Posts Tagged ‘future of journalism’

The pioneers who paved the way

7 December 2009

(Cross posted at Alan Mutter’s Newsosaur)

With fresh non-profit news ventures seemingly turning up left and right, you would think this was a brand new idea.  But it’s not.

A wide variety of non-profit news ventures have been providing unique, professional-caliber, and invigorating perspectives on our world for many years.  A number of ventures – like the Center for Investigative Reporting, Ms., or my own organization, Mother Jones – predate the popularization of the Internet by more than two decades (and let’s not even begin to count how many years The Progressive, Harpers, NatGeo, or The Nation Institute have been around!).

The pioneers of non-profit news cover the full array of media, from magazines, to radio and television, to online. Here’s an incomplete list of nonprofit journalism orgs that pre-date the latest wave (you can find links to many of these at the Media Consortium website – of which many but not all are members):

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won’t Work (A Checklist)

18 October 2009

Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing links to this Metafilter item on Why Your Idea to Save Journalism Won’t Work (A Checklist). (An anonymous commenter points to the origin of the checklist, over at Slashdot.)

Your post advocates a

( ) technical ( ) legislative (X) market-based ( ) crowd-sourced

approach to saving journalism. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws owing to the avaraciousness of modern publishers.)

( ) It does not provide an income stream to the working journalist
( ) Nobody will spend eight hours sitting in a dull council meeting to do it
( ) No one will be able to find the guy
(X) It is defenseless against copy-and-paste
(X) It tries to prop up a fundamentally broken business model
(X) Users of the web will not put up with it
( ) Print readers will not put up with it
( ) Good journalists will not put up with it
( ) Requires too much cooperation from unwilling sources
( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
(X) Many publishers cannot afford to lose what little business they have left
( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business
( ) Even papers run by trusts and charities are already going bankrupt

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

(X) Readers' unwillingness to pay for just news
( ) The existence and popularity of the BBC
(X) Unavoidable availability of free alternatives
( ) Sources' proven unwillingness to "go direct"
( ) The difficulty of investigative journalism
( ) The massive tedium of investigative journalism
(X) The high cost of investigative journalism
( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
(X) Editorial departments small enough to be profitable are too small to do real reporting
( ) Legal liability of "citizen journalism"
( ) The training required to be even an rubbish journalist
(X) What readers want, in the main, is celebrity and football
( ) The necessity of the editing process
(X) Americans' huge distrust of professional journalism
( ) Reluctance of governments and corporations to be held to account by two guys with a blog
( ) Inability of two guys with a blog to demand anything
( ) How easy it is for subjects to manipulate two guys with no income
( ) Rupert Murdoch
( ) The inextricably local nature of much newsgathering
( ) The dependence of all other forms of news media on print reporting
( ) The dependence of national press on local press reporting
( ) Technically illiterate politicians
( ) The tragedy of the commons
( ) The classified-driven business model of much print publishing
(X) The tiny amounts of money to be made from online ads for small sites

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) That the US press dropped the ball on Iraq is a symptom, not a cause
(X) Print advertising pays so well because advertisers *can't* work out the return they're getting.
( ) Information does not want to be free
(X) Society depends on journalists producing news that few readers are actually all that interested in, quite honestly
( ) That your friend was misquoted once in a paper does not mean journalism is bunk
( ) Everybody reading the same story is a feature, not a bug
( ) Having a free online "printing press" doesn't turn you into a journalist any more than your laser printer did
(X) Wall Street won't allow newspaper groups to back off from 20% profit margins
(X) Newspaper executives are second only to record industry executives for short-sighted idiocy
(X) E-paper still doesn't give publishers back their ad monopoly and hence its revenue
(X) You can't charge for online content unless all your competitors do it too, all at once.
( ) Ethics are hard to hold up when your bills are due
( ) Citizen journalists are almost as good as citizen dentists
( ) "Gatekeepers" can help keep out undesirable things
(X) Publishing less often makes you even less relevant
( ) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
( ) Free society depends upon a free press
( ) Democracy is bad enough with the press we've already got
( ) You think print is bad? Imagine Fox News, as a blog. That's what your idea will turn into.
( ) Reader-generated content is to professional news what YouTube is to big-studio movies.
(X) Have you read the comments on news websites? They make YouTubers look like geniuses.
( ) You are Jeff Jarvis
( ) Or Dave Winer

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

(X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

Bay Area News Project: Please, God, let it not be boring.

25 September 2009

So the big news today out here is that after months of speculation, Warren Hellman, the patron saint of the Best. Festival. In. San Francisco. Ever. is plunking down $5 million to seed the creation of what’s being called the Bay Area News Project, a journalism outfit that’ll be linked with KQED public radio and television, UC Berkeley’s J-School, and it looks like The New York Times.  Alan Mutter has the best summary of the deal, and Dave Cohn just put up a smart post about what he hopes Hellman’s project does. Lots of details still to be worked out, so I think it’s way too early to say much more than that I’m really hoping this works out.

Okay, that having been said, I’ve got a couple more things to say.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m guest blogging over at Free Press this week

2 September 2009

The folks over at Free Press invited Dave Westphal from USC’s Annenberg Center (until a few months ago he ran McClatchy’s Washington DC bureau – one of the best commercial news sources around) and me to join their readers in a conversation about foundation-funded journalism this week.

This is a hot issue right now in the media punditry trade. MoJo editors Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein’s ed note in the latest issue of the magazine takes it on directly (interesting comments there, too), and Clara’s dissection of Sheri Fink’s (foundation-funded) Katrina piece for the New York Times is an illuminating look at what it takes to do investigative reporting these days.

