Medill Teams With German Foundation for Global Seminar on Local News

The Medill Local News Initiative and Germany’s Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung foundation will host the Global Seminar on Local News, a June conference in Chicago to discuss worldwide challenges to local journalism and their impact on democracy.

The seminar will feature presentations by news executives from Bulgaria, Nigeria, Mexico and Germany as well as influential U.S.-based voices on the crisis in local news. The June 24-26 event is invitation-only, but video of the main discussions on June 25 will be posted afterward.

The Medill Local News Initiative is a project launched last year at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications to find ways to make local journalism more sustainable. The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung foundation is close to the centrist Christian Democratic Union political party and promotes democracy, peace and scientific development, with projects in more than 100 countries. It was named after Konrad Adenauer, who was Germany’s chancellor from 1949 to 1963.

Leading U.S. journalism figures scheduled to participate include Penny Abernathy, the University of North Carolina professor whose research on “news deserts” has had national impact; Amy Mitchell, Director of Journalism Research at the Pew Research Center; and Angie Muhs, national president of Associated Press Media Editors.

German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung foundation, which is sponsoring the Global Seminar on Local News with the Medill Local News Initiative, is named after former German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

Valuable international perspectives will be provided by Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Dr. Joy Jenkins, a fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. Foreign news executives participating will include Dapo Olorunyomi, CEO of the Premium Times in Nigeria; Maria Dimitrova, Editor in Chief of Zov News in Bulgaria; Jasmin Off, Deputy Editor of Lübecker Nachrichten in Germany; and Eduardo Garcia, Editor of Mexico’s Sentido Comun, which focuses primarily on business news. The list of international participants is expected to grow.

Medill Senior Associate Dean Tim Franklin, head of Northwestern’s local news initiative, sees value in local journalists sharing their problems and innovations with people in other countries who may have similar challenges.

“Addressing the crisis in local news in the U.S. has become more of a focus in recent months for philanthropists, universities, policymakers and concerned citizens generally,” Franklin said. “But the sustainability of local news is a global challenge with ramifications for self-governed democracies everywhere.

“So, it’s important to understand both the trends in local news globally, and new approaches being tried to engage local audiences and improve financial sustainability,” Franklin said. “The Medill Local News Initiative is delighted to be partnering with the Adenauer foundation to bring together some of the world’s leading thinkers and executives for a robust discussion on the state of local news. We’ll be able to learn from each other, and then share those insights and ideas with media leaders and scholars across the globe.”

In almost every country around the world, local journalism faces major challenges. In our view, it therefore makes sense to analyze and discuss these difficulties and possible solutions not only at a national level, but from different perspectives and with examples from several countries.

Paul Linnarz, director of the Adenauer foundation’s U.S. office

Paul Linnarz, director of the Adenauer foundation’s U.S. office, agreed.

“In almost every country around the world, local journalism faces major challenges,” Linnarz said. “In our view, it therefore makes sense to analyze and discuss these difficulties and possible solutions not only at a national level, but from different perspectives and with examples from several countries. Innovative ideas are not restricted to one country only. The goal of this event is to learn from these examples and the exchange of ideas.”

Linnarz, a former journalist, said local news professionals face some common problems.

“Media systems and journalism vary from continent to continent and from country to country,” he said. “But there are also many similarities. For example, the print media worldwide face very similar challenges with their business models. The internet, social media and smartphones have been changing media usage practically everywhere for years. Mobility, migration, technological change, globalization and demographic developments are changing societies, markets and consumer groups. This affects the media almost everywhere as well.”

About the author

Mark Jacob

Editor

A former Metro Editor at the Chicago Tribune and Sunday Editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, Jacob is chronicling the Local News Initiative’s progress for the project’s website. He is the co-author of six books on history and photography.

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