Tag Archives: news business models

Between nostalgia and the future of news

I’ve got so many links on journalism and media topics here from the last week to share, especially as they pertain to old-media journalists being confronted with the realities of the new media universe, voluntarily or not. As traditionalists continue their nostalgia tour of the late, great newsroom, the vitality and energy that have departed the premises is cropping up in outside precincts in a variety of new endeavors.

I’mtrying not to get too excited, because the prospects for bootstrapping remain daunting (via @ckrewson). Still, I love hear about the fight that’s left in so many people, in spite of their circumstances and their odds for staying in the profession.

• Travel editor Chris Gray Faust was among those laid off at USA Today last week, despite being an experienced travel editor and newsroom manager who jumped all over the Web. She’s eager to move on, based on what she observed from those outside the “newsroom bubble:”

“I’d go to conferences and meet people who were making it just fine on their own. Some were creating niche businesses, busting up the paradigm. Others were parlaying old school media talents into fresh ventures, with a moxie that made me wish I had the freedom to emulate them. The air inside USAT’s towers on Jones Branch Drive always seemed a little stale after that.

These freelancers-slash-entrepreneurs are smart. They are nimble. And now they are my role models, as I join their ranks.

• Public relations maven George Snell is predicting that the Gray Fausts of the world will infuse non-newsroom journalism with some badly-needed vibrancy (via Dan Kennedy) and help create a blogging “Renaissance.” He didn’t delve into how they might be able to make a living:

“Former journalists like Chris Gray Faust are going to take their journalism expertise to blogging. They no longer will be blogging part-time as a supplement to their ‘day jobs’ as journalists. They are going to be blogging full-time – trying to make careers out of it. This surge of professional writers and reporters to the ranks of blogging is going to take blogging in new and creative directions.”

• Not long ago I wrote here about the fallacies of neutering the newsroom. In her latest piece for the Nieman Journalism Lab, Gina Chen explains how she finally was deprogrammed out of the cult of objectivity — after leaving her newspaper, of course:

“By not telling people what I thought or felt or believed, I may have been avoiding the near occasion of subjectivity, but I wasn’t being a better journalist. I wasn’t building trust with readers. Refraining to tell readers where I was coming from didn’t make me objective. It just failed to make me transparent.”

Amen.

• Then there are social media policies that some news organizations have employed to put their august journalists in another kind of straitjacket:

“The notion that jour­nal­ists don’t have per­sonal lives or opin­ions, that they shouldn’t reveal polit­i­cal pref­er­ences or engage in civic causes regard­less of their beat, that they should be shielded from direct inter­ac­tion with the pub­lic for fear of dis­clos­ing a com­pro­mis­ing point of view — this is sheer lunacy. If news­pa­pers die, it will be because they splayed them­selves on the altar of objec­tiv­ity rather than mov­ing to a new kind of rela­tion­ship that the pub­lic is clearly crav­ing for.”

• What impact might these restrictions have on a younger generation of journalists? Plenty, and this appraisal is hardly encouraging:

“If young journalists choose to revolt against convention, they will likely be rejected by the group. This means isolation within the workplace, or outright dismissal. Pushing the limits of the organization can result in a very real cost for younger journalists. It’s high risk, with potentially few rewards.”

• Meanwhile, some journalists wrapping themselves up in the cloak of traditionalism continue crabby diatribes against threats to their careers without examining how they might adapt to the media world as it is:

“We advocate abolishing the term ‘citizen journalist.’ These people can call themselves ‘citizen news gatherers,’ but it is no more appropriate to call them citizen journalists than it would be to sit before a citizen judge or be operated on by a citizen brain surgeon.”

• One newspaper old-timer I’ll give a bit of a pass to is Pete Hamill. For all of his nostalgia about the way newspapers were, he does provide a bit of bracing realism about his beloved craft, and is clear-eyed about what he likes, and doesn’t like about journalism emerging on the Web:

“I love Charlie Sennett’s globalpost.com. I did a piece for them on the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism behind the Iron Curtain because I was there. So I think the beginning of that is happening. You can see with the Wall Street Journal what the format might be. They are now charging for the Internet version which is a hell of a lot cheaper than finding a newsstand to carry it.

