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Re: E-M:/ Michigan Newspapers



 There are some great attempts at non-profit journalism such as ProPublica.org, MinnPost.com and the CenterForInvestigativeReporting.org. The challenge there is the same faced by environmental organizations: sustainability.
 Such efforts are jump started with the help of foundations or even local concerned (and wealthy) citizens such as the one who launched the voiceofsandiego.org. Then they're constantly seeking grants. It's a challenge, but doable. The CenterForInvestigativeReporting in San Francisco has been around 30 years and it is now looking to expand to help fill the void left by mainstream media.
  This is very much an effort that I think universities like MSU should be leading - especially on environmental reporting. But the sustainability thing is difficult, particularly in this economy. Some of these operations are trying to adopt a Public Broadcasting model of soliciting contributions from their user community.
   There is another interesting experiment at spot.us where readers can bid to support a particular story. Once enough bids are in, the reporter cuts loose and writes it. If more than half of the cost of a story is financed by a news organization, it gets first rights to run the story. Reporters submit video pitches or print proposals and the public can bid on them. It's really outside the box - check out http://spot.us - but I think we need to be thinking way outside the box. Even a non news organization could bid on a story in addition to individuals. Say your neighborhood association is convinced that a deadly street corner needs a stoplight. They could bid on a reporter to investigate that need and the options.
  Another challenge is to figure out how to tap smart non-professional journalists like the people on enviro-mich. No one person can possibly know everything about Michigan's environment that the collective readership of this list knows. How can new news media tap that intelligence and yet ensure coverage is fair, accurate, credible? How can it sort out contributions that are less than fair or accurate? Should it?
   We've played around a bit with these ideas with this experiment: http://greatlakeswiki.org. But that kind of effort takes a vigilant and engaged community committed to accuracy and fairness. We haven't found that community willing to engage in that kind of work yet. Some of it may be a technological hurdle. We hope to soon migrate to an easier interface for the citizen journalists to use. Some of it may simply because the Great Lakes environmental community already has a significant - albeit highly compartmentalized - Internet presence.
  But beyond that, there are certainly divergent views on what constitutes accuracy and fairness. Can the wisdom of crowds resolve that?
  I appreciate the suggestion of shedding newsprint and expensive presses. That's an inevitable evolution spurred even more by the poor economy. But it's not enough. If you consider simply a living salary and benefits, $200,000 doesn't support a very large news staff. It's the loss of the advertising base that newspapers once monopolized that is hurting the profession. Craigs List which cut deeply into newspaper classified advertising did more to harm the industry than the blogosphere that competes for reader time and attention.
   But maybe that's where we're headed: much smaller news staffs that serve pieces of an increasingly fractionated readership. That has some attraction. But here's the consequence: If someone creates a sustainable model for creating fair and accurate news about the Great Lakes environment or some other specialized niche, it will attract the attention of people like those who subscribe to enviro-mich.
   And you folks already get it. How does such a specialized effort reach those who do not know enough to look for that kind of news or to even be concerned about it? That is where newspapers once excelled. They brought you news and information that you didn't know you were interested in until it was delivered to your doorstop along with the sports scores or advertising or church news or whatever was the real reason that prompted you to subscribe in the first place.
   The Internet tends to reinforce our interests and beliefs. It takes truly motivated readers to leverage its potential to broaden their outlook.     
  These are fascinating times for a journalism that is exploding in many directions. The traditional mainstream press has not done a very good job of figuring out how to navigate or even anticipate the transition. It's a new frontier requiring fresh perspective and unconventional experiments.
   And nowadays you don't need to own a printing plant or buy ink by the barrel to take a whack at it.

dp



On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 10:02 AM, Eric Baerren <ebaerren@gmail.com> wrote:
I have a suggestion -- go Web only.

Printing the newspaper on dead trees requires the cost of maintaining and staffing a printing press. Pixels are almost free.  There are a few big papers -- the Christian Science Monitor -- who are already going this route (the CSM doesn't print a daily edition anymore, and sticks with pixels during the workweek).

It's not generating revenue, per se, but it is eliminating basically all of the costs associated with operating a newspaper -- printing press, circulation, classified ads, even management to coordinate all of those things.  After start up costs for equipment, marketing, and site design, I think you could fund an entire local news operation for less than $200,000 a year, almost all of which would be salaries for reporters, visual media specialists, and an editor.


On Thu, Nov 20, 2008 at 9:52 AM, Erich Ditschman <theriverdude@sbcglobal.net> wrote:

 
David:
 
I enjoyed your column today and agree that the loss of professional journalism is a threat to our democracy.
 
Do you have some suggestions on how our news services can make money so that they can stay in business? 
 
Perhaps a silver lining is that we are saving some trees and polluting less rivers.  
 
Erich Ditschman
 
 



From: David Poulson <poulsondavid@gmail.com>
To: enviro-mich@great-lakes.net
Sent: Thursday, November 20, 2008 9:17:09 AM
Subject: E-M:/ Michigan Newspapers

I wrote this for LSJ: http://tinyurl.com/5rsdt5
I'm posting here because I believe that it has particular implications for environmental protection.

dp

--
David Poulson
Associate Director
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
Michigan State University
517 432 5417



--
Editor and owner
www.michiganliberal.com



--
David Poulson
Associate Director
Knight Center for Environmental Journalism
Michigan State University
517 432 5417