Knight Commission Invites Public Input on Community Information Needs

April 21, 2009

A project of the Aspen Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

News Release
FOR RELEASE April 21, 2009

Contact: Erin Silliman, Aspen Institute, (202) 721-5599

Knight Commission Invites Public Input on Community Information Needs:
PBS Engage Joins Call for Comments on Upcoming Study

Google’s Marissa Mayer, Commission Co-Chair, to Answer Public’s Questions

Washington, D.C. – How do citizens get their news and information today, and how would they improve the quality of information available to them?  These are some of the questions The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy would like Americans to answer as part of the first major study in the digital age assessing how information needs are being met in communities nationwide.

PBS Engage is partnering with the Knight Commission to seek public input and offer an interactive experience at from Tuesday April 21 – Friday May 8, 2009.  The site will feature a preliminary analysis of the Commission’s work, videos of the Commission’s public forums and meetings, blogs about the Commission’s work and a forum for citizens to express their thoughts and opinions.  “As public media, we feel it’s important to be part of the conversation around the information needs of communities and we are thrilled to be able to open this dialogue up to the PBS audience,” said Angela Morgenstern, Senior Director of PBS Interactive.

During the public input period, Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of Search Products & User Experience, and Co-Chair of the Commission, will answer citizens’ questions about the Commission’s work via Google Moderator, which enables participants to both submit and vote on questions they think should be answered.  Marissa’s answers to the top ranked questions will be posted at on May 15, 2009.

“Through our research, we’ve found that access to quality, reliable information differs greatly from community to community,” said Theodore B. Olson, Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and former U.S. Solicitor General and Co-Chair of the Commission. “To make sound recommendations, we wanted to hear from as many citizens across the nation as possible, to gain their perspectives and experiences.”

In addition to submitting input at, members of the public can also share their thoughts with the Commission by calling (202) 721-5599 or writing to the Knight Commission at The Aspen Institute, One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20036.

The Commission launched in June 2008 with an aggressive agenda to assess the information needs of citizens from a variety of different types of communities in order to make concrete recommendations to public policy makers about improving local information flow and filling the information voids. The free flow of news and information in communities is essential to effective democracy. With the digital age transforming media worldwide, reducing traditional journalism in a number of communities, the Commission is focused on how Americans will get the news and information they need to make informed decisions.

The Knight Commission, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, operates out of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program in Washington, D.C. It includes seventeen respected representatives of journalism, communities and public policy with diverse perspectives, including Co-Chairs Olson and Mayer, and ex-officio members Alberto Ibargüen and Walter Isaacson, presidents respectively of Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute. The Commission’s executive director is Peter Shane, a law professor at The Ohio State University, who is advised by a committee of journalists, policymakers and academic experts from a variety of fields.

The Commission has held seven public forums and meetings in communities across the nation and heard from heard from more than 100 people, including community organizers, educators, journalists from old and new media, labor leaders, technology engineers and strategists, entrepreneurs, futurists, public officials, policy analysts, economic consultants and community foundation representatives. For more information on the Knight Commission, visit

“The business models we’ve relied on to provide news and information to our communities are stressed and changing. New platforms offer an astounding array of choices, creating the most connected world we have ever known with the greatest volume of available data,” said Ibargüen, a longtime newspaper executive and former PBS chairman who also chairs the Newseum board. “But as those choices proliferate and as those virtual communities connect us globally, we see little evidence that the World Wide Web is effectively replacing the local news and information function of traditional media — the kind of news and information that binds and defines community and that is essential for a well-running democracy.”


The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. Nearly 20 years ago, the Knight Foundation created the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. That first Knight Commission has helped restore intercollegiate athletics to the control of university presidents. For more, visit

The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues. The Aspen Institute does this primarily in four ways: seminars, young-leader fellowships around the globe, policy programs, and public conferences and events. The Institute is based in Washington, DC, Aspen, CO, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and has an international network of partners. For more information, visit

PBS, with its 356 member stations, offers all Americans — from every walk of life — the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content.  Each month, PBS reaches more than 115 million people on-air and online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances.  PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions.  Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life.  PBS’ premier children’s TV programming and Web site,, are parents’ and teachers’ most trusted partners in inspiring and nurturing curiosity and love of learning in children.  More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org Web sites on the Internet.

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