Open Letter to 2019 Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellows

The authors of the First Amendment understood that a free and robust press is a crucial component in the system of checks and balances built into American society.

Journalists and storytellers discover and then report what is fact—and what is not. They shine light on inaccuracies and injustice. They inspire and educate with stories that explain, provoke and expose the world around us. And, in doing so, the press builds a foundation of trust and mutual understanding that is essential for progress in all its forms.

That’s why, earlier this year, we launched the Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellowship—a program dedicated to supporting the principles of truth, transparency and community in media.

By creating a supportive community of young journalism professionals, we aim to magnify their influence on the profession at a time when the field offers incredible opportunities and unprecedented challenges, including:

  • Digital innovations in information technology that may be even more profound than the invention of the printing press. (This disruption is revolutionizing media, overturning old business and distribution models, and altering the very ways we process information.)
  • Public trust in journalism remains low with 41 percent of Americans reporting no trust or not very much trust and confidence in national newspapers.
  • The U.S. recently slipped to 48th out of 180 countries ranked in the most recent World Press Freedom Index.
  • The continued decline in the numbers of journalists, particularly those serving local geographies.

Nobody fully understands all the implications of these trends, and discovering solutions requires working together.

The Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellowship is the first step of a collaboration intended to create a sustained impact by equipping future leaders in media to pursue a meaningful career.  The curriculum is designed to address not only the hard skills of reporting and storytelling techniques but also the pillars of First Amendment law, foundations of a free press and the core values that underpin public service journalism—so fellows can find principled success in this dynamic field.

Speakers include CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Major Garrett on the importance of free press to democracy; PolitiFact sessions on misinformation; the Brookings Institution’s Jonathan Rauch on the importance of rational dissent; and NPR’s Ashley Messenger on a legal toolkit for journalists—among many more.

You’re in good company. This year’s fellows come from a rich mix of national outlets—including the Dallas Morning News and the Miami Herald—and also local and regional ones—such as The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Detroit News in Michigan. Fellows represent traditional journalism outfits like The NY Daily News, as well as web magazines like The Federalist and innovative social-enterprise papers like Nashville’s The Contributor, a specialty publication created to serve the homeless population. We are also welcoming colleagues from several local television stations.

While bringing differing perspectives from varying roles and newsrooms, Poynter-Koch fellows share common ground: a commitment to the ideals and values of journalism. In fact, at times, the power of the program comes not from the curriculum but from the diversity of perspectives combined with the shared commitment to the First Amendment and a robust Fourth Estate.

We stand committed with you to the free flow of ideas, to the search for facts, to the critical importance of free speech, to freedom of the press, and to the fundamental role that journalists play in enhancing liberal democracy.

And we’re committed to helping you advance those ideals throughout what we hope will be a long and rewarding career in journalism.

 

Welcome.

Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute

Sarah Ruger, Charles Koch Institute

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