I think Free Press asked me to weigh in because (a) this is something nonprofit Mother Jones has been living with from day 1 back in 1975; (b) I run MoJo’s fundraising program; and (c) I’ve written earlier about the topic here, here, and here.

Dave and I will be doing a live chat on Thursday, September 3rd at 8PM Eastern Time, if you want to drop by.

Here’s my FP post:

Read the rest of this entry »

Clay Shirky’s “second great age of patronage,” foundations, and journalism.

19 July 2009

I’ve written about foundation funding for journalism before (in fact, it was what got me started doing this thing in the first place). But Clay Shirky’s Cato-Unbound  piece (interesting choice of publication site) arguing inter alia that we’re entering “a second great age of patronage” got me thinking again about this topic.

Shirky writes: this new patronage is

“. . .either of the ‘one rich person’ model, as with Richard Mellon Scaife’s subsidy of conservative journals, or the NPR Fund Drive model, where the small core of highly involved users makes above-market-price donations to provision a universally accessible good run for revenue but not for profit.”

Your local journalism fundraiser says it’s actually got to be both at the same time – since that is what a successful nonprofit fundraising program almost always looks like. It’s a measure of just how far the new nonprofit journalism world has to yet to go, fundraising-wise, that Clay sets up a distinction where it’s actually a continuum. Of course, there are reasons for that: mainly, the way these new projects are getting started – with (relatively) big money, and little or no membership/community base.  And since journalists tend to be lousy community organizers, this could be a problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

A week on The Farm

18 July 2009

I finished up the Stanford Professional Publishing Course (Twitter hashtag: #sppc09) magazine track last night, following a week on campus at The Farm with 60 other media folk from around the world. (I was lucky enough to get a scholarship from Amazon to pay my way; here’s the essay I wrote for the application, annotated with my alter ego color commentary.)

A pretty intensive seven days, I’d say. Some quick thoughts the day after:gl_logo

It’s been years (25 or so) since I’ve had the privelege of being in such internationally diverse company. About half came from countries other than the United States with Mexico and Latin America particularly well represented. Really enjoyed conversation, dinner, drinks with peeps from Uganda, Holland, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Russia, Poland – the list goes on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Doing distributed journalism with Amanda Michel and the ProPublica Reporting Network

10 July 2009

navbar-logoSo I follow @AmandaRMichel, who runs ProPublica’s distributed reporting program, on Twitter. And I  think she’s said some of the smartest stuff I’ve seen about what works, what doesn’t, when it comes to distributed or “citizen” journalism, like this CJR piece from last March about her experience with Off The Bus. The fact that she’s not a journalist, but an organizer, matters a lot, I think. Probably decisive.

After hearing her at #pdf09 a couple of weeks ago, I decided I should actually do some distributed reporting (or whatever you want to call it) myself instead of just yammering about it, so that I have at least some hands on experience at the ground level with it. I mean, how hard could it be, right?

Read the rest of this entry »

Friday dog blogging 3 July 2009

3 July 2009

First things first: the main generator/switch at MotherJones.com’s Seattle “carrier hotel” (aka server farm) failed early this morning, which resulted in a fire, which triggered the sprinkler system, which took our site (and several others) off line. No indication of when it’ll be back up; we’re actively looking at a Plan B fix (if anyone has ideas for a quick solution, let me know). Silver lining, I guess: it’s happening over a low traffic holiday weekend. P1030129

That also means no Friday cat blogging from Kevin, no frog blogging from the MoJo interns. (It also means you can’t get a look at the digital version of the new issue of Mother Jones, which has a totally kick-ass special package, “Wasted,” on the failure of the War on Drugs (so go buy a hard copy over the weekend).

Read the rest of this entry »

My (belated!) response to Digidave’s video on Spot.us and MoJo…

28 June 2009

I’ve been a doofus:  Dave Cohn posted a video in response to this back at the end of May, and I promised I’d get a reply back to him asap. One hardware crash and MoJo board meeting later, I’m finally able to get into a conversation with him about Spot.us, Mother Jones, non profit journalism etc. (sorry Dave!) mainly because here I am 39,000 feet in the air headed to #PDF09, and finally have some quality time to do just that (although for the sake of my seat mates, no video…).

Read the rest of this entry »

#PDF09 plus Pocantico: lots going on next week

27 June 2009

Headed east tomorrow to #PDF09 (plus some $raising for the Mother Ship) in New York. While the political digerati are enjoying the view from Jazz at Lincoln Center, there will be another conversation going on up the Hudson at the Pocantico Conference Center I’ll very interested in hearing more about: a meeting called by Rosie Rosenthal of the Center for Investigative Reporting and Bill Buezenburg of the Center for Public Integrity on “new models for watchdog journalism.”

First time that many of the new local news projects – MinnPost.com, VoiceofSanDiego.com, TexasWatchdog.com, etc., plus other investigative projects affiliated with university j-schools – will be sitting down together. Part of the agenda will no doubt be talking about some of the ideas Joel Kramer of MinnPost.com and Jon Sawyer from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting pulled together in this paper (link to a PDF on this page)  for another conference back in May.

You can read more about the Pocantico meeting at Ken Doctor’s Content Bridges blog (not to mention my comment on his post). Having been through an almost identical process that led to the creation of The Media Consortium – now a lively network of some 50 independent, progressive media operations  (Tracy Van Slyke is the project director for this gang) – what happens at Pocantico could be decisive in moving investigative journalism towards a more sustainable footing. Definitely worth following.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.