Local news, in crisis before the pandemic, is now facing a cataclysm. Advertising has plummeted. Print has no market. And consolidation has driven record cuts. At stake is not just jobs, but the access to critical trustworthy information for millions of Americans — just when they need it most. In this program, co-hosted with the Knight Foundation, we examine potential solutions to serve a country in dire need of independent news.
We are joined by:
- Elizabeth Green, Co-founder & CEO, Chalkbeat
- Jiquanda Johnson, Founder & Publisher, Flint Beat
- Wendi C. Thomas, Editor, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism
- Steven Waldman, President & Co-founder, Report for America
- Vivian Schiller, Executive Director, Aspen Digital
Elizabeth Green is the CEO and co-founder of Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization dedicated to improving educational equity through local, independent, high-impact journalism. Since launching in 2014, Chalkbeat’s reporting has spurred changes in education funding, legislation, policy, and practice and is regularly cited or republished in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Vox, and more. Elizabeth is also the cofounder and board chair of the American Journalism Project, the first venture philanthropy firm dedicated to local news. Her book Building a Better Teacher was a New York Times bestseller and notable book of 2014. She has also written about education issues for The New York Times Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and other publications. Elizabeth has been a Spencer Fellow in education journalism at Columbia University and an Abe Journalism Fellow studying education in Japan.
Jiquanda Johnson, Flint Beat‘s founder and publisher, is a Flint-area native with more than 16 years of experience in journalism including print, television and digital media. She has worked for The Detroit News, NBC25, Fox and MLive Media Group/The Flint Journal, where she covered the city of Flint. As a reporter covering Flint for MLive, Jiquanda discovered that the community needed a news publication focused only on Flint, Mich. Flint Beat was launched on March 13, 2017 to fill that need.
Wendi C. Thomas is the editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom in Memphis focused on poverty, power and public policy. Previously she was metro columnist and assistant managing editor at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. She’s also worked for The Charlotte Observer, The (Nashville) Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star. Thomas was a 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. She is the 2020 Selden Ring Award winner for investigative reporting and won first place in the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2019 awards for business reporting. Her “Profiting from the Poor” investigation tied for first place in the Investigative Reporters & Editors 2019 awards in the print/online division 1. In 2019, Thomas received the National Association of Black Journalists’ Best Practices award. In 2018, she was named Journalist of the Year by Journalism and Women Symposium. She was inducted into the Scripps Hall of Fame for commentary in 2008. She’s a graduate of Butler University and a proud product of public schools.
Steven Waldman is the President and Co-Founder of Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. He crafted the plan for it after authoring the Federal Communications Commission landmark report “Information Needs of Communities,” which NPR described as “one of the most comprehensive overviews of the U.S. media ever produced.” An experienced entrepreneur, he co-founded the multi-faith religion website Beliefnet.com, which won the National Magazine Award, and LifePosts.com, a platform for online memorials. Earlier, he was National Editor of U.S. News & World Report and National Correspondent for Newsweek. He was Senior Advisor to the CEO of the Corporation for National Service and wrote a book on the creation of AmeriCorps called “The Bill.” He’s also the author of the national bestseller, “Founding Faith.”
Vivian Schiller is Executive Director of Aspen Digital. Over the last 30 years, Vivian has held executive roles at some of the most respected media organization in the world. Those include: President and CEO of NPR; Global Chair of News at Twitter; General Manager of NYTimes.com; Chief Digital Office of NBC News; chief of the Discovery Times Channel, a joint venture of The New York Times and Discovery Communications; and head of CNN documentary and long form divisions. Documentaries and series produced under her auspices earned multiple honors, including three Peabody Awards, four Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, and dozens of Emmys. Schiller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; and a Director of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian. She is also strategic advisor to Craig Newmark Philanthropies.