After a year of study, countless meetings, and at least two conferences, a team of researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society have released a series of papers exploring the potential and challenges of the emerging networked digital media environment (note: I played a small role in this work). If you are sitting there thinking that this is a BIG topic rife with thorny questions about the future of journalism, you’re right.

Which is why the papers’ authors conceived of the project as a conversation, facilitated by a series of papers that look at different facets of these issues. The series includes a fifty-page overview, News and Information as Digital Media Come of Age, followed by seven issue papers:

And four case studies:

The project was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and was led by Berkman Fellow Persephone Miel and Berkman Research Director Rob Faris who spent a year talking to journalists, bloggers, citizen media creators, public broadcasters, publishers, advertising networks, researchers, technologists, lawyers, and many others.

On balance, the papers present a cautiously optimistic picture. There is enormous potential to expand the reach of journalism and to bring it closer to the people who need it. The tools that enable new kinds of reporting, flexible ways to combine information, and networks that connect people to information and to each other are getting better. Tough challenges remain, but it’s great to see such smart and dedicated people focused on these issues.

If I haven’t convinced you yet that it is worth your time to download the papers, take a minute to watch the video trailer (it’s literally a minute long):

For more information, visit the project’s website, Media Re:public, or join the conversation on their blog.

(Note: I am a fellow at the Berkman Center and the project I direct, the Citizen Media Law Project, is hosted there, along with Media Re:public.)