New England News Forum Journalism Program
108 Bartlett Hall
University of Massachusetts
Amherst MA 01003
email: mail (at) newenglandnews.org
Director/Editor: Bill Densmore (bio)
Principal Investigator: Prof. Norman H. Sims (bio)
Deputy Web Editor: Michael W. Deehan
Education/Library outreach: Meredith McCulloch
Research Consultant: Prof. Ralph Whitehead
OUR FOUNDING COLLABORATORS
What is the Forum?
The New England News Forum is a non-profit collaboration among news professionals, citizen journalists, educators and the public to support vigorous, independent, trusted, accountable journalism -- and accountable government. We strengthen and expand understanding and relationships among news consumers and creators by considering news coverage, access, accuracy, bias, fairness, ethics, emphasis, privacy, freedom of information and technology change. (MORE ABOUT OUR MISSION). (TWO-PAGE PDF DOWNLOAD ABOUT NENF)
- We also are looking at how blogs, citizen journalists and the Internet generally are changing the relationship among media, the public and government.
- We host web discussions, research issues and media controversies, convene panels, meetings and seminars. We seek ways to bring teachers and journalists together to promote civic engagement.
- We seek support from the civic-minded public, from foundations, private donors and from media and other corporate sponsors.
- We undertake research, study and reporting on issues affecting the practice, integrity and accountability of journalism in New England. Our website offers a free blog and profile to users who register with real names and follow our policies for respectful engagement.
- We support a strong connection and mutual accountability between news organizations and citizens who, increasingly with Internet technology, create news as well as use it. We want to engage editors, news directors, reporters, citizen news bloggers and active citizens in a conversation about the future of journalism and the public sphere.
Work on launching the NENF began in fall 2006 with a seed grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Also read about our MISSION. We are based in the journalism program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
What are we doing?
We examine and promote standards of fairness, seek openness in government and public institutions, and spotlight abridgements of press freedom. We use the web, and articles, forums, seminars, workshops, papers and public talks to advance good news practices, ethics, standards, innovative coverage, open records and open government. We offer journalists and active citizens a place to engage in discussion, to share and resolve disagreements over issues of privacy, coverage, accuracy and emphasis. Our topical, web-based forum is open to regional public-policy issues that touch on matters of journalistic practice. Our activities advocate and train:
- How to best use and contribute to the news
- Access to public information
- Principles of open government
- Methods for assisting news organizations to also perform as openly as possible.
We act as an advisory and training resource to both news consumers and creators . . . to the public and to news organizations . . . as they navigate the uncertainties, questions and opportunities posed by the Internet and multimedia technology. We do not intend to insert the work of the forum between news organizations and their users. Rather, we offer an independent resource which can help define, research, advise – and hopefully strengthen and expand – that relationship.
Who benefits from the Forum?
There are at least seven constituencies who can benefit from the New England News Forum’s research, discussions and advice:
- Leaders of policy non-profits and government agencies whose success depends upon effective collaboration with the media.
- Active citizens, who use and care about the news and about the vitality, diversity and responsiveness of regional state and local institutions and government.
- Working newspeople in print, broadcast, cable, Internet and mission-driven media. Former journalists working in marketing, PR, or unrelated fields who maintain concern for the role of the press in civil society.
- Teachers, especially in grades 7-12, who seek help with curricula and ideas that connect news with the daily experience of youth.
- Professionals and individual contributors: Academics, nurses, doctors, lawyers, technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and others.
- Professors and graduates of journalism programs such as those at UMass, Emerson, Northeastern, Boston University, UNH, URI, St. Michael's College, UMaine and UConn.
As a public service, the New England News Forum convenes discussion of issues related to the region’s media, including newspapers, radio, television, cable and cable-access stations, and web news associated with traditional and citizen media. It will serve by:
- Addressing issues broader than “complaints.” Seeking initially to resolve controversies by using Jeffersonian devices—debate and open discussion among citizens and journalists alike —not the glare of negative publicity.
- The public discussion can include questions about elites in the news and the news business, new technologies, new ethical issues, the role and performance of ombudspersons in new and traditional media, and the sustainability of media enterprises in a new digital age.
- Bringing professional voices and the ordinary citizen together in the public square. Someone plausibly questions media performance or actions. In response, news professionals as well as citizens from the entire six-state region can share experiences.
- Hosting a moderated forum for civil and productive discussion of issues related to New England media.
- Providing links to web-based news sites throughout New England—traditional and new—thus increasing their traffic.
What specific projects might be undertaken?
The initiatives undertaken by a web-based News Forum might include:
- A “best practices” consumer guide to using the news, developed in collaboration with regional newspaper, broadcast, and journalism associations. In effect a “standards” document, but written as a readers’ guide to the news and news organizations.
- Promotion of public-accountability standards for news organizations
- Research and dialog on fairness and news judgment
- Attention to open records, open meetings, and open information in collaboration with existing regional news associations.
- Assisting with K-12 media-literacy curriculum efforts.