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January 08, 2009

OJR: Newsrooms must get active to survive the economic meltdown

Newsrooms must get active to survive the economic meltdown.

It wouldn't be difficult to produce a Canadian edition of the Online Journalism Review's list of "stories that the news industry, from newspapers to cable and network news, blew over the past 10 years."

Our blogs serve as citizen responses (and sometimes citizen indictments) of the MSM stories that weren't written -- but that should have been. We trusted the media to hold the powers that be accountable and to fact-check every statement made by every party pundit spewing mistruths on the campaign trail; but they weren't able to deliver the goods the way they once could. (Of course, there were some noteworthy exceptions. They have become our modern-day village criers because we know we can count on them to tell us the news we need right away.)

In the OJR, Robert Niles stresses that the media's inability to deliver what their readers were counting on them to deliver * may have helped to trigger the media death spiral that everyone is blogging and twittering about these days -- and that public trust will have to be regained through actions (good-old fashioned reporting plus a severing of the uncritical reporting on the political and corporate elite) if the MSM hope to halt the spiral.

"Allow me to suggest that the U.S. news industry's collective failure to accurately portray the world over the past decade has done as much, if not more, to drive readers to the Internet than any inherent attractiveness of this new medium. If existing news businesses wish to have any hope of surviving the current downturn, in any medium, they cannot continue to perform as they have over the past decade."

Newspapers are being urged to consider other revenue models -- the most intriguing of which is a reliance on endowment funding. I think this represents a fabulous opportunity for newspapers. The newspaper could become a community asset and community voice -- and less dependent on advertiser revenue which, despite all those lofty conversations about the separation between editorial and advertising, haven't prevented advertorial content from becoming a well-established part of the monthly or weekly publishing cycles of most dailies. And if the new model of endowment-based funding reduced the amount of advertising, the paper could be just as content rich and yet a much greener product. It might have fewer pages or it might be an electronic publication -- the anchor of a true community hub (not a marketing-driven conception of what a community hub should be, but rather a citizen-driven conception of that hub).

Transitions may not be easy, but they allow for powerful opportunities, if you're ready to see the endless possibilities and come up with a solution that will meet the unique needs of your community. A made-in-your-town made-for-your-town media solution.


* The Toronto Star is the only newspaper in Canada to employ a public editor (ombudsman). The public editor's role is to respond to reader complaints and concerns -- something that makes for a stronger paper. The Star was the first paper in North America to create such a position.


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I saw this one too, and loved it. I'm glad someone is pointing out that you can't expect a devoted public following of journalists writing out the same press releases they can get off the white house website for themselves.

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