“We have some others. The Huffingtonpost.com does not pay its writers. Tina Browns’ thedailybeast.com does pay its writers. You have to be paid because this is not a hobby. You have to keep that standard. You can’t ask grandpa to loan you money because you have to go to Afghanistan. I walked the picket line for that to continue.”

• Also getting some traditionalists uptight is a reorganization announced last week at the Dallas Morning News that has some news managers — in entertainment, sports, travel, automotive and typically ad-oriented verticals — reporting to business and sales staff. Mathew Ingram has mixed feelings about this that I share:

“Should the Chinese wall between editorial and advertising become more porous, or be torn down completely? I’m torn on the subject, frankly. I realize that journalism needs to bend and evolve, and that harsh business realities have to be taken into account, but I’ve also seen the damage that can be done when ad concerns drive — or even shape — coverage of a story.”

• However, for those of us now on our own or who are part of independent news ventures, no such wall exists. We’ve got to make it pay, or we go on to something else. Those still in newsrooms who are shocked by the wall crumbling need to break out of the cocoon, and soon. Among the challenges for news entrepreneurs, this is the one that I think might be the most important — and probably the most difficult — to reach:

“Don’t assume anything you do will be unique. No matter how clever the idea or the underlying technology, someone else can easily set up in competition to you. The internet makes it much easier to self-publish, but it makes it easier for everyone not just you! Being the first to do something is not necessarily good. You will do all the work creating a marketplace that others will then exploit. But if you are in a niche and fairly innovative space, competition is a good thing. It spreads the burden of building consumer confidence in your business model and should prevent you becoming complacent.”

As another ‘future of journalism’ gabfest goes on . . .

Today and tomorrow the Federal Trade Commission is conducting its very own “Future of Journalism” extravaganza with all the usual suspects, and from the live Tweeting I’ve seen they’re not saying anything all that new, as important as the topic may be.

Spicing up the festivities, however, was Queen Arianna’s clash with Rupert Murdoch this morning:

“Having Glenn Beck not searchable on Google is a really good thing for democracy, but as a business move, it is not a smart move.”

Oh, how we love Huffington so! Especially since she echoed her frequent refrain that the only news people will pay for is “specialized financial content and weird porn.” In one of Rupert’s most vociferous precincts, Queen Arianna is being accused of emphasizing a whole lotta flesh in building her own media empire. There’s too much irony here to go on this way.

If these folks are on the vanguard of the future of journalism, then we’ve all got real trouble, in addition to the usual litany of concerns embodied in the following links that have caught my attention via Delicious, Google Reader and Twitter:

• Douglas Rushkoff has kick-started an old debate about paying for the news by taking sides with Murdoch. Naturally, that has Jay Rosen all stirred up. So has this, from one of Uncle Rupert’s top Leftenants, which takes straight aim at the digital utopians. They don’t like that very much.

• Once a frequent whipping boy of the online news sages, David Carr of the New York Times apparently has been handed a key to the club after predicting a happy ending to the present gloomy media scenario, because the children are our future. Alan Mutter may have to turn in his membership card for arguing just the reverse, because the children don’t have much of a future. The Newsosaur is about as dour as I’ve read him, and that’s saying something. I think there’s some truth to both of these takes, as contrary as they are to one another.

• Recent layoffs of multimedia staff at the Washington Post are a troublesome sign that the print overlords at a news organization that seemed to get the Web just don’t value the work of digital journalists. Regina McCombs, one of my multimedia instructors from a Poynter Institute workshop I attended last year, writes that online producers and editors she hears from are feeling this way all around the country. (This also factored into my decision last year to accept a buyout.) I’ve argued this before and I’ll repeat it here: It’s time for the geeks to start running newsrooms. Old media managerial hands just keep fumbling the Web, but they’re unlikely to loosen their grip during these increasingly desperate times.

• At least the newly renamed PBS NewsHour is embracing the Web, even if Jim Lehrer isn’t interested in Twitter. It’s going to be a messy transition, but it sounds more promising than what’s happening in another D.C. newsroom.

• How easy is it for a small-town journalist to start a one-person news operation? As easy as this? I’m finding out that while the fundamentals laid out here are solid, there’s no guarantee for success. Journalists who have some money saved up, time to work out their concept and can rely on support from friends, family and others stand the best chance of making something work. But these experiments have only just begun, and will continue to proliferate. As will the chaos.

