By Bennet Harvey
In 2019 analysis by the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy showed that the failure of news media to effectively serve its role in American democracy has become a society-wide problem.
Their report, Crisis in Democracy: Renewing trust in America reveals the history and nature of the problem. The report “aims to articulate the reasons for the growing distrust in American institutions, to re-envision news media that will be fair, truthful and responsible, and to catalyze citizens to participate in civic life.” We encourage everyone interested in the challenges facing democracy to read the report here.
501C3 newsroom ReNews Context Services was formed by disruption incubator Reconstitution, Inc. to inject a portfolio of disruptive innovation into the news media industry to address this challenge to American democracy.
ReNews has no current relationship with either Knight or Aspen, but the report’s title and conclusions resonate in more than one way with why we formed ReNews.
The Knight Commission members aspired to recommend “specific actions to restore trust in media and democracy.” However, at ReNews we believe those “recommendations” can more accurately be described as theoretical qualities of an ideal news media’s role in democracy. For instance, highlights of the commission’s recommendations include:
- Recommendation 1. Transparency: Encourage radical transparency and community engagement from news organizations.
- Recommendation 2. Journalism: Increase support for quality journalism at all levels, with a focus on rebuilding local journalism.
- Recommendation 5. Responsibility: Technology companies and online services that collect user data should become information fiduciaries with duties to the user.
- Recommendation 9. Engagement: Create local spaces for constructive civic dialogue bridging various communities, and encourage broader civic engagement.
While ReNews is in complete alignment with the report’s analysis of the problem, we feel its recommendations fall short of presenting a concrete roadmap to address these issues.
ReNews Context Services was founded to turn these goals into an integrity-reinforced ecosystem in which the news media can practically, not theoretically, achieve the Knight Commission’s objectives.
We believe the Knight Foundation’s recommendations are too intangible for this moment of crisis. We are also skeptical that an industry whose ranks have been decimated by layoffs and newspaper closings will be capable of the innovation required to turn these objectives into truly disruptive change.
ReNews was formed to demonstrate a portfolio of actual disruptive innovations into the news media industry for the benefit of American democracy.
- Many of our hypotheses will be housed in a not-for-profit company we will donate to the industry with the intention that it become a shared service for use by all journalists in exchange for their contribution of journalistic expertise.
- The commercial components of ReNews will be housed in a separate for-profit benefit corporation entity which we intend to be owned by readers and journalists under the new Regulation A of Title III of the Jobs Act, allowing average Citizens to invest in startups for as little as forty dollars.
We have bootstrapped design and construction of the core technology platform to support ReNews. The next step will be to acquire bridge funding for the acquisition of the content and remaining data required to fill the ReNews Context Engine.
We are now in the process of engaging with not-for-profit donors in ReNews Context Services 501C3 as well as for-profit investors to join Reconstitution, Inc. in this ambitious ‘moon shot’ effort.
Our story should be compelling to both audiences because an increasing number of for-profit investors are disillusioned with the venture capital-driven track of over-funding and under-governing technology purely for investment returns to the wealthiest Americans.
The privacy-corrupt Advertising Technology (AdTech) bubble, brought into being 20 years ago by VCs is showing many signs it is nearing the end of its lifecycle, and yet there are few startups whose revenue model is not beholden to the advertising industrial complex. VCs are too committed. to their existing portfolios and beliefs to effectively invest in bridges to a new technological and societal era.
We founded ReNews Context Services last summer in order to implement a robust portfolio of truly disruptive hypotheses for what must define a new news media ecosystem for it to be successful. In investment terms, we decided to focus our efforts on injecting solutions into the ‘white space’ at the high-risk, high-return end of society’s innovation portfolio.
To find these really new opportunities, we established a filter to ensure that our final hypotheses would not represent a continuation of the incrementalism which has led to today’s crisis:
‘If a concept exists in any form in the market today, leave it for others to pursue.’
– Reconstitution, Inc.
The result is a set of almost three-dozen highly specific concepts which promise to make the Knight Commission’s objectives a reality in ways that could not have been incubated from inside the legacy industry. This site will share this portfolio with journalists and the news consuming public, until launch of the ReNews product at this location.
All of these innovations depend on what we believe is a common desire for something hopeful, the ability as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, to “take arms against a sea of troubles And by opposing end them.”
We ask qualified journalists old and new, analysts, policy experts, community leaders, donors, and investors to ‘Request a Login’, above, and let us know how you can help. We welcome Citizens, journalists, publishers, merchants, digital professionals, designers, and change agents of all kinds.
ReNews seeks to build an inclusive coalition of Citizens to participate in a program of experiments to test the ReNews portfolio of possible solutions. The results will be a roadmap to industry renewal, and the renewal of the news industry’s necessary role in American democracy.
In a few months, ReNews.us will transform from a place to share our concerns, hopes and dreams, to a new experience of the news that we are confident will carry American democracy forward into the fragile possibility of renewal.
Copyright ReNews Context Services, Inc. 2023