Can a big investment in news media help bring back the center?

By Daniel Clark

Wow.  What a week.  The federal government shutdown is over and the trains this morning into D.C. were pretty crowded again.  This latest round of dysfunctional governing and threatened global financial crisis might end up being just another act in this unfortunate drama surrounding the federal budget and economic health of the world’s largest economy. Hopefully, it will be a turning point towards a more bipartisan effort, led from the middle of American politics.

I want to use this blog though to turn our attention to something else that happened this week that in the long run might play an equally important role in putting middle America and moderate political interests back in greater control of our country.

News leaked that Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, is working to create a new and very large full-service news organization.  He considered buying the Washington Post this summer, and that got him thinking. Read his blog post to learn more about it.

One of his primary goals is to “find ways to convert mainstream readers into engaged citizens”.  That is an excellent goal, and is the thrust of a report that we wrote this spring under a grant from the Democracy Fund (a part of Pierre’s philanthropic work through the Omidyar Network).  The report examines how we might use new forms of media, digital platforms, and citizen engagement principles to “reengage the center and those who have turned out due to apathy and disgust”.  Hey, maybe Pierre read our report.  You’re welcome, Pierre.

Please check out the full report here.

It’s nice and short, less than five pages.  It does not answer a lot of questions, but it does discuss some of the issues that Pierre and others (that includes you Jeff Bezos) need to consider as they seek to bring the power of new technology and the digital world to the complexity of media, citizen engagement, and politics.  What needs to happen in this new news space to prevent many of the same structures of inequity, exclusion, and power from being recreated?  Let’s hope we figure it out soon.  I’m not sure how many more times we can survive our current cycle of failed leadership and governance.

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