Is Local News Serving Your Community? A Public Forum in East Austin on the Crisis in Local Media Coverage

Oct. 31, 2011

Event: The School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin, Huston-Tillotson University and KAZI-FM will co-sponsor a community forum to discuss and make recommendations on the crisis in local media coverage in the Digital Age. The forum will feature journalist Steven Waldman, lead author of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report on the state of local media coverage.

When: Sunday, Nov. 6, 5 p.m.

Where: Huston-Tillotson University, the Agard-Lovinggood Auditorium. Parking available on Chalmers Avenue.

Background: The revolution in digital media has created a vibrant landscape of possibilities for faster and cheaper news distribution and more ways to consume information. Local television stations, newspapers and a flood of innovative Web startups are using an array of digital tools to improve the ways they gather and disseminate news. These tools have helped topple governments in the Arab world and are providing Americans with new ways to consume, share and even report the news.

The Digital Revolution, however, has also shattered old business models for news and information, caused massive job cuts and produced a shortage of local, professional accountability reporting. This could lead to more government waste and local corruption, less effective schools and other serious community problems. News coverage of marginalized communities such as East Austin has never been as good or thorough as it should have been, and it might be getting worse.

A recent FCC report examined the state of local coverage and developed proposals to improve it. Steven Waldman, a veteran journalist and the report's principal author, is traveling around the country to discuss the report and the deeper questions it raises.

He will be the featured speaker at this event in East Austin. He will be introduced by Glenn Frankel, director of the School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin. The presentation will be followed by a panel discussion among local leaders and media experts, led by Laura K. Smith, professor of journalism and mass communication at Huston-Tillotson. The panel will also include Michael Fabac, news director of KXAN-TV; Alberta Phillips, editorial writer and columnist for the Austin American-Statesman; and a representative from KAZI.

Audience members will also be invited to talk about the news coverage and information needs of East Austin and other under-covered Texas communities and the steps that government and other institutions could take to help improve coverage.

Funding for this event is provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

For more information, contact: Glenn Frankel, Director of the UT School of Journalism, 512-471-1845; Laura K. Smith, Huston-Tillotson University.