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An Information Community Case Study in Washington, D.C.

In Public Media 2.0 the digital landscape is changing the way individuals interact with media—as identified in the Public Media 2.0 white paper, people’s media habits are being transformed. The Knight Commission highlighted this concept in their 2009 report “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age.” The interactions of choice, conversation, curation, creation and collaboration are key concepts in understanding the information capacity of individuals. The Commission has identified information capacity as one of three major areas to address in evaluating the information health of communities—informed communities being equipped to participate fully in a modern democratic system.

  • Maximize the availability of relevant and credible information to all Americans and their communities.
  • Strengthen the capacity of individuals to engage with information; and
  • Promote individual engagement with information and the public life of the community.

The Media Policy Initiative of the New American Foundation has taken these recommendations to the next level through the development of Information Community Case Studies. The latest took place right here in Washington, D.C., and I had the opportunity to contribute research on media outlets, traditional and hyperlocal, in the Washington, D.C. community through mapping the media landscape.

View Informing D.C. in a larger map

The conclusion is that while there are “intriguing innovations in media, government and digital literacy in Washington,” the benefit to individuals – or the impact on their information capacity – is still undetermined. Washington has a burgeoning community of hyperlocal media sources, but their long term contribution to information health has yet to be seen. In Public Media 2.0 innovations are ideal for taking advantage of the new digital environment. Public Media Corps is one example of innovation in action, directly addressing digital literacy at the community level. Such experiments help sustain a vibrant information ecology for communities and these and other information tools should continue to be evaluated for their impact and contributions.