Some help for entrepreneurial journalists

As the news about the news business begins to delve into journalism startups and independent alternatives to the mainstream press, the role of displaced journalists in this chaos is gaining more attention as well.

A former print journalist who’s made the migration to online news with a special eye on the entrepreneurial skills journalists must have is Seattle-based Mark Briggs. His Journalism 2.0 blog, in fact, is devoted to the subject, and I’ve linked to it frequently here. He addresses more than “big think” issues with practical suggestions, including his thoughts on the changing market for freelance journalism, legal protection for independent journalists and how they can use Web tools to most effectively practice their craft online.

On Thursday at 1 p.m. he’ll be the guest of a live chat hosted by the Poynter Institute entitled “How Can Journalists Survive Beyond Legacy Institutions?” Here’s the link for the chat and more on Briggs’ background and ideas.

As I wrote yesterday, online journalism experiments are entering a new stage with the creation of the online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer and plans for a news site involving former Rocky Mountain News staffers. The latter has a partially paid business model that has engendered some doubts, but this is the nature of the new media world that will mark the rest of our careers.

I began reading James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds” last night and in an early chapter, while explaining the beginnings of the automobile industry, he writes:

“. . . the early days of the business are characterized by a profusion of alternatives, many of them dramatically different from each other in design and technology. As time passes, the market winnows out the winners and losers, effectively choosing which technologies will flourish and which ones will disappear. Most of the companies fail, going bankrupt or getting acquired by other firms. At the end of the day, a few players are left standing and in control of most of the market.”

This is the essence of entrepreneurialism, of course, and of my new industry, the online journalism field. I currently am a freelance writer for two startup enterprises whose creators want to build them up and sell them off, then move on to other ventures. I’ve also begun a new task for a tech/media startup helping journalists learn to use Web linking and aggregating tools. All of these things I will write about later in more detail as they take root.

There’s plenty of innovative, creative and challenging work on my plate, and it’s requiring me to think quicker on my feet than I ever did as a reporter. Entrepreneurial journalists are going to have to think and act as effectively as the people who hire them out, and these are skills that quite frankly many of us, myself included, have not cultivated after many years in a newsroom.

So I’m glad that there are people like Mark Briggs out there, who’ve been in our shoes and want to help us get started.

Here are some other links on entrepreneurial journalism I’ve been collecting. Among my favorites are how this is the age of the “standalone journalist” and why this might be the best time of all to be a journalist. There are plenty of good how-to links as well.


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