Fresh and familiar takes on journalistic change

Because of my ongoing Web site-building project, I haven’t been able to post here as often or substantively as I would like. But below are some recent links to journalism and media topics that have been on my mind as I work toward a launch date that’s just around the corner.

(Some shorter, quicker notes I’ve been posting on my latest experiment in thinking out loud.)

There’s not an awful lot that’s new here for those well-versed in the online journalism field, but the constant drumbeat of change is perhaps driving the need to restate the obvious, or extend continuing debates:

An Epitaph for American Journalism:

“We need an aggressive, dynamic, highly technical kind of entrepreneurial journalism. One which will both teach and honor people who build new websites, create new companies, know how to finance them, grow them and sell them.

“Journalism has for far too long derided the business side of the business as ‘dirty’.  That is wrong. Plain wrong. Journalism is first and foremost a business. And without the income, there is no journalism at all.

“We have to abandon our notions of the noble ink-stained wretches forever in search of ‘the truth’ and embrace and learn to love making money.  (Turns your stomach to hear that, doesn’t it, you old ink-stained wretches?)  Too bad.”

Forces beyond anyone’s control:

“When the history of the decline and fall of newspapers is written — and wouldn’t it be grand if some genius came up with something to save us all! — there will be lots of blame assigned to complacent journalism executives. But I hope people understand that there were huge technology-driven social forces at work that couldn’t have been turned back by anyone.”

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Auletta on Internet disruption:

“When I hear people in traditional media today whine about, ‘Oh, woe is me, they’re doing these terrible things,’ I have no sympathy for that at all.”

Wild guesses won’t solve journalism crisis:

“With all due respect to my dedicated and talented colleagues, we need to try something different. Next time, we need to hear from people we don’t know, exploring things we don’t know about and examining potentially useful solutions we have yet to consider.”

Narrative is dead! Long live Narrative!:

“We needed a way of communicating that encouraged the evaluation of facts instead of the balancing of rhetoric. It’s a shift that requires a radically different theory of the press. . . Narrative isn’t under assault. The economic hegemony of mass media is, and with it go the fortunes of journalists who made a living via an advertising subsidy that went away.”

Guest Kit: ‘Life After Newspapers:’

“Something came over me, and I felt the urge to shout. So I did, tentatively at first, and then louder until I was screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘FREEDOM!’ over and over like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Then I remembered: in the very next frames of film, Gibson has his guts slowly spooled out of his body by the executioner. But, damn, this sense of liberation feels good. While it lasts.”

Journalistic minds shouldn’t think alike

A few links I’m finding helpful as I begin a critical week for a media startup project that’s soon to bear fruit. More details on that later; for now, some good reads about journalism, media and work, and the importance of shedding old ideas and ways of working that just don’t cut it any more:

New opportunity for laid-off NPR staffer: “Get out there! Feeling sorry for yourself and cursing the company for not placing more value on you is a waste of energy. Journalism (nay, any job) is not indentured servitude. We do it because we love it and we’re good at it. Re-purpose yourself. Meet people, exchange ideas and be ready for whatever the next big thing is. Take advantage of learning opportunities and be patient. Young people are the key, but don’t think because you’re not young and/or in school you don’t matter.”

No more pity parties for journalism: “It’s actually harder to get the more traditional journalists to sort of break their chains. It’s interesting. It is extremely liberating. It’s very absorbing. I mean, I just think it’s much more fun to be in a position where I can try to come up with a formula that works rather than just be part of a system that you are aware is crumbling around you — and to be unable to do anything about it, which is where a lot of journalists have been. It’s incredibly frustrating and it’s also a really bad environment in which to do journalism.”

Leaving a ‘traditional’ paper for a startup: “I feel, and still feel, that the newspaper business is in serious crisis. I’m not content to cling to a deck chair and go down with a sinking ship. We’re trying to prepare for the next incarnation of journalism. If this venture is going to work, it’s going to work because serious, talented journalists were brave enough to take the risk.”

Life and work after journalism: “I like to hire reporters. They know how to write, they know how to think, know how to go out and dig things up. And they know how to move quickly. To me, it’s still a noble profession.”

