"Newsout" symposium March 21 to explore options, strategies to cope with decline in New England news coverage


BOSTON, Mass. - Dramatic declines in the quantity or quality of local news, and the impact on participatory democracy in New England communities is the topic of a daylong collaboration among public officials, journalists and concerned citizens set for Sat., March 21.

"Newsout: Options and strategies for New England communities when the newsroom lights dim," is a one-day participatory conference co-sponsored by the New England News Forum (NENF) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the Boston University College of Communication and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The conference will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Boston University's College of Communication, 640 Commonwealth Ave., . A $45 registration fee includes a box lunch. A $45 registration fee includes a box lunch and one-year membership in the NENF.

INFORMATION AND TO REGISTER: http://www.newsout.org

Featured speakers are Steve Clift, founder of Publicus.Net, in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Joe Bergantino, director of new New England Center for Investigative Journalism; Jane Stevens, a Donald W. Reynolds fellow at the University of Missouri; Carol Amick, former editor of the Bedford [Mass.] Minuteman weekly, a one-time Massachusetts state senator; and Steve Collins, a reporter with The Bristol Press, a Connecticut daily which nearly closed in January.

Across the country many newspapers are closing their doors or reducing the size of staffs as they scramble to stay afloat amid declining revenues. In the last 18 months, some 15,000 U.S. working journalists have lost their jobs through retirement, buyouts or layoffs.

"The impact is greatest at the local and state levels" explains Meredith McCulloch, Interim director of the News Forum. "As the number of reporters declines, the watchdog role of the press is reduced. The information that citizens need to participate in government is less and less available. Who will watch the school board? Check public records before planning, zoning and conservation boards? Champion those in need? Connect the dots on critical regional issues?"

Advertising, and the revenue it brings, is migrating from newspapers to a wide variety of web sites. This creates a revenue shortfall for newspapers, which is compounded by the recent economic downturn. Newspapers simply no longer have the funds required to cover local and state government as in the past. Many are working on a new financial model for the press, but no clear solutions are on the horizon.


The New England News Forum (NENF) is collaboration among news professionals, citizen journalists, educators and the public to promote vigorous, trusted, accountable journalism - and accountable government. It aims to increase public trust and deepen public understanding of the news media by promoting the practice of trusted, thorough, and accountable journalism.

NENF is a member organization based with the journalism program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and initially funded by a seed grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

NENF is an independent resource which can help define, research, advise -- and hopefully strengthen and expand -- the relationship between news producers and news consumers. Its website offers journalists, web-news entrepreneurs and active citizens a place to engage in discussion, to share and resolve disagreements over media issues such as privacy, coverage, access, accuracy, bias and emphasis.

For more information, contact the New England News Forum at UMass Amherst
by phone at (413) 577-4370 or email to mail@newenglandnews.org or go to
the website, http://www.newenglandnews.org