In the world of politics and media, we are falling over ourselves decrying the Internet’s destruction of newspapers (and most everything else). Nobody really knows how to save newspapers and nobody really knows the future of journalism. There are those who think newspapers – in their physical form – can be saved via paywalls, better, different journalism or Hope. Others say paper is done and it’s just a matter of time.
I fall for the most part into the second group.
But two major developments emerged this year that begin to show the way forward to a new and I think better journalism. While it may not be my Dad’s NY Times and Wall Street Journal while watching the evening network news (also dying), the emerging roadmap offers us media junkies something to cheer for.
First, eBay founder Peirre Omidar announces he is founding a journalism site with crusading reporter/activist Glen Greenwald. Initial reported investment? $250 million.
Second, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry writes a magnum opus in the Boston Globe, explaining his reason for buying the storied newspaper at a fire sale price from the New York Times. Henry says it’s about community – that any healthy community needs a good newspaper doing quality journalism every day.
Add to that the $250 million Amazon founder Jeff Bezos spent on the Washington Post (also a fire sale) and we have a trend.
Wealthy, innovative business people looking to be part of communities. And they are willing to put their money and reputations on the line. Their roadmap? Basically, invest lots of money