Working hard is overrated: “Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on. Paying attention to what is going on in the world. Seeing patterns. Seeing things as they are rather than how you want them to be. Being able to read what people want. Putting yourself in the right place where information is flowing freely and interesting new juxtapositions can be seen.”

Readings: News entrepreneurs, the security of freelancing and taming digital distractions

What follows are some links rattling around in my brain, and between the sofa cushions, as I battle to meet a major project deadline and get a better handle on this scattershot life on the Web I’ve been leading. It’s been a romp this week, and by no means is Friday the end of my work week. But hey, I’m not complaining. The joy of deep immersion in the work I love has me getting the same adrenaline rush of breaking news hitting my old newsroom.

If you’ve got some time this weekend, these pieces are well worth your perusal. The first link is the second installment in Michael Massing’s gargantuan examination of the vastly changing news industry for The New York Review of Books (here’s Part I). The following delves into online news ventures and startups trying to replace the journalism that’s disappearing from newspapers:

A New Horizon for the News: “What we do have is a tremendous increase in enthusiasm and initiative that, in the age of the Internet, counts for more than transmitters and printing presses. The retreat of the giant corporations and conglomerates is creating the opportunity for fresh structures to emerge. It remains to be seen whether foundations, wealthy donors, and news consumers will step forward to support them. . . .The opening won’t last forever. Lurking in the wings is a potential new class of media giants. Google, Yahoo, MSNBC, and AOL, all have vast resources that could finance a new oligopolistic push on the Web.”

How journalists can become successful news entrepreneurs: “Great reporters are resourceful. They don’t take no for an answer. If one official won’t answer a question, they’ll go find a document or dig a little more until the official feels compelled to answer. What ever it takes to get the story. No wall is too high or too thick once a good reporter sets his or her mind to reporting a particular story. That drive is the first pre-requisite to being an entrepreneur.”

Can Anybody Pull Off Long Form on the Web? “Salon also thinks that its content—mostly long-form, originally reported stories about politics, entertainment, technology and other topics—is just too costly given the level of interest from advertisers. It believes that advertisers will be more excited by shorter, more real-time pieces.”

Steering Clear of Writers Mills: “For those who feel the need to write something, anything, start a blog. Create a newsletter. Put together a fanzine. Just do something that belongs to you, so that should something come of it, you’re the one benefiting. Let the big time investors do their own work for a change.”

10 Reasons Why Freelancing is the Best Job Security: “Freelancers get exposed to a diverse assortment of ideas, business models, workflow processes, and technologies. This helps you to stay fresh and on the cutting-edge of the best practices in your field.”

50 things that are being killed by the internet: “When was the last time you spent an hour mulling the world out a window, or rereading a favourite book? The internet’s draw on our attention is relentless and increasingly difficult to resist.” (the ones that hit home for me are nos. 9, 12, 14, 21, 27, 29 and 50)

The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions: “Emailing, writing, tweeting, designing, browsing, taking calls, Skyping, Facebooking, RSS Feeding – all blurred into a single technological trance. I seem to switch randomly from one to the other. But actually is there a subtle hierarchy in this cloud? Do I prefer some distractions over others? I think so.” (via Bert DuMars)

Is the potential of hyperlocal news overhyped?

This is a question that constantly races through my mind as I build up content on my own local sports news site and ponder the possibilities not just for monetizing it, but also for engaging a vibrant community around it:

Is the hyperlocal news model, as envisioned and explained by some of the leading lights of online journalism, little more than a pipedream? At least right now, in this nascent stage of the migration away from print? And now here’s the washingtonpost.com — one of the more forward-thinking newspaper Web sites — that couldn’t move beyond that concept with a much-hyped hyperlocal site it soon will shut down.

(An acquaintance who was part of the original staff of that site offers her thoughts on the experiment.)

On the other hand, there is the resounding success of EveryBlock, which has been sold to MSNBC and Patch, recently scooped up into the growing AOL conglomeration of news sites. These sites were begun with foundation money in the case of the former, and with the backing of powerful journalism and media figures in the case of the latter.

I’m thinking more about hyperlocals started by individuals, or a small group of individuals, working with little or no startup money and just themselves.

