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THE NEW(S) ENGLAND REVOLUTION: From Politics to Courtroom to Classroom
Saturday, April 7, 2007, Wannalancit Mills, Lowell, Mass.

Wannalancit Mill entrance

A one-day interactive seminar for no more than 200 teachers, journalists, local and political bloggers, community videographers, public advocates and active citizens exploring how changing media is changing civic engagement. Featured luncheon speaker: Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas.



The New England News Forum is a collaboration among journalists, educators and the public to inspire active citizenship through discussion and spotlighting of media issues. We aim to increase public trust and deepen public understanding of the news media by promoting the practice of trusted, thorough, and accountable journalism. The forum, launching in early 2007, is supported by a seed grant from John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

We want to be a "home base" for thoughtful citizens, news consumers and practitioners to broaden and deepen civic debate in New England. We are not a media watchdog. Rather, we strive to be media's best friend -- by fostering greater accountability and, in turn, greater public support for free-press, free-speech values.


Buffeted by changing advertising economics, new expectations from audiences who now have cheap technology for do-it-yourself news, and caught amid lagging regional growth, New England news media are reexamining the role they can afford in civil society. They welcome fresh insight and new tools for remaining connected with and trusted by readers, listeners, viewers and users.

The Internet now provides a means for active, timely exchange over matters of civic importance affected by news coverage. But until now, there has been no common resource which aims to help the public become better citizens though better use -- and support -- of the news media. We hope to fill that void, primarily through a literate, articulate, moderated web community.


The New England News Forum offers an independent resource which can help define, research, advise – and hopefully strengthen and expand – the relationship between news producers and news consumers. On the web we will offer 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. Our topical, web-based, moderated forum will be open to regional public-policy issues that touch on matters of journalistic practice.

Our work is guided by the experiences of the Minnesota and Washington state news councils, but is charting a new approach to fostering media accountability and public collaboration. We will generally address issues broader than “complaints" and and seek to resolve controversies by using Jeffersonian devices — open discussion and forum-style debate which bring professional and ordinary-citizen voices together in a virtual public square.

Our activities will collaborate, advocate and advise on:

    • General analysis of the region's media and policy issues
    • The effect of the web and new technology on news presentation and ethics.
    • The relationship between traditional and "citizen" journalists
    • How to understand and contribute to the news
    • Open records and open government
    • Methods for assisting news organizations to perform openly

As we launch gradually during 2007, the News Forum expects to:

    • Host a moderated forum for civil and productive discussion of issues related to New England media, with regular conveners by region and topic.
    • Convene seminars, talks and other events around the region on topics addressing the relationship between media and the public.
    • Develop a consumer guide to using the news -- in collaboration with regional newspaper, broadcast, and journalism associations. Written (print and online as a readers’ guide to the news and news organizations.
    • Study the state of open records, open meetings, and open information in New England, with the collaboration of existing and other new organizations such as the New England First Amendment Collaborative.
    • Research and report on the state of New England K-12 efforts to teach and test critical skills for consuming media in ways which promote civic engagement and participation.


There are at least seven constituencies who can benefit from the New England News Forum’s research, discussions and advice:

    • Leaders of policy non-profits and government agencies whose success depends upon effective collaboration with the media.
    • Active citizens, who use and care about the news and about the vitality, diversity and responsiveness of regional state and local institutions and government.
    • Working newspeople in print, broadcast, cable, Internet and mission-driven media.
    • Former journalists working in marketing, PR, or unrelated fields who maintain concern for the role of the press in civil society.
    • Teachers, especially in grades 7-12, who seek help with curricula and ideas that connect news with the daily experience of youth.
    • Professionals and individual contributors: Academics, nurses, doctors, lawyers, technologists, entrepreneurs, investors and others.
    • Professors and graduates of journalism programs such as those at UMass, Emerson, Northeastern, Boston University, UNH, URI, St. Michael's College, UMaine and UConn.


The New England News Forum is a service of the University of Massachusetts Amherst journalism program and its Media Giraffe Project, with seed funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

We intend to forge region-wide collaborative relationships with:

    • Other academic institutions committed to teaching journalism
    • Media, news and professional associations
    • Businesses, foundations and organizations concerned with journalism's role fostering democracy
    • Groups and individuals concerned about New England's future

Founding members, friends, benefactors, sponsors and key founders form the support for the news council and forum, along with the Knight Foundation grant. An 18- to 24-member advisory board constituted during 2007 is envisioned to include one at-large citizen member from each state, four daily newspaper members, three non daily, three broadcast, two web-media, one from key involved academic institutions and up to four at-large members.

Our principal investigator is Prof. Norman Sims of the University of Massachusetts Amherst journalism program and our executive director is Bill Densmore, director of The Media Giraffe Project at UMass Amherst. Ananda Lennox serves as project assistant. Prof. Ralph Whitehead is a research collaborator.


Contact us at:

      New England News Forum
      Journalism Program
      108 Bartlett Hall
      University of Massachusetts
      Amherst MA 01003
      voice: 413-577-4370
      email: mail (at)