Defending Press Freedom

We are in an unprecedented moment for journalism. The media landscape is changing dramatically, empowering more and more people to become media makers even as the traditional infrastructures that have supported journalism for years are eroding.

Yet one thing hasn’t changed: Journalism remains a public good. Journalism is so vital to our democracy that our founders protected it in the First Amendment.

Like many public goods, journalism has always been heavily subsidized. For the past century, the subsidy model has been advertising-supported journalism. But now that model is under threat. As a result of changes to the industry wrought by media consolidation, 24/7 cable news channels and the rise of the Internet, many cities and towns have lost their local newspapers. Meanwhile, slashed budgets and staff layoffs have ravaged local TV newsrooms.

We need to address the policies that have encouraged media companies to gut newsrooms and abandon serious newsgathering. We need policies that will foster a new era of locally rooted journalism. This is not about newspapers specifically; it’s about all kinds of newsrooms. It’s not about protecting old institutions or shoring up outmoded business models; it’s about serving the information needs of local communities.

The future of journalism will likely feature a range of models, and we recognize the need for experimentation, now and in the future. To nurture this kind of innovation, we need to engage in a truly public conversation about what the future of journalism should look like and point policymakers and regulators toward an agenda that will save the news and serve the public good.

Blog Posts

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Press Releases

  • Who Gets a Press Pass?

    June 9, 2014

    The Digital Media Law Project at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Journalist’s Resource project at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy are pleased to release a new report: Who Gets a Press Pass? Media Credentialing Practices in the United States.

  • Free Press Hails FCC Plans to Expose Covert Consolidation, Promote Broadcast Diversity

    March 6, 2014
    WASHINGTON — On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the agency will take a closer look at television station "sharing arrangements." These agreements allow a single conglomerate to control multiple stations in the same market, skirting FCC rules that are supposed to preserve independence and diversity on the airwaves.
  • Justice Dept. Pushes FCC to Take a Closer Look at Sharing Arrangements; Free Press Responds

    February 21, 2014

    On Thursday, the Justice Department sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission noting that broadcast-television station-sharing arrangements harm competition and deserve a far closer degree of scrutiny.

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  • Letter to President Obama Regarding the Next FCC Chair

    On March 27, 2013, the Free Press Action Fund and a coalition of 27 other organizations sent a letter to President Obama urging him to nominate an FCC chair who will "protect the future of communications for all."

    March 29, 2013
  • Free Press Letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates

    Letter from Free Press to the Commission on Presidential Debates regarding the Commission's failure to choose a journalist of color to moderate one of the upcoming presidential debates.

    August 29, 2012
  • Evaluating New Models

    A number of alternative models for the news — recent experiments, longstanding ventures and ideas yet to move beyond the blueprint phase — hold clues for what new press institutions and new forms of journalism may look like.

    June 12, 2012
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News from Around the Web

  • Civic Hall Beta Member: Tim Karr, Free Press

    January 16, 2015

    This month Civic Hall, the new home for civic tech in New York City, opened its doors to beta members like Tim Karr, of Free Press. Beta members are people working in the civic tech space who have been invited to try out Civic Hall for the month of January: to work in the space and see what it is like, and in turn provide feedback to the Civic Hall team.

  • Tick Tock, Tick Tock What's the Matter with '60 Minutes'?

    December 20, 2013

    60 Minutes used to be the gold standard of network magazine programs. Don Hewitt was the executive producer, and Mike Wallace was the major anchor. For many years, they produced outstanding programs. Now, suddenly, 60 Minutes is under fire. Questions are being raised about its work. “What’s Wrong with 60 Minutes?” asks one blog. Another headlines its story “‘60 Minutes’ is Getting Shredded For its ‘Embarrassing’ Report on the NSA.” What’s wrong, indeed?

  • Something's Happening to Local News

    Baltimore Sun
    November 7, 2013

    So far this year, 223 local TV stations have changed hands. This is the biggest wave of media consolidation ever — and it's all happening in small and mid-level markets, involving companies most people have never heard of.

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  • Low Power FM Radio

    Low Power FM radio stations are community-based nonprofit outlets that broadcast to neighborhoods and small towns throughout the country.

    LPFM stations have a limited broadcast range of just a few miles, but their impact on communities can be immense. These noncommercial stations inject vibrancy into a radio dial that has suffered from years of media consolidation.

    LPFM stations offer a platform for content and viewpoints that traditional media overlook. These stations foster community identity and serve as hubs for vital safety information during emergencies.

  • Attacks on Public Media

    Every year, for almost a decade, Americans have ranked public television as the institution they trust most. And more than 70 percent of Americans see funding for public television as money “well spent.” Exactly how much do Americans spend to support this resource? Pocket change: The United States spends less than$1.50 per person on public broadcasting — 20 times less than Germany and a whopping 70 times less than Denmark.

  • Nonprofit Journalism

    The ravages of consolidation and the rise of the Internet have converged to create a crisis in journalism.  Job cuts have decimated newsrooms, media companies have closed foreign bureaus, and the number of journalists covering statehouses has shrunk to almost zero in many places. Many small cities and towns — and even large cities like New Orleans — are now without a daily local newspaper.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good