For the last 15 years, the Washington News Council has - unofficially, at least - attempted to hold local media outlets accountable and responsible, weighing in via public hearings over matters of ethics, accuracy and fairness. However, in a blog post uploaded yesterday, the nonprofit announced it will close its doors on May 31. According to the post, with the explosion of online journalism, the News Council’s Board of Directors has decided a “complete reinvention” is needed.
“We had a great 15-year run, and we helped a lot of people who were damaged by media malpractice,” John Hamer, who co-founded the WNC and serves as its Executive Director and Board President, is quoted as saying. Hamer announced his pending retirement in January, and while a search for his successor was undertaken, it ultimately led to the realization that more than just a replacement was called for.
“The news media have changed tectonically since we began,” Hamer continues. “The eruption of online digital news and information made our mission of promoting high standards in journalism much more difficult, if not impossible. How can anyone oversee a cyber-tsunami?”
Apparently, the WNC’s Board of Directors has decide it can’t, but that’s not to say a new version of the independent organization wont emerge. “The WNC process could be updated for the new digital media age,” the press release notes.
“Our model was fine when we had only newspapers, TV and radio stations, and a few magazines. But now we get news and information online 24/7 in the palm of our hands. The public needs to find new ways to engage in media oversight and maybe take the news council concept to the next level,” Hamer says in the post.
You can find the full announcement here, which includes a list of accomplishments.