“What role can (and should) media policy play in supporting a strong, sustainable, vibrant local media sector in the United States?”

A new five-part webinar series from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism explores this question through a series of events designed to introduce and debate the best ways for media policy to support local journalism in the USA.

COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the U.S. news industry, especially at the local level, accelerating trend lines evident since the early 2000s. Yet our information needs, and the future of journalism, remain reliant on a sustainable local media ecosystem. As a result, our need for new thinking to ensure local journalism’s future is more important than ever.

This series will explore the role that media policy has historically played in supporting – and shaping – local news, how it can be leveraged to ensure access to information (including tackling digital divides), its contribution to facilitating community media and what role it can play in encouraging new ownership and revenue models.

Discussing whether existing regulatory frameworks are fit for purpose, given changing media habits, new platforms and the ease of creating digital content, our expert panels will examine the instruments that policymakers at a state and federal level have in their arsenal, and which ones they should deploy.

Moderator: Damian Radcliffe


Victor Pickard

Victor Pickard is the C. Edwin Baker Professor of Media Policy and Political Economy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where he co-directs the Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center. He has published six books, including the award-winning America’s Battle for Media Democracy and Democracy Without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society.

Nikki Usher

Nikki Usher is an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Usher’s research focuses on news production in the changing digital environment, blending insights from media sociology and political communication. She is a frequent commentator on the evolving news media landscape.

Emily Bell

Emily Bell is Founding Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, Leonard Tow professor of Journalism, and a leading thinker, commentator and strategist on digital journalism.

The series is led by three-time Tow Fellow Damian Radcliffe, as part of a Knight News Innovation Fellowship looking at media policy instruments to support local journalism in the COVID-era (and beyond.)

These Fellowship projects are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.