Five ways to strengthen independent media

byMargaret Looney
May 2, 2012 in Miscellaneous

A new report examines how digital media, journalism education and funding can help create a vital network of independent media.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) released "Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster a Free Press and an Open Internet Around the World."

IJNet took a look at the 155-page report and found these five ways to strengthen and sustain independent media.

  • Expand funding.

As evidence of free media's role in democracy abounds, CIMA reports a 50 percent jump in U.S. public and private funding from 2006 to 2010. But the report suggests to not stop there. Diversify the donor base by tapping into upcoming players like the tech industry.

  • Embrace digital media.

The digital era has arrived and the report suggests it's vital to keeping independent media current. And not just in media development, but also media law programs, professional training and business management. But the move to digital shouldn't be a cure-all - it needs the support of flourishing independent media and from a legal and policy level to work well.

  • Teach business skills.

Journalism is a business and journalists must become fluent in the trade. When so much of media development relies on external funding, the players must understand an exit strategy in case that new grant doesn't come through. The report suggests putting more effort into audience measurement, like tracking metrics across platforms.

  • Modernize journalism education.

End the debate on whether a journalism degree is necessary. Modernize academia by shying away from communication theory and focusing on vital digital prowess and sound reporting skills. "Today’s students need to learn how to report the news through a variety of digital platforms and they need a core curriculum not in communications theory but in the craft of journalism - reporting, writing and editing and the standards of balance, fairness, and pluralism in sourcing," the report states.

  • Embed evaluation into all projects.

After weeks of preparation, your journalism training program is finally coming to a close. But without monitoring and evaluation, it's difficult to sustain, much less progress. The report suggests saving a few budget lines for this crucial component, rather than relying on general media freedom index rankings to evaluate individual projects.

For more ways to strengthen independent media - investing in community radio, supporting investigative journalism, emphasizing legal issues - read the full PDF report here.