The Department of Journalism at CSULB has been selected as the home base for the Southern California News Council (SCNC), an independent, non-profit organization that will promote trusted journalism by investigating accuracy and fairness complaints against news outlets. The SCNC at CSULB will receive a $75,000 startup grant, with funds provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. "I'm hard pressed to think of a more fertile media environment than Southern California for a news council," said William Babcock, professor and chair of CSULB's Department of Journalism, who will be executive director of SCNC."We have here a huge population base and a diverse variety of print, broadcast and online media," said Babcock, CSULB was one of two campuses chosen in a national competition to create two new local news councils.” In determining the accuracy and fairness of complaints against news outlets, the news councils help determine the facts involved in the disputes and provide open forums where citizens and journalists can discuss media ethics, standards and performance.
"In recent decades Americans have found their news media to have less and less credibility,” said Babcock. “News councils are one media accountability tool that addresses this credibility concern.” The birth of these news councils coincides with a growing trend toward openness and accountability in the news media driven by the new era of two-way communications marked by the emergence of the Internet. "A news council or any inquiry that seeks out the real facts behind media complaints is better than a blogger working from opinion alone, and vastly superior to the talking heads on cable TV with their pre-fixed political menus," said Eric Newton, director of journalism initiatives at the Knight Foundation."This project is an experiment to see if there is local support for the idea that a good way to perform media criticism is not through kangaroo courts of commentators but through the fair, accurate contextual pursuit of the truth."