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Wednesday, June 9th, 2010
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010
Listen to the Franklin Center’s very own President, Jason Stverak, as he hosted a North Dakota morning show and discussed the growth of non-profit journalism with a variety of guests. Guests ranged from reporters, media professionals to experts in government & public relations.
By Jason Stverak
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Journalism has taken a substantial hit in the last decade. According to The Nation, of the 60,000 print journalists employed in 2001, at least 10,000 have lost their jobs while newspaper circulation dropped 7%. And an American Journalism Review study found that only 355 full-time newspaper reporters are still based in the nation’s state capitols and that 44 statehouses have fewer full-time reporters than they did six years ago.
The decline in employment of professional journalists by traditional news media is not the result of a failure of journalism or demand by citizens for local and state news. It is the result of media business leaders’ failure to adapt to new market realities. The historic for-profit news model is failing in print, broadcast and if early revenue numbers hold, on the Web.
The gaping hole in local and state news has left many asking “Who Covers the Statehouse?” and “Where are all of the investigative journalists gone?”
The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity was established as a direct response to those questions and the overall growing mediocrity in the mainstream media.
The Franklin Center undertakes programs that promote journalism and the education of the public about corruption, incompetence, fraud, and taxpayer abuses by government officials at the state and local levels. The Franklin Center networks and trains independent investigative reporters, journalists at state-based news organizations and think tanks, and watchdog groups and acts as a capacity builder providing resources, a national research capacity, and regular training seminars to our network of investigative journalists and Watchdog reporters.
Utilizing staff expertise and new media resources, the Franklin Center identifies and supports investigative journalists as they work to detect and expose corruption in our elected and public officials and to promote transparency and accountability at the state and local levels. The Franklin Center’s greatest asset is its affiliates’ local focus. Affiliates choose specific story targets, commit to using highly trained and professional citizens trained with journalistic skills, take a strategic approach to using and distributing resources and focus on tangible results. These and many other features are what set the Franklin Center apart from other groups. In short, the Franklin Center has turned the focus back to local and state issues, and their readers are better informed as a result.
The Franklin Center has two vital initiatives that support journalists and provide an atmosphere in which creating quality, unbiased news coverage is the top priority.
The first Franklin Center program is the Watchdog.org initiative, which began in September 2009. Watchdog.org is a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity. In only seven months these state-based watchdog groups have demonstrated that online news websites can churn out investigative pieces instead of the usual Web punditry. Franklin Center’s Watchdogs are changing the conversation in the media, politics, and in households around the nation. Their articles are working to keep our government officials accountable to the people and keep their communities informed about their government.
The Watchdogs have reported on everything from national security to healthcare. A reporter at texaswatchdog.org recently discovered that the Department of Homeland Security lost nearly 1,000 computers in 2008, possibly endangering our national security. It was an investigative reporter in Hawaii that delved into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pricey holiday Hawaiian trip, which included an astonishing $10,000 nightly expense and with more than $21,000 in security cost to Hawaii taxpayers. A Watchdog in Michigan at Mackinac Center discovered that Michigan taxpayers were funding Michael Moore’s new anti-capitalism film.
The second initiative that Franklin Center sponsors is the Statehouse News Bureaus. Responding to the growing vacuum in state-based coverage of the happenings in state capitals, the Franklin Center is assisting journalists covering the daily activities of state government. By placing reporters in state capitals in several states so far, these reporters cover the daily happenings of government and hold elected and public officials accountable to the people.
The success of the statehouse news bureaus can be seen in the news coverage produced by Illinois Statehouse Bureau (IS). ISN tirelessly covers the happening at the Illinois Capitol and their daily news content is used by at least 50 Illinois radio stations every day and 12 daily Illinois newspapers. They also produce reports in audio and text format and do video reports several times a week. By maximizing its media formats, the Illinois Statehouse Bureau reaches its audience in every way possible.
Although the distant future of journalism as a business remains unclear, one thing for sure is that the Franklin Center and its affiliated programs will continue to serve as a critical asset to readers of today and tomorrow. Benjamin Franklin, a printer by trade, once said that “a newspaper in every home” was the “principle support of … morality” in civic life. The decline of American newspapers might sadden Franklin, but the pursuit of greatness in journalism by organizations like the Franklin Center would without a doubt bring him pride.
If you are a reporter or a citizen journalist and are interested in getting involved in non-profit journalism, please email Info@FranklinCenterHQ.org. For more information on Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org.
Jason Stverak is the President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a leading journalism non-profit organization. The Franklin Center is dedicated to providing investigative reporters and non-profit organizations at the state and local level with training, expertise, and technical support. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org.
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Listen to the Franklin Center’s President, Jason Stverak talk about the growing role of the Franklin Center and non-profit journalism, covering the statehouse in the states. Jason was a guest on the Scott Hennen show which airs on AM1100 “The Flag” based out of North Dakota.
Listen to Franklin Center President by clicking on the button below.
