#THISIsJournalism: Mike Fancher calls street papers a ‘catalyst for change’

By Celina Kareiva

Five years ago, journalism was in a time of crisis. Today, we’re in a period of possibility, said Mike Fancher, former executive editor of The Seattle Times, when he opened Thursday night’s #INSP2015 keynote speech.

When Fancher left The Seattle Times in 2008, the field seemed on the brink of collapse. But his speech made clear his renewed optimism. In fact, Fancher called street papers a catalyst for change.

“For almost any measurement of a vibrant economy, the information health of a community is just as important,” said Fancher. “But we don’t think about it in those terms.”

Though journalism has endured rough waters in recent years, those same challenges, he says, are creating room for opportunity and innovation. It’s forcing journalism, says Fancher, to return to its roots as serving society.

“It’s not that we need to save journalism it’s that we need to create journalism,” explained Fancher, now director of the University of Oregon’s Center for Journalism Innovation and Civic Engagement.

Everyone has a stake in the vitality of journalism, he went on to say. That same mentality is what drove him to write Re-imaging Journalism: Local News for a Networked World. The values and the functions of journalism are as important as ever, he told the audience, but what shape it takes, has to change.

Fancher pointed to #THISIsJournalism, a social media campaign launched at the University of Oregon, which attempted to both ask and answer what news-reporting of the future, should look like.

Increasingly, communities want to share, participate in and contribute to local journalism. That’s an asset, says Fancher, because finally journalism has the opportunity to represent more people. Leading and embodying this message, are street papers.

However journalism evolves, it must be affirmative and build on the assets of the community.

“I honor and admire you,” said Fancher in closing, “because that’s the spirit of [your] work.”

Follow #INSP2015 to find out more about our Global Street Paper Summit.