accountability.JPGJackson Hts., New York, June 1, 2009 - I attended the 59th Sidney Hillman Foundation awards ceremony honoring journalists, writers, and public figures whose work fosters social and economic justice last Wednesday. It was a most exhilarating evening, with the recipients having made significant contributions to our awareness of the world around us.

Reflecting the times, Bruce Raynor, president of the Hillman Foundation and the evening’s moderator, at one point bemoaned the seeming demise of our nation’s daily newspapers and asked “How will those communities exist without the ongoing contributions of those fine journalists?”

Living with about 100,000 other residents in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of New York City, where we’ve never known the luxury of a daily newspaper (nor a TV or radio station) focused on our problems and the opportunities before us, I can provide at least a partial answer to Mr. Raynor:

  • All too often they’ll have to wait for a disaster to occur before anyone pays attention to a local problem.
  • Local communication will be very slow and incomplete, with word of mouth assuming a more important role.
  • Community memory will be short, incomplete, and inaccurate.
  • Election processes will be ineffective as they’ll have few mechanisms for reporting on activities, issues, and assessing accountability. 
  • Faith in government and the governance processes will diminish as will the quality of life.

With the rise of the Net and the broad demise of the traditional newspaper industry, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a printed daily in Jackson Heights or in any of our city’s other neighborhoods. Perhaps there’s the germ of a new media in our  dotNeighborhoods and Issue-Communities efforts that might enable useful citizen reporting and accountability mechanisms. But for the moment, sans a new business model, the ability of either to conjure up quality journalism remains elusive.

However, Mr. Raynor did perhaps provide one part of the answer when he announced the Sidneys “a new monthly award for an outstanding piece of socially-conscious journalism from a newspaper, magazine, web site, or any broadcast outlet. The award citation will come with $500 and a bottle of union-made wine.”

We’ll be scheduling another meeting on dotNeighborhoods later this month where this issue will be on the agenda. (Commons photo courtesy johncarney.) 

Link to Inc.’s wiki pages.

Filed June 1st, 2009 under Neighborhoods, Innovation, Partner, Media Coverage
  1. I was asked about the scale. Accountability was the thought.

    Comment by Thomas Lowenhaupt on June 3, 2009 at 3:11 pm

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