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Abstract

With Americans’ confidence in the news media dwindling, the quality of programming declining, and audiences turning elsewhere, the American news media is at a crossroads. We argue that news outlets should consider a new form of deliberation-based programming for local news coverage as a means of responding to these problems. As a basis for the programming, we build on public journalism (Rosen & Merritt, 1994) and deliberative citizen panels (Knobloch, Gastil, Reedy, & Walsh, 2013). By engaging citizens in the production of news, media outlets not only stand to gain viewers by increasing the quality of their issue coverage, but they also could secure their claim as a public institution providing a valuable public good. We urge media outlets to consider turning to citizen panels to determine which issues are salient and to engage in structured deliberations about those issues, which can be captured and built into content packages for use in news programming. In so doing, news outlets can help activate viewers by positioning them not as passive consumers but as engaged citizens prepared for public deliberation.