By Bill McMorris
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
Tom Rosenstiel of the Pew Research Foundation discusses long-term trends in journalism and what it means for the future. Worth every second:
By Bill McMorris
Thursday, November 5th, 2009
While Washington works to protect journalism in all its forms, President Obama’s adopted hometown is doing its best to stifle an investigation into potential miscarriages of justice. For years, students at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism have investigated possible wrongful convictions in the Illinois justice system, as a part of Project Innocence. These student-run investigations have produced results:
[Professor David] Portiss and his journalism students have uncovered evidence that freed 11 innocent men, five of them from death row. The Project’s work, which has been featured on “60 Minutes,” “48 Hours,” “Dateline NBC” and the front pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post, has been cited for stimulating a national debate on the death penalty.
Not everyone is thrilled with these results, especially the Cook County District Attorney’s office, which is now doing some investigations of its own–on the program’s reports concerning a 30-year-old murder trial. Most recently, students helped win a new trial for Anthony McKinney, who was convicted in 1978 of gunning down a security guard, after uncovering new evidence that hinted towards his innocence.
The students said they had found, among other things, that two eyewitnesses had recanted their testimony against Mr. McKinney and could not have seen him commit the killing because they were watching a boxing championship (Leon Spinks vs. Muhammad Ali). The students collected an affidavit from a gang member who, they say, confirmed Mr. McKinney’s alibi that he was running away from gang members when the shooting took place.
Now, the state has turned its attention from McKinney to the students that participated in the investigation:
Prosecutors have subpoenaed the grades, grading criteria and syllabus and email messages of students who participated in Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project
Prosecutors have even subpoenaed the notes taken by the students in the investigation, which opens the door to additional 1st Amendment questions. The Illinois media shield law protects reporter’s notes and other source material from the state. There is a catch, however:
Whether the shield law covers you depends on whether the law deems you a “reporter,” and on the medium in which you work.
Cook County prosecutors have attempted to bypass media protection laws by classifying the journalism students as members of an “investigative agency,” whose notes and other materials do not enjoy the media “shields” of traditional news outlets. The case carries far reaching implications in America’s common law system as it applies to the definition of a journalist:
If the courts find that Mr. Protess and the journalism school must turn over the student information, they risk being held in contempt if they refuse, said Dick O’Brien, a lawyer who is representing Northwestern.
But if the school gives in to such a demand, say advocates of the Medill Innocence Project and more than 50 similar projects (most involving law schools and legal clinics), the stakes could be still higher, discouraging students from taking part or forcing groups to devote time and money to legal assistance.
The project has attracted its share of defenders in the press and in academia:
Don Craven, acting executive director of the Illinois Press Association, said the request seems harassing at best, and at worst looks like an attempt to discredit the work done by the Innocence Project to ferret out wrongful convictions.
“They’re either trying to undermine the investigation, or they’re trying to undermine the entire project,” Craven said.
Turning over such a wide range of information, he said, would cripple the Innocence Project’s ability to get witnesses to cooperate in the future.
Prosecutors have tried to allay these concerns emphasizing that they share the university’s goal of seeking truth and justice. The students’ work, the DA’s office says, can only help the state achieve a better understanding of Mr. McKinney’s guilt or innocence:
“We’re not trying to delve into areas of privacy or grades,” Ms. Daly said. “Our position is that they’ve engaged in an investigative process, and without any hostility, we’re seeking to get all of the information they’ve developed, just as detectives and investigators turn over.”
The state’s hostility, however, is not the issue–the state’s definition of what constitutes a reporter is the question that prosecutors should be answering, according to the school’s defenders. Luckily, Illinois’ media shield law does just that:
Sec. 8‑902. Definitions.
(a) “Reporter” means any person regularly engaged in the business of collecting, writing or editing news for publication through a news medium on a full‑time or part‑time basis . . . .
(b) “News medium” means any newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format and having a general circulation; a news service whether in print or electronic format; a radio station; a television station; a television network; a community antenna television service; and any person or corporation engaged in the making of news reels or other motion picture news for public showing.
By Bill McMorris
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
A look at how citizen journalism is not only taking over the cultural mainstream, but breaking into the Mainstream Media as well:
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
By Bill McMorris
Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced their follow up to the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, which narrowly passed the House in June. The senators claim that the bill will clean up the skies, but with limited transparency, one has to wonder if the legislation will ever see the light of day.
From West Virginia Watchdog:
The Senate’s version of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy And Security Act of 2009 was introduced today by Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act claims it will “cut carbon pollution and stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs in the clean energy sector.” The goal is to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020, bringing them down to 2005 levels; a 3 percent increase over the cuts called for by the Waxman-Markey Bill.
From the press release:
“This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future and makes it clear that we will combat global climate change with American ingenuity. It is our country’s defense against the harms of pollution and the security risks of global climate change,” said Kerry.
“Global warming is our challenge. Economic recovery is our challenge. American leadership is our challenge,” added Boxer. “Let’s step up right now. Let’s not quit until we have fulfilled our responsibility to our children and our grandchildren.”
Other than a difference of percentages, the bill mirrors the Waxman-Markey Bill, including a cap-and-trade plan which would put a limit on how much carbon can be emitted and require companies to purchase carbon credits.
The bill is 821 pages long, but if you’ve got the time it could make for some interesting reading. The bill is posted in full below:
UPDATE (1:42 p.m.): I tried to do what I usually do, meaning post the document using Scribd. However, it seems that Sen. Kerry wants to control how a public document is distributed. Here is the link to the bill (Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act). I would encourage Sen. Kerry and Sen. Boxer to allow this bill to be openly distributed.
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