When the People Decide, a podcast from the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, explores the promise — and sometimes peril — that ballot initiative...
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Local News Matters: Public policy as a tool to support local news
If you enjoyed our episode on civic media, you'll want to check out this episode the podcast Local News Matters, which explores issues in local news and democracy. The show highlights the innovative work of local newsrooms and the crucial questions they face about their role in American democracy.This episode features an interview with Steve Waldman, the founder of Rebuild Local News, a nonprofit focused on using public policy to support journalism. In this episode, Steve talks host Tim Reagan-Porter about the history of public policy as it relates to news, the perils of government involvement, the nuances of crafting policy that balances multiple goals and concerns, and the state of local news. Steve also reflects on his time at Report for America, shares reasons for optimism and offers advice for young journalists trying to balance careers and their mental health.Local News Matters podcastRebuild Local News
Taking a civic leap of faith
The final episode of the season takes a step back from individual democracy reforms to look at what it will take to create a healthy civic culture where power is shared across the community — rather than concentrated in the hands of a few stakeholders. Eric Liu believes this can happen and is working tirelessly to spread his idea of civic faith across the U.S.
From news deserts to civic media
Some 2,500 newspapers have closed in the U.S since 2005, leaving entire communities without a source for local news, as well as with limited means to keep their government officials accountable. What if there was a way to fill the news desert, with an entirely new approach to informing the public? Host Jenna Spinelle discusses the relevance of civic information with Mike Rispoli of Free Press, and then uncovers how that can be put into practice with Richard Young, founder of CivicLex, a non-profit that is bridging the gap between news and news consumers in Kentucky.Read the Roadmap for Local News report
Winning the democracy lottery
When public officials embark on efforts to incorporate more civic input in city decisions, they are often hamstrung by inefficient means that favor the loudest voices in a room. But more people want a say in their local government; they just need the right opportunity. For Petaluma, California, it was something called the "democracy lottery." In this episode, we explore what that is and the power that comes from letting the community deliberate in a public way. Hear from Petaluma's city manager and one of the residents who was part of the fairgrounds panel.
Libraries as civic spaces
Librarians have spoken for years about “library faith,” the belief that public libraries are central to democracy because they contribute to an informed citizenry. Today, the idea is gaining even more traction, and even conservative crackdowns on what’s permitted in libraries reinforce the idea that they’re more than just “book warehouses” but centers for community engagement and representativeness. This week, hear from two librarians working to enhance the role libraries of libraries democracy and civic engagement. Shamichael Hallman explains how he brought his experience in tech and faith leadership to bear when he ran a branch of the Memphis Public Libraries, including bringing Civic Saturdays to his community, a program of Citizen University. And public policy advocate Nancy Kranich of Rutgers University shares the high hopes she has that libraries remain crucial institutions that allow us to engage with our government–and each other.
When the People Decide, a podcast from the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State, explores the promise — and sometimes peril — that ballot initiatives have brought to American democracy by telling the stories of people who have organized initiative campaigns across the country.
America’s founders were famously skeptical of direct democracy, citing fears of mob rule if people had too much power. Since then, however, the initiative and referendum process has emerged as one way that citizens in some states can vote directly on policy and join forces to bring issues they care about directly to their fellow voters.
When the People Decide is hosted and reported by Jenna Spinelle and produced by LWC Studios for the McCourtney Institute.