I spoke yesterday with someone who wants to help me promote, market and monetize my site. He’s interested in the same niche, believes in its potential and had purchased some domain names similar to mine before discovering what I’ve done in just a couple of short months. He doesn’t have content expertise, and when he asked me what my editorial vision was, I rattled off some of the ideas I’ve heard from Jeff Jarvis, Mark Potts and other boosters of hyperlocal news. This is an entirely new endeavor for me, and I have no other point of reference beyond blending those notions with previous experience covering this subject at my former newspaper.

So I was intrigued to read an account of Monday’s Aspen Institute forum on communications, and specifically, some hyperlocal news models worked up by Jarvis and his students at the City University of New York. TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld thinks some of the numbers in Jarvis’ spreadsheets are quite optimistic, in terms of page views and the revenue potential for bloggers. There were other doubts expressed by Esther Dyson and Michael Kinsley, hardly stodgy old media types:

“ ‘Aren’t you reinventing the wheel?’ Kinsley asked him. ‘I think it needs some reinvention,’ responded Jarvis. ‘We wanted to see if there is a vision for the future of journalism.’

“When Jarvis was asked who the dominant species would be in this new ecosystem, he answered: ‘No one owns the whole thing anymore. No one can afford to own it anymore. So the key thing is how do you take part in the network.’ His numbers might be way off, but at least he is trying to rethink the news.”

I don’t want to throw any cold water on experimentation, especially with my own idea incubating. And especially with projects that are working and successful here and here. While I’ve been critical of Jarvis on occasion, I appreciate that he’s brainstorming a topic few are bothering to undertake. And God love him for doing all this while battling prostate cancer.

But I think Schonfeld’s assessment, and a skeptical take in the recent issue of Fast Company, are raising some sobering, and necessary topics for those of us testing the hyperlocal waters. So is Jim Barnett’s analysis from a non-profit point of view: It’s still gonna require advertising.

As I typed that last sentence, a message popped in my inbox from a fellow member of a hyperlocal news message board and whose site is in the black by selling local advertising:

“You are all right . . . it has to have a voice, an editor, a journalistic sensibility in order to have any integrity . . .”

Regardless of the long odds and the difficult challenge, the lure of the hyperlocal approach remains strong.

Readings: Garrulous Luddites, hyperlocal hyperventilating, going viral and the joys of vinyl

Arts journalist Bill Wyman’s tough-minded series on Splice Today this week about “Why Newspapers Are Failing” leads off a weekend long-form reading list on topics related to journalism, the media and the Web.

In his first installment, Wyman takes his own profession to task for being too sentimental and naïve about the newspaper industry while ignoring the habits, assumptions and practices that have led to its steep decline:

“If the media doesn’t understand the issues that have actually put it into the precarious position it’s in, how can it survive?”

In the series finale Wyman — who for a while worked at my former newspaper as well as Salon and NPR — says newspaper journalists need to ditch their institutional timidity as well as the “garrulous Ludditism” that too many still hold dear:

“The attitude ate journalism away from the inside in two ways: It put journalists physically and psychologically out of touch with society and hampered its coverage; and it devolved into a head-in-the-sand response to the challenges facing the industry. . . . The truth is, newsroom staffs are permeated with fear of change and a discomfort with new technology.”

Wyman eviscerates newspaper Web sites, which he says serve their companies at the expense of readers, and offers up some suggestions for improvement that I really wonder will ever be followed:

“Serve the community. Don’t publish crap. Tell folks stuff they might not want to hear. Grow a pair.”

• Wyman isn’t the first to suggest that news organizations go “hyperlocal” as they reinvent themselves. Online journalism gurus have long been hailing this approach as a surefire way to replace what’s draining out of daily newspapers. But Fast Company’s Michael Gluckstadt casts a gimlet eye, because of previously failed advertising models as well as the constant evangelizing:

“The future of hyperlocal — according to the people who have studied, lived, and championed it — seems to be in convincing others that hyperlocal is the future.”

• But hyperlocal creators are carrying on in a myriad of ways, and in some cases are spreading their wings. The brand new San Diego News Network appreciates its citizen bloggers providing gratis contributions. But it’s wagering its success on paid professional journalists to provide substantive community reporting:

“Blogging is interesting, but it’s like whipped cream on apple pie. If you only had whipped cream, you’d get clogged arteries and drop dead.”

