Roundtable to Launch Five Strategies to Revive Civic Communication

June 7, 2011

Contact: Erin Silliman
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, June 7, 2011 —This Friday the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will release the sixth in a series of white papers aimed at implementing the recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. The paper—“Civic Engagement and Community Information: Five Strategies to Revive Civic Communication” by Peter Levine—proposes practical strategies to strengthen civic communication and citizen engagement with an emphasis on a civic information corps and the role of youth and digital communications.

The formal release will take place during a high-level roundtable discussion among a select group of leaders, innovators, advocates and critics from the national, state and local levels on Friday, June 10, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (CST) at The Chicago Club (81 E. Van Buren, Chicago, IL 60605). Following the presentation of the paper, these leaders and experts will debate the best ways to implement the recommendations at a time when citizens are demanding a more participatory society, and as systems for exchanging news and information undergo significant change.

The Knight Commission’s landmark report, Informing Communities, includes 15 recommendations to advance the information needs of American communities in the broadband age. The 17 members of this bipartisan blue ribbon commission concluded that skilled people, appropriate technologies, and reliable and relevant information are the building blocks of a successful communications environment. But what transforms news and information into community action is local engagement. The white paper to be released on Friday provides action plans for creating more civic engagement with local information and with other citizens.

Who: Featured Speaker

Peter Levine is director of CIRCLE, The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, and research director of Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.

Roundtable participants include:

  • Lisa Bardwell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Earth Force Incorporated
  • Susan Benton, President and Chief Executive Officer, Urban Libraries Council
  • Brian Brady, Executive Director, Mikva Challenge
  • Lisa Morrison Butler, Executive Director, City Year Chicago
  • An-Me Chung, Associate Director of Education, MacArthur Foundation
  • Thom Clark, President, Community Media Workshop
  • Steven Clift, Founder and Executive Director,
  • David Crowley, President and Founder, Social Capital Inc.
  • Paula Ellis, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  • Barbara Ferman, Executive Director, University Community Collaborative of Philadelphia
  • Lew Friedland, Professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin
  • Christopher Gates, Executive Director, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement
  • Robert Hackett, President, The Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation
  • Don Heider, Dean, School of Communication, Loyola University Chicago
  • Joseph Hoereth, Director, Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Ngoan Le, Vice President of Programs, The Chicago Community Trust
  • Torey Malatia, President and Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Media
  • Mabel McKinney-Browning, Director, American Bar Association Division for Public Education
  • Heather Peeler, Chief Strategy Officer, Corporation for National and Community Service
  • John Sirek, Director, Civics Program, Robert R. McCormick Foundation
  • Scott Warren, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Generation Citizen
  • Lauren Young, Program Director, The Spencer Foundation
  • Constance Yowell, Director of Education, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Moderator: Charlie Firestone, Executive Director, Communications and Society Program, The Aspen Institute

*Please note that space is limited to members of the press who RSVP. Please RSVP to or 202.841.4968.

What: A roundtable discussion on civic engagement and community information with key policymakers and leaders. The paper will also be released and available at on Friday, June 10.
Where: The Chicago Club, 81 E. Van Buren, Chicago, IL 60605
When: Friday, June 10, 2011, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST
Agenda: The roundtable will begin with a presentation by Peter Levine, followed by discussion among the invited roundtable participants about the recommendations and how they may best be implemented.
Dress: The Chicago Club Dress Code: Business casual (no denim or sneakers)

Interviews can be arranged by contacting Erin Silliman at or 202.841.4968.

The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy was a blue ribbon panel of seventeen media, policy and community leaders that met in 2008 and 2009. Its purpose was to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs. Its Report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, was the first major commission on media since the Hutchins Commission in the 1940’s and the Kerner and Carnegie Commissions of the 1960’s.

The Commission’s aims were to maximize the availability and flow of credible local information; to enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of knowledge and exchange; and to encourage people to engage with information and each other within their geographic communities. Among its 15 recommendations the Commission argues for universal broadband, open networks, transparent government, a media and digitally literate populace, vibrant local journalism, public media reform, and more local public engagement.

The Knight Commission is a project of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


View Comments