Throughout my work I have sought to change whose stories get heard and amplified in our society. I have spent nearly two decades working on issues related to media reform and media justice, defending freedom of expression, and supporting people on the frontlines of rebuilding media in America. I have launched and managed big digital campaigns, helped establish new nonprofit organizations, and constantly experimented with creative communications efforts to shift narratives and amplify new voices.
My writing on journalism, philanthropy and community has been published by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Stanford Social Innovation Review, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement, The Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, PBS MediaShift, Harvard Law and Policy Review, Orion Magazine, BuzzFeed, Boing Boing, and others. In addition, I published a book chapter with Columbia University and numerous research reports on media diversity, local news and press freedom.
“Through our work at Democracy Fund’s Public Square program, which partners with foundations across the country to build more equitable and sustainable local news, we’ve seen how local foundation funding can transform local journalism.” – Teresa Gorman and Josh Stearns, Chronicle of Philanthropy
“Those who care about the future of journalism can make meaningful change by focusing on building resilient relationships between communities and newsrooms. Our access to news and information depends on it, and so does our democracy.” – Josh Stearns, Stanford Social Innovation Review
”Despite the new contours of our current political climate and technological developments, issues of trust in journalism extend far back into our nation’s history. According to polls, trust in the media has been eroding since Watergate, but the impact of misinformation has been experienced unevenly for a long time. Communities of color in particular have been grappling with inaccurate reporting and outright false stories that have had real and damaging consequences. As such, we have to understand that the challenges we face today are not just technological, but also economic, cultural and political.” – Josh Stearns, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy
“To understand where journalism is heading, think ecosystems. Once a concept that referred to complex communities of interdependent living organisms, the metaphor is gaining traction in sectors well beyond the natural world – particularly where the rise of digital networks has radically disrupted and reshaped old institutions. Journalism may well be at the top of that list.” – Dan Gillmor and Josh Stearns, The Guardian
“Creating more diverse journalism can’t just be about slotting people of color into the newsrooms we have, it has to be about transforming our institutions, our culture, and our storytelling. I’ve written before about the need for newsrooms to better reflect the diversity of their communities. This work isn’t tangential to creating more sustainable, impactful and engaged journalism, it is central to it.” – Josh Stearns, PBS Media Shift
“As media has become unbundled—and audience attention has shifted away from local news—we have to find novel ways to bring critical civic news and information into people’s lives. To do that, we’ll need to use all the tools at our disposal, and probably create a few new ones along the way.” – Molly de Aguiar and Josh Stearns, Columbia Journalism Review
“Communities of color who have been hardest hit by the coronavirus have also been underserved by much of the media, while news organizations led by people of color have produced powerful coverage with consistently limited resources. Add to this a flood of misinformation and rising rumors that often target these same communities, and COVID-19 threatens to further entrench racial inequalities. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just a public health crisis. It is also an information crisis.” – Josh Stearns, WBUR: On Point
“Today, even as access to information expands globally, communities across the United States face growing gaps in their access to meaningful local news and information about their neighborhoods. There is an increasing body of evidence that provides data and details about what these gaps could mean for civic engagement, good government, and the health of local communities.” – Josh Stearns, Medium
“This is the new face of media consolidation. The voices of our community are missing, the issues we care about aren’t covered, and the leaders we depend on aren’t held accountable. As our media becomes less local, less diverse, and less accessible, fewer and fewer citizens see or hear their stories represented.” – Josh Stearns, Orion Magazine
“The First Amendment and press freedom questions that haunt the Espionage Act are particularly important right now. Changes in media and technology have put the tools of journalism and media making in the hands of more and more people, challenging old assumptions about who is a journalist and how journalism is done. Increasingly, independent journalists, nonprofit news outlets and citizens are playing critical roles in newsgathering and reporting on the most important issues of our time.” – Josh Stearns, Boing Boing