• Bill Wasik, author of a forthcoming book about “viral culture,” is at once excited about the frantic nature of Web opportunities for young creatives and wary of the fleeting drawbacks that can accompany them:

“Online, the audience can be yours right away, direct and unmediated — if you can figure out how to find it and, what’s harder, to keep it. . . . ‘Microcelebrity’ is now the rule, with respect not only to the size of one’s fan base but also to the duration of its love. Believe it or not, the Internet is a tougher town than New York; fewer people make it here, but no one there seems to make it for long.”

• Nick Carr has been discussing Wasik’s book, and particularly in the context of these music-on-demand times:

“The problem with the Web, as I see it, is that it imposes, with its imperialistic iron fist, the ‘ecstatic surfing’ behavior on everything and to the exclusion of other modes of experience (not just for how we listen to music, but for how we interact with all media once they’ve been digitized). . . .

“It’s the deep, attentive engagement that the Web is draining away, as we fill our iTunes library with tens of thousands of ‘tracks’ at little or no cost. What the Web tells us, over and over again, is that breadth destroys depth. Just hit Shuffle.”

• Alex Ross, the classical music critic of The New York Times, like Carr, is no Luddite. But he felt the same way after scarfing up some of the best digital offerings he could find on the Web:

“But these meandering journeys across the Internet soundscape can be taxing. The medium too easily generates anxiety in place of fulfillment, an addictive cycle of craving and malaise. No sooner has one experience begun than the thought of what else is out there intrudes. Putting on an old-fashioned disk and letting it play to the end restores a measure of sanity. This may explain why the archaic LP is enjoying an odd surge of popularity among younger listeners: it’s a modest rebellion against the tyranny of instant access.”

Meanderings along journalism’s yellow line

More links on the blurring lines and familiar talking (arguing?) points between old media and new media, and why I feel like an armadillo on a lonesome Texas highway:

• Garrison Keillor is sort-of crochety about the impact of the Web on writers and creativity, revealing a mixed set of emotions despite a very gloomy headline in his latest column on Salon:

“The Internet is a powerful tide that is washing away some enormous castles and releasing a lovely sense of independence and playfulness in the American people. Millions of people have discovered the joys of seeing yourself in print — your own words! the unique essence of yourself, your stories, your jokes, your own peculiar take on the world — out there where anybody can see it! Wowser. . . .

“Unfortunately, nobody is earning a dime from this. So much work, so little pay. It’s tragic.”

• Gina Chen offers up some appetizing “artisanal” ideas about remaking the news, and they’re making me very, very hungry:

“The news organization no longer strives to make every story as relevant as possible to everybody. Instead, it aims to make individual stories highly relevant to small groups of readers who collectively add up to lots of people. (Think Camembert for me; classic goat cheese for you.) Beats are constructed to tap into existing communities that appreciate the particular ‘cheese’ or ‘bread’ you are offering.

The main luncheon item on my news “café” would be grilled Mahon and jamón sandwiches with an olive tapenade and homemade vine ripe tomato soup, but I haven’t sorted out the rest of my menu. I am famished right now!

If newspapers hadn’t been gutting their staffs, they might have enough kitchen hands available to customize the varying tastes of their readers.

• Is there a “right” way to do news on the Web? Some leading online journalism innovators believe so, but at Politics Daily, some old-school ideas still apply:

“The three-month-old venture has become a reemployment program for middle-aged journalists who lack the flash and dash of young bloggers — and that is by design. Melinda Henneberger, the former Newsweek and New York Times reporter who runs the site, says her goal is ‘to preserve the values of the mainstream media.’ And in doing so, she is flouting several conventions about what works on the Web.”

I can understand the need not to feel like chasing every news tidbit, breathlessly. In fact, I find that rather refreshing. But my own experience has me doubting that there’s much of an audience willing to read a steady diet of 5,000-word stories.

• Photojournalists around the world are finding their avocation in free fall, and not just because of the decline of newspapers. News photo agencies are undergoing the same convulsions as other media institutions:

“I find the present situation depressing, but I’m crazy enough to be hopeful. There have never been more images out there, and we need more help in sorting out all the information.”

