A message from the conveners


Knowledge industries and news media across the world have experienced a period of rapid and fundamental restructuring over the past decade.
In the media marketplace, falling advertising revenue is costing jobs and threatening the viability of newspapers and television stations. At the same time, the internet and associated digital communications platforms are inundating audiences with information and opinions from every corner of the globe. Never before has it been so easy for individuals to seek and provide ‘news’ to mass audiences. Faced by these pressures in a relentless 24-7 environment, media outlets must find ways to retrench, re-invent, and re-position themselves to survive in the new digital age.

But will new business models do as good a job as the journalism of the past? Can they still create the common pool of knowledge on which democratic self-government depends? We are now in a new phase, where the impacts of these massive changes on journalism and public knowledge are being realised and assessed. This 'post-truth' era of journalism and politics has brought with it an increasing recognition of a civic crisis in how public knowledge is shaped and the impact of this on governance. Responding to this crisis is a matter of increasing urgency. It is time for a conversation, to explore, to challenge, to debate, to understand, and ultimately to shape the future of public knowledge.

The Public Knowledge Forum is a new international platform for this conversation. Modeled on the Aspen Institute annual summits, the forum will bring together international leaders of business, journalism, government, and academia to focus on how the news industry is adapting to the radical communications changes of the past decade and what the future holds for the profession. It will provide a space to work through the implications of the shifting sands of public knowledge and what this means for the future of democracy and governance. The Public Knowledge Forum will assemble this response and disseminate it in a way that adds value to those political, academic, and business organisations that have carriage of the future of public knowledge.

And that’s where you come in… We want you to join the conversation on the pressing questions surrounding the future of public knowledge. Has our obsession with ‘breaking news’ broken journalism? Is social media dumbing down the news? Is it making ‘news’ redundant? Is the rise of partisan journalism inevitable in a ‘post-truth' era? Could it be desirable or has it driven consumers away? How have new media business models affected democracy and public policy? What are the foreign policy implications of new media? Does technology make it possible for governments to effectively bypass media outlets altogether? Is this helpful or harmful? Has new media shifted the power balance between news consumers and news gatherers? How can journalists hope to be informative if readers can pick and choose their content?

The inaugural Public Knowledge Forum event will be held 3–5 November 2013 in Sydney, Australia, one of the most exciting and ethnically rich cities in the world. The launch will take place as part of the Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas, in the famous Concert Hall on Sunday 3 November and will feature a panel of three pre-eminent industry figures in conversation with The Atlantic’s James Fallows. The main conference will continue on Monday 4 November in the Sydney Opera House Studio, bringing together more than 20 international leaders in the field, all with different backgrounds, disciplines and political orientations, for a series of panel discussions. The event will conclude after participants are given the opportunity to work together to help determine the future agenda for the Public Knowledge Forum, making the most of being present as this important initiative takes off.

The United States Studies Centre, with the support of the New South Wales Government, is pleased to be convening the inaugural Public Knowledge Forum. We believe that this is the beginning of an important and ongoing collaboration, and look forward to seeing the Public Knowledge Forum find a permanent home in Sydney. We envisage the event as an ongoing dialogue supported and led by the industry, for the benefit of the industry. Your involvement on this first occasion will be an important step in bringing that vision to reality. We would be delighted if you could join us for this inaugural Public Knowledge Forum.
 

James Fallows       Bates Gill 
James Fallows
The Atlantic
  Bates Gill
United States Studies Centre