past event | january 2020 | Dinner at the square
reason may be down for the count.

Link to program audio, here. Link to photos from the event, here. In 1798 James Madison wrote of the press: “To the press alone, checkered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.” In 2020, if Madison was correct then reason and humanity could be in for an even rougher ride, with hometown newspapers collapsing across the country. But to think of this threat to hometown journalism as being just a local story is to miss the bigger story.

No longer represented by local shoe leather reporting done by a journalist you knew and saw at town meetings, many American communities now only think of the media as distant strangers who can’t be trusted. So the scarcity of hometown newspapers doesn’t just make it so some communities are dark on local news, but it’s actively feeding our lack of trust and the partisan divide at a national level. Add this together with the rise of multimedia conglomerates and partisan news sources and it’s obvious why our problems in journalism are Big Wicked Problems, and time might be short to stop the most profound consequences that lie ahead. And if we lose our paper, just who can we blame but ourselves?


In keeping with our theme for the year – that it’s in our hometown where we ultimately decide who we are to each other and (in this case) what we know about our government, our community and our neighbors. So we’ll also talk specifically about how we keep our local journalism healthy and alive for the decades ahead.

Our conversation will begin with former Tallahassee Democrat publisher Skip Foster and Miami Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Mary Ellen Klas, both of whom have copious wisdom to share on our topic. Mary Ellen spent a year as a Harvard Niemen fellow studying the deep connectedness between the health of local journalism and the health of democracy. Read “Less Local News Means Less Democracy” here. As the evening progresses, we’ll expand the circle of wisdom and experience with former FAMU J-School Dean Dr. Ann Kimbrough, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Sanchez and local nonprofit startup Tallahassee Reports’ Steve Stewart.



Skip Foster | Former Publisher
Tallahassee Democrat
Mary Ellen Klas | Capital Bureau Chief
Miami Herald
Ann Kimbrough | Professor
FAMU School of Journalism & Graphic Communication
Bob Sanchez | Pulitzer Prize Winner
Retired, The Miami Herald
Steve Stewart | Editor
Tallahassee Reports
Jennifer Portman | Facilitator
Enterprise Editor | USA Today
the 2019-20 dinner at the square series
This program is part of the series "The Year of Living Locally." Check out other programs.

Imagine if Americans turned our attention toward the communities we share with other Americans, in every city, town, village and one-stoplight hamlet from sea to shining sea? Imagine what might happen in our communities — and even in Washington — as a result of overcoming the angry left and right tribes with local tribe – this place, these people.

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