Five Takeaways from Knight Media Forum

This year’s Knight Media Forum, a gathering of funders and media leaders working to strengthen local news, drew record attendance – and included first-time attendees Tom Gougeon, president, and Melissa Davis, vice president, strategic communications, of the Gates Family Foundation. Nancy Watzman, acting director of the Colorado Media Project, also attended. Check out the full twitter conversation at #infoneeds. Here are some highlights.

1. A national call to action to support local news. The backdrop of the gathering was the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s recent announcement of a $300 million commitment over five years to strengthening local news – and a call for other funders to join these efforts. American Journalism Project, Report for America, Solutions Journalism and other grantees are all working with local funders and media organizations.

2. We are stronger together. At a session on Newsmatch, which featured Gates Family Foundation’s Melissa Davis, the message was clear: when we join together, we all benefit. Last year Newsmatch raised $7.6 million overall for local newsrooms, including nearly $50,000 for seven news organizations in Colorado.

3. Creative ideas and experiments abound. Under discussion at the conference: numerous ways to support sustainability for local news and strengthen ties to communities. These included everything from considering a tax on digital ad spending to fund local news, thoughts on how foundations can do a better job of sharing power with their grantees, and how listening in new ways to the communities helps local news organizations find stories they would have otherwise missed.

4. Remember: news consumption has changed. We need to be clear eyed about the ways that people get their news – so different from earlier times – as we think about how local news must change and grow. In a keynote speech, danah boyd, of Microsoft Research and Data & Society, gave a sobering view of how young people consume news via YouTube, and how algorithms encourage exposure to polarized points of view.

5. Telling stories together. Ultimately local news can play a role in rebuilding trust in our democracy. That was a major conclusion from the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy, which recently released its final report and recommendations. In a closing speech, David Brooks, New York Times opinion columnist, called on journalists to report stories that bring us closer together, not just on what drives us apart.