• An unsigned editorial in The Digital Journalist, founded and staffed by photojournalists, comes out strongly in favor of pay walls for the news:

“This is now not an academic argument. The [New York] Times has already mortgaged its new building to help make its payroll each week. Those reporters and editors need to be paid. Otherwise, the news that we take for granted will simply stop.”

One could argue that the Times could have better spent its money than on a shiny, pricey new building with the newspaper business in trouble even before the recession. Yes, those journalists need to get paid, but a pay wall isn’t going to come close to making up for what’s being lost as the Times and other newspapers continue to bleed money and talented journalists.

(link via Kevin Sablan)

• In a snarky diatribe from one blowhard to another, Mark Cuban gets some blowback from Michael Wolff for being critical of Newser’s aggregating practices, among other crimes against new media:

“News has never been paid for. Practically speaking, it’s always been free. It may be that no one has ever in the history of time charged for anything other than the cost of production and delivery of news and usually not even that. The deal has been penny newspapers and free broadcast. News, Mark, has, is, and shall remain, an ad-sponsored form of media.”

Whom do you root for in this one? I’ve love to lock these guys in a padded room and see what transpires.

New ramblings on entrepreneurial journalists

What I’ve found most daunting as I tackle the basics of building my own news site is the business side of the project, in general terms. And how to go about attracting advertisers, specifically. I know I am not alone.

Mark Potts, aka the Recovering Journalist, has developed a new ad business model for entrepreneurial journalists who are running local news sites. It’s called GrowthSpur, and among the advisors are Web media luminaries such as Jeff Jarvis. And it’s up and running:

“Our revenue model is a service fee on the advertising revenue we help you with. In other words, we make money if you make money.”

“How much money? We believe, based on our research and experience, that a well-run, sophisticated local site can bring in more than $100,000 a year in revenue from advertising, e-commerce and other sources. GrowthSpur exists to help local entrepreneurs achieve that level of success—and more.”

I think it’s going to be efforts like these geared toward solo journos, and those working in small news startups, that have the potential to pull us together in new ways. The feeling of being cast out alone, as traditional news institutions are dying or transforming, is one of the most difficult to grapple with in this new environment.

So I’m glad to see this new venture coming along. And I’ve gotten good ideas and resources from the RJI News Collaboratory, which is dedicated to helping independent journalists develop niche news sites. Bit by bit, venture by venture, new clusters of like-minded individuals are being created and I hope will flourish to help achieve some sense of community. Solidarity, even?

• Some former Los Angeles Times staffers have organized themselves into a sizable freelancing outfit. The Journalism Shop includes quite an array of reporters and editors who in addition to traditional news stories are making consulting, public relations, project management and research services available. I think this is a very smart strategy that reflects the versatile skill set and range of experiences that traditional journalists have cultivated and demonstrated. Even if some question their value.

• Check out this roster of well-known bylines that have decamped from newspapers and into the growing universe of AOL Newsroom. Most of these journalists are freelancers, and not all of them are big names. It’s another example that the value of this work is still highly prized. There’s so much institutional knowledge to be tapped into and needed for the journalism that new media sages say the public wants, but think increasingly can be done without journalists who regard their work as more than a hobby.

• But I’m not sure I can buy Michael Arrington’s claim that the 50 best reporters from The New York Times, should they pull off the unlikely stunt of leaving the Old Gray Lady all at once, could round up $100 million in hedge fund capital and start blogging on a diaspora-type site. Arrington cites the Politico as an example of mainstream reporters creating a dynamic, groundbreaking news site, but it is one that serves a very lucrative niche. (I doubt the recently maligned Alessandra Stanley would be among Arrington’s Dream 50; and now she’s getting an overheaping dish of revenge, served ice cold, from Katie Couric!)

• In Portland, Ore. a digital journalism camp took place last weekend that had University of Oregon journalism dean Tim Gleason excited, and for good reason. But his well-worn paean to the upcoming new “Golden Age of Journalism” is typical empty tripe that too often comes from visionaries who don’t seriously ponder how this will come about:

“In the midst of all this exciting innovation, there’s one certainty: The future of journalism, whatever it looks like, is bright — we just have to figure out how to pay for it.”

Piece of cake!

