Data hounds 
and watchdogs: How transparency
 can save democracy

By Greg Sanders

In January 2008, the Chicago Tribune scored a point for the fourth estate by documenting how “a building boom greased by millions of dollars in political donations to aldermen has remade the face of neighborhoods.” The newspaper’s methods were as striking as its findings: “The Tribune examined 5,700 zoning changes approved by the City Council over the last decade and recorded on sheets of paper clipped into binders in a City Hall office.” Read the rest of this entry »

Information super 
highways and the future of communication

By Greg Sanders

In 2009, few people still doubt the importance of the Internet. Some of the promises made by the Web’s proponents 20 years ago still seem far-fetched, but in many ways the Web has delivered on its promise.
Adoption rates for Web technologies are high in the most economically developed countries, and uptake is trickling into the developing world. Useful Web applications have followed, in some cases enabling substantial gains in worker productivity and consumer satisfaction. And as we are increasingly aware, the Web has diverted much of the attention that was once held by traditional media including print, radio and network television.

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Innovation and aggregation: 
Why news needs a bigger—
and more beneficial—‘tapeworm’

By Justin Massa

While the lines continue to blur among the quality and types of content produced by traditional media and their Web-based counterparts—including amateurs, hobbyists and start-ups—the battle over distribution is just heating up.

Wall Street Journal editor Robert Thomson recently wrote of Web sites, like Google, that aggregate content without paying fees to the content creators, “There is no doubt that certain Web sites are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet.”1

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Journalism + digital tools = 
Neighborhood benefits

By Patrick Barry

For six years, Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Chicago has been combining traditional journalism with digital tools to support neighborhood development. Our initial premise was that good reporting and writing about the neighborhoods would find an audience and deliver benefits to the communities we covered. We launched a single Web site in 2004 and now support an “ecosystem” of 21 Web sites—many run by the neighborhoods themselves—that attracts more than 26,000 visits per month.
Our work began because newspapers and TV stations didn’t do a good job covering the 16 neighborhoods in LISC’s New Communities Program. Some, like Englewood or Humboldt Park, showed up in headlines often enough, but usually connected with crime or poverty. Others like Auburn Gresham were virtually invisible to search engines like Google because there were few Web sites or stories to point to.

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L3Cs: For-profit 
with a soul

By Sally Duros

For nearly two decades, newspapers have faced the challenge of evolving into knowledge-based organizations capable of adapting to the innovations of the Web.

Instead of progressing, however, they’ve been bought and sold by media conglomerates whose mismanagement has buried papers with debt while laying off staff in record numbers. Both profits and the product—the news —have seriously degraded.

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The future of journalism 
is a policy issue

By Charles Benton

With the newspaper industry reeling from reduced advertising revenues, consumers migrating to new news outlets, and burdensome debt, many are asking if policymakers should step in to save journalism.

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