The Report of The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy
The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy believes America is at a critical juncture. Information technology is changing our lives in ways that we cannot easily foresee. Critical intermediating practices—journalism perhaps most obviously—are facing challenges of economics, organization, and values. As dramatic as the impacts have been already, they are just beginning. How we react, individually and collectively, to the information challenges and opportunities now presented to us will affect the quality of our lives and the very nature of our communities.
Informed Communities As the Knight Commission’s full name attests, its fundamental charge has been to identify and articulate the information needs of communities in a democracy. The Commission has addressed that mandate by reviewing academic and industry research across a wide range of disciplines; hearing directly from experts on media, community and public policy; staging public hearings across the United States; and drawing on its own collective expertise.2 Through this process, the Commission has come to understand “information needs” in a particularly expansive way. The question “What are a community’s information needs?” is more than a question about the categories of knowledge that people require. It is best understood as a question about the kind of information ecology—that is, the kind of environment for information and communications—that a community ought to become.
America needs “informed communities,” places where the information ecology meets people’s personal and civic information needs.
In short, America needs a vision for “informed communities,” places where the information ecology meets the personal and civic information needs of people. This means people have the information they need to take advantage of life’s opportunities for themselves and their families. It also means they can participate fully in our system of self-government, to stand up and be heard. Paramount in this vision are the critical democratic values of openness, inclusion, participation, empowerment, and the common pursuit of truth and the public interest.
The Report of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy