Dean Wilson presents on philanthropy's role in preserving democratic media

Dean Ernest J. Wilson III presented alongside FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps on May 6 at the Council on Foundations Conference in Washington, D.C., and outlined the pros and cons of a changing media landscape.

Sara Melillo, a program officer for McCormick Tribune Foundation who covered the conference, wrote: "Levity aside, Wilson raises a good point that more cross-sector collaboration on the challenges facing media is vital. No one sector will “save media” - and self-importance won’t help their case either."

Melillo wrote that Dean Wilson "made the room chuckle today with his take on the state of the media as part of the popular Media and Philanthropy mini-summit held at the Newseum. The headline: Traditional media is dying/changing, and democracy is at great risk."

According to Wilson:

If you’re a member of traditional media you argue:
1. Newspapers are vital to democracy
2. Newspapers are dying, therefore:
3. Democracy in the U.S. is at great risk.

If you’re part of digital media you argue:
1. New media is opening new channels of communication and networking for all
2. Democracy is all about the interchange of ideas, therefore:
3. Democracy is being enhanced by digital media.

If you work for public broadcast you argue:
1. The non-commercial media space is essential for democracy
2. Public broadcasting is seeing a decline in audience and is slow to adapt digital media, therefore:
3. Democracy is at risk.

If you are with commercial media you argue:
1. Commercial media are desperately trying to leverage their assets and cut costs to save itself
2. Democracy is good in principal, but the government has moved away from regulation, therefore:
3. Commercial media pays little attention to democracy.

Wilson's panel addressed the following ideas and questions: "A free society is an informed society, what policies and practices are in place to ensure we have open access to information or what must we do to craft and enforce new ones; what is the quality of the information we receive and how can we sustain the very best content; and where and how are we getting our information and how are platforms evolving?"

Council on Foundations Conference
Melillo's article
May 6 Conference Overview