Opening Shot

Drawing attention to the decline in local accountability reporting

The current media revolution has brought many encouraging changes, but also a worrisome decline in accountability reporting, especially at the local level. Take it from Steven Waldman, who authored the 2011 FCC report “The Information Needs of Communities,” about the future of public-interest reporting in the digital age.

Now Waldman is trying to draw attention to the issue and rally support, via a short, colorful, data-packed video underwritten by the Knight Foundation and produced by Duarte Design—the folks who helped Al Gore sharpen his presentation of An Inconvenient Truth. Among the chilling stats Waldman cites: A Pew survey of 52 Baltimore old and new media outlets showed that 83 percent of the 715 stories they produced were actually the aggregated, recycled, or reblogged work of the beleaguered old guard, mostly The Baltimore Sun. And in 2009, Pew found, the Sun produced 73 percent fewer stories than it had in 1991.

To see the video, visit, where Waldman also lists his sources and suggests how consumers can help. As he says, “There are all sorts of news organizations—nonprofit and for profit, national and local—trying to fill the gaps that exist, especially in labor-intensive accountability reporting.”

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.