• JohnQ Murray

Public TV, public radio, public newspapers

Here is exactly where and when CPCN started:

Reporting for a small-town Montana newspaper owned by a big out-of-state newspaper chain, I submitted a story with photos about the Lions Club's Christmastime charity event. The editor killed it so I asked why. He explained: "They didn't buy an ad. No ad, no story."

I thought about this for such a long time that I even wrote a headline: Little Lost Blurb Launches Long Ruminating. Because that right there, I realized, is what happens at the end of the market lifecycle, after a market has shifted from the innovation and growth of its youth to the sluggish decline of monopoly. Newspapers with the print monopoly in their communities can set their own rules of engagement. They can also set the public agenda.

So while the Lions sold calendars to help blind kids, I started studying the changing roles of newspapers in our history, and realized that I needed to broaden my perspective to encompass both newspapers and our system of democratic self-governance, both sharing at root our nation's founding values.

For the Master of Public Administration degree, I launched a series of community-owned and community-run publications (an almanac and two award-winning community newspapers), read deeply about social capital, and finished up the organizational and strategic plans for a new 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, the Corporation for Public Community Newspapers.

Our By-Laws and Strategic Plan explain how CPCN partners up and provides feedback to our local community news media. Both of these documents are available on our website.

This organization is designed to give its members an active role in improving local community news, with three paths for doing so: (1) Setting performance goals and reviewing performance of our local media; (2) Outreach; and (3) Special Projects, which encourages members to define, fund, and support reporting on news important to the community.

More next time on our first special project, "Journo Duty."

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