I wish cheerleaders like this would offer some tangible possibilities, rather than mindlessly shake pom-poms while displaced mid-career journalists try to stay alive in the profession. The bright future of journalism he predicts won’t be possible without the contributions of seasoned reporters, editors and photographers during this dramatic transition away from print.

Viable funding sources and business models have not yet been fully developed, and it may take years, even decades, before online journalism is on sounder financial ground. I’m bullish on what might transpire, but there’s too much at stake right now to get misty-eyed about what may be on the horizon. We’re not there yet. Not even close.

So Dean, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, shall we?

Newsroom mystiques and blogger critiques

• John Temple, the last editor of the Rocky Mountain News, leads off Monday’s media links parade by expressing the range of emotions of those who’ve left newsrooms in his Confessions of an Organization Man. I know the feeling well, and all I can say is this wild swing becomes a permanent part of a displaced journalist’s mindset: 

“I call myself a ‘free agent.’ And to be sure, I like the sound of it. Free. Agent. The kind of person I had always wanted to be. Self-reliant. Self-directed. And I’m intrigued by what may come.

“Yet there is a sense of loss, and not only for my own situation. I wonder what will happen if we end up in a media universe of free agents. I see more clearly what the journalists who come behind me might miss. Many won’t be able to experience the benefits of being part of an organization with a mission much larger than their own, with a history and traditions.”

For anyone else trying to get a handle the exciting but formidable challenges ahead, I highly recommend Daniel Pink’s book “Free Agent Nation.” It’s designed for freelance and self-employed professionals in all fields, and I’ve found great advice and encouragement in what Pink has to say.

The power of the newsroom: Howard Weaver, until recently a longtime news exectuive with McClatchy Newspapers, is good at spotting the common ground that’s possible for remaking journalism. Between the curmudgeons and the utopians, he finds plenty of room, in fact:

“Many of the people predicting the imminent death of printed news or counseling companies to shutter newspapers and spend all their money on the web are drinking their own bathwater. They have a vision – many times a clear and compelling vision – of what the shift to a digital, networked world will look like, but they’re in danger of leaping to conclusions that aren’t there.”

The decline of the newsroom: In a Q and A with Reason’s Hit & Run blog, “Say Everything” author Scott Rosenberg contends that not only is the well-staffed, well-resourced newsroom a thing of the past, but its supposed heft has been something of a myth all along:

“I don’t fully buy the newsroom argument that ‘We have resources that bloggers don’t.’ That’s an accident of history and an accident of the media business model. The truth is, sadly—and I say this as someone who worked for years at a newspaper—that most people who know a subject really well, when they read an account of their field in a newspaper, are if not appalled at least disappointed. There’s always something wrong. With occasional exceptions of journalists who just happen to be really great.”

Who are the “real” reporters?” Over at Mashable, Scott Schroeder piles on with the reminder that the blogosphere is not a monolith:

“The newspaper industry acts as if all the blogs were the same. A blog can be a lot of things, but if we look at those that bring news, then it is a cheap, flexible, scalable, news publication platform. In other words, every blog is exactly the same as New York Times, only more scalable and more flexible. There are blogs with one writer who writes about his/her cat once a week. There are blogs with a full staff who write 20 posts per day. Some blogs only do opinions. Some do rumors, some do original reporting, some do reviews, and some mix two, three, or four together.”

When errors fall through many cracks: The New York Times still employs layers of editors to look over copy, but somehow several sets of eyes missed the many mistakes Alessandra Stanley made in her Walter Cronkite obituary. Clark Hoyt, the paper’s ombudsman, has detailed a process that reveals a set of priorities with as many flaws as the article in question:

“The Cronkite episode suggests that a newsroom geared toward deadlines needs to find a much better way to deal with articles written with no certain publication date. Reporters and editors think they have the luxury of time to handle them later — and suddenly, it is too late.”

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik made the transition from the print to electronic world, and now with his employer’s growing emphasis on the Web is truly a multi-platform operator. He’s also got a healthy, well-rounded perspective on what’s necessary for journalists to take forward:

“Despite the snark and dismissiveness of some of my online peers, some tremendous reporting occurred in the old models that are now cracking apart, and that reporting was read and seen by mass audiences. Yet I’m also very intrigued because of the ways advances in technology have reduced the barriers to entry into the field — every person can be his or her own network — and are altering the way people help shape the news they consume.”