Writing in CJR, the project’s co-founders argue that America needs “a dramatically new approach at the local level—grounded less in the traditional commercial model and more on a reawakened spirit of public service among reporters.”
Steven Waldman and Charles M. Sennott say that they want to model their initiative on organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America, providing opportunities and support to emerging journalists while also helping newsrooms around the country do civically important reporting. Waldman first pitched the idea in the pages of CJR more than two years ago, calling for a new national service program dedicated to journalism.
Shades of the conversation that David Westin, then-president of ABC News, had shortly after the 2004 election with Tina Brown, back when she had a show on CNBC, which Rush Limbaugh paraphrased as “We need more foreign correspondents in Alabama:”
RUSH: So, anyway, she’s got David Westin on the program, and she says, “David, would you have a reporter/producer live in any of these communities?” She’s talking about the red states of America here, folks. “Would you have a reporter/producer live in any of these communities and saturate themselves in these cultures so that they get more stories from those communities?”
WESTIN: I think we don’t do that enough, and I’m not just talking religious communities. I’m talking all sorts of communities across the country. I think that… You understand this, Tina, living in New York or in Los Angeles, we have busy jobs. We go into the office every day. We tend to socialize with the same people, or the same types of people, and I think it’s terribly important for journalists to get out whether it’s overseas or domestically and try to understand.
RUSH: We need more foreign correspondents in Alabama! We need more foreign correspondents north of Palm Beach County in Florida! We need embeds to go to church, find out what’s going on with these holy rollers! Ah, folks, you can’t know how much I love this.
On Google’s journalists as Peace Corps initiative, the Columbia Journalism Review concludes:
Report for America won’t save journalism, just as Teach For America can’t save teaching, and the Peace Corps hasn’t brought about an era of global unity. But in a time of crisis for local newsrooms, it’s a bold attempt to reinvigorate a vital organ of American society.
Nothing like viewing yourself as a member of the Peace Corps having parachuted into a strange unknown town to provide the proper level of condescension when reporting local news. Will Ted Striker and Elaine Dickinson join the team?
Found via Ace, who notes that “Google will now be arranging for the payment of its own cadre of ‘journalists’ embedded in local news stations across America. I wonder if the media will become even more pro-Google than they are now.”