More signs of hope amid the chaos in journalism

Call me a member of a cult of insane optimists, but I’m constantly encouraged by what displaced journalists are thinking about and doing to recast themselves in their profession. And I’m hopeful about the opportunities that await for the most resourceful journalists even in a terrible economy that’s growing worse.

Every week more and more examples come to light, so I’d like to round up a few new ones here that keep me inspired to forge ahead:

• A laid-off editor at Atlanta’s Creative Loafing stood in the unemployment line and got a stirring reminder of a story that journalists have been ignoring for far too long:

“But the threat of layoffs might be scary enough to get the media finally to take seriously the kinds of questions that have dogged American families for decades.

“Why, for example, why does Georgia’s unemployment insurance top off at $330 a week — one of the lowest rates in the nation? Where’s the safety net for those of us whose lives are turned upside down when companies toss aside loyal employees in a desperate response to new technology or changing markets? Wouldn’t we all be better off if workers whose skills needed upgrading got generous help with training? And, for heaven’s sake, why is my ability to get health care insurance held hostage by my employment status?”

That editor, Ken Edelstein, also believes that “Web-based journalism could leave citizens better informed than ever.”

• A veteran Philadelphia newsman is at the helm of two-year-old startup that recently was named one of the best sites in the country devoted to urban design and planning issues:

“In two years, PlanPhilly, the pipsqueak on a shoestring budget, has hijacked the city’s hottest beat. Thank goodness someone has.”

Note the story’s headline: “Once and Future Journalism.” That really sums it up well, doesn’t it?

• Deb Halpern Winger at the excellent Advancing the Story blog hears Scripps TV digital director Chip Mahaney talk about the very tough job market for journalists and the skills they need but also the possibilities they can create for themselves:

“The bad news is, few people have figured out a sustainable business model for online journalism. But that’s also the good news. There’s ample opportunity to try. The Internet has knocked over almost all the barriers to creating a journalism business. You no longer need a printing press or a broadcast tower. What kind of news coverage do people want, and how can you convince people that this coverage is worthy of their support?

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