Oct. 17, 2013 — A new digital book launched today by Knight Foundation calls for change in journalism and journalism education — and is itself an example of that change.

Searchlights and Sunglasses"Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes From the Digital Age of Journalism" is a digital romp through the past, present and future of news written by Knight senior adviser and Reynolds Fellow Eric Newton. With one click, it turns from a standard digital book into a teaching tool. A “learning layer” appears and offers more than 1,000 links, lessons and resources, which were developed with the University of Missouri’s Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

“The digital age has turned journalism upside down and inside out. But it has not done that to journalism education,” Newton said. “Journalism and mass communication schools continue every year to pour thousands of graduates into entry level news jobs. We should do more to give the next generation what it needs to help reinvent news.”

Designed in HTML5, the new digital book is written for educators, journalists, students and news consumers who believe great journalism should thrive in the digital age. It is available free at searchlightsandsunglasses.org and includes a Kindle version.

The insightful essays are Newton’s field notes from a career as a journalist and a grant-maker at a pivotal time for the news industry. For two decades he has been at the nexus of news developments, first at the Newseum and now at Knight Foundation. Newton covers a range of topics, including the decline of press freedom in the post-9/11 world, the argument for measuring journalism’s impact on communities and the importance of expanding one’s media diet beyond mere “comfort news.” The book’s learning layer converts each essay into a tool for classroom discussion.

The title refers to the metaphor of how journalism evolved as a searchlight for truth but today is equally tasked with shading the glare of the digital age so important facts do not get lost. In fact, the publication itself is intended to be a “giant pair of sunglasses,” Newton writes, “filtering the endless beams of ‘new information’ about the future of news.”

Searchlights and Sunglasses debuts at a time when only 26 percent of the media professionals surveyed said their new hires came with “most or all” of the skills they need to succeed, and four in 10 graduates surveyed said they received too little technical education. With textbooks and curriculums slow to adapt and reflect changes in the industry, students aren’t necessarily get the education they need to work in the present and invent the future.

"We believe the book can be of substantial help to students and teachers studying journalism at all levels," said Roger Gafke, director of development at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and leader of the RJI resource team. "It brings together into a single location important ideas, links to fundamental resources and suggestions from our team of teachers on how students and teachers can use the content."

Eric NewtonNewton launched the book today at the annual conference of the Online News Association in Atlanta.

To complement its journalism education reform efforts, Knight Foundation and three other major foundations today announced a $1 million challenge fund encouraging universities to create teams that will experiment with new ways of providing news. The fund, administered by the Online News Association, will pay for live news experiments that develop teaching hospital models in journalism education, where students create innovative projects with professionals, professors and researchers. ONA will make applications available in November.

The digital book also ties current trends to Knight Foundation investments in journalism and media innovation education, which now exceed $200 million. Knight has endowed chairs and fellowship programs at universities; created the cutting-edge News 21 programs, a teaching hospital model that pairs professions with students; and in recent years, funded media innovation, digital research, entrepreneurial journalism and new tool development and use. Last year, Knight Foundation and other funders called on America’s university presidents to speed change in journalism schools.

PBS MediaShift, a leader in covering change in journalism education, will continue the book’s call for education reform. The site will revamp and relaunch an EducationShift section at EdShift.org boosting its content with help from digitally savvy professors. It will spark further conversation on journalism and communication school reform online and through social media.

Read the new digital book at searchlightsandsunglasses.org and join the conversation on Twitter using the #edshift hashtag.

Advance Praise for Searchlights and Sunglasses

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.

About the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute works with citizens, journalists and researchers to strengthen democracy through better journalism. RJI seeks out the most exciting new ideas, tests them with real-world experiments, uses social science research to assess their effectiveness and delivers solutions that citizens and journalists can put to use in their own communities.


Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677 or 786-300-8317, media@knightfoundation.org

Brian Steffens, Director of Communications, Reynolds Journalism Institute, 573-882-8251, steffensb@rjionline.org


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