Changing the Rulebook

Freedom, innovation and policy

Free expression is
the social sunlight that makes
civilizations prosper.

Changing the Rulebook

In the digital age, sharing information is as easy as 1, 2, 3. Unless, of course, you live in a country that won’t allow it. In the west, we post, we tweet, we blog, we text, we pick up the phone, and without calling ourselves Citizen Journalists, we act like journalists every day. But most people in the world still reside in closed societies. Dozens of countries limit or block access to the Internet. If people there report on events, they risk jail or worse.

learning layer buttonHow do we help the world do what most of its leaders say it should? The goal, enshrined by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, seems clear enough: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Knight Foundation’s largest international demonstration project, which costs more than $30 million, is the Knight International Journalism Fellowships program, run by the International Center for Journalists. Across the globe, Knight Fellows show the power of free media to improve lives. In Brazil, it means mapping a deteriorating Amazon; in China and India, it means starting new journalism education programs; in Kenya, it means exposing flaws in millions of dollars of unsound public health spending. ICFJ has logged dozens of cases of good journalism prompting new laws or policies that have changed the way communities live.

In the U.S., our issues are different. We don’t seem to appreciate the true value of our media or our freedom. Our public media policies lag behind other nations, far behind Great Britain’s, world-famous for its fee-supported British Broadcasting Corporation. We seem content with a public broadcasting system that not many use for news, one that doesn’t change fast. We just don’t know much about our fundamental laws. We know more about cartoons like The Simpsons, for example, than we do about the First Amendment.

learning layer buttonIn Washington D.C., the Knight Foundation funds the Newseum, the only major museum of news. If it demonstrates anything, the Newseum shows there’s no such thing as “the media.” In front of the building, etched in Tennessee marble, 74 feet high, is the reason why so many journalists can say so many different things: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Our attitudes about the idea of freedom are important, as are the issues of federal media policy. This chapter covers them because they are part of the rulebook governing the future of news.

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  • Changing the Rulebook

    Changing the Rulebook

  • Include social media in freedom measures


  • How social media helps the First Amendment


  • News consumers mix, match info sources


  • 4 Cs of successful community media


  • What can the Federal Trade Commission do?


  • Why we need public media innovation


  • The public case for universal, affordable broadband


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Field notes from the digital age of journalism

by Eric Newton
ISBN# 978-0-9749702-4-0

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Creative Commons LicenseSearchlights and Sunglasses: Field notes from the digital age of journalism by Eric Newton is licensed
under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Searchlights and Sunglasses is an open educational resource provided by Arizona State University Cronkite School Innovation Chief Eric Newton with initial assistance from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

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Read how the book supports Common Core Standards.

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