Creating a sustainable future for journalism will demand an entirely new approach to building community around the news.
Two stories from the past week drive that point home.
First the Good News
Mathew Ingram at Gigaom has a great profile of the Dutch crowd-funded journalism site De Correspondent, which brings in almost $2 million a year in subscriptions. Drawing on a piece in Fast Company, Ingram highlights how De Correspondent builds community:
- It considers reader comments as contributions and values them as part of an ongoing dialogue.
- It holds editorial meetings in the community, reaching out to different demographics and stakeholders.
- It encourages people to subscribe to individual authors, and creates opportunities for journalists and communities to debate and discuss the news, building personal relationships beyond the brand.
“One of the key principles behind De Correspondent,” Ingram writes, “is that the news outlet and its community of readers are two parts of one thing, not just a seller on one side and a consumer on the other.”
Now the Bad News
The nonprofit journalism world includes a few big newsrooms funded by a few wealthy individuals. This model works when a major donor gives a new journalism organization the stability and safety to experiment and develop new revenue streams. But it can also go wrong: The Global Mail, one of Australia’s great nonprofit experiments, may be closing its doors because its primary funder is bowing out.
It was only two years ago that Internet entrepreneur Graeme Wood pledged five years of support, totaling over $10 million, but his priorities shifted and he decided to support a different publication. And while the Global Mail has a dedicated readership, it hasn’t been able to cultivate the community investment it needs to diversify its funding. Continue reading
The same year that I published my first book of poetry, I learned to build trails. While building a bridge out of red maple and black ash, I thought about building a story. Moving stones to build a staircase, is not so different from moving words to construct an essay. The first time I sharpened my own ax I thought about sharpening pencils. At night, the lake where I was living looked like ink.
As I began my year of service with the Student Conservation Association, my goal was to strike a balance between my commitments to writing, community, and the environment. Sitting around the big table in our communal dining room the twenty people I would be spending the next year with introduced themselves.
Name. Hometown. Major. One other fact about yourself.
One after the other these recent college graduates described themselves in disciplines: Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology, Natural Resource Management, Environmental Law, Landscape Architecture, Chemistry, Forestry… and then there was me.
Everyone was surprised to find an English major in their midst. Continue reading
After the initial euphoria of Barack Obama’s big win began to die down, after all the polls were discussed and the results were analyzed, the pundits all seemed to speak with one unified voice for a moment. Their message was simply “Now the hard work of governing begins,” as if equating the last 20 months of campaigning to nothing more than a beauty contest that had nothing to do with the work of governing. Perhaps this was the media’s response because the media had spent so much time covering the election as if it were a beauty pageant, not a vital national dialogue.
Regardless, as the media spotlight shifted away from horse-race politics and campaign gossip and began exploring what an Obama administration means for the future of America, a new narrative emerged. In the two weeks since the election the media – both mainstream and bloggers – have been captivated by Obama’s every move. News photographers follow him like paparazzi as he drops his daughters off at school, correspondents trace politicians’ flights in and out of Chicago and speculate on their possible roles in his administration, pundits analyze his every word and choice as if by tracking every move he makes we will begin to understand what our future looks like. Continue reading