and journalists alike, whether they are writing for the The New York Times, The Peoria (Ill.) Journal-Star or a small town blog. But someone will need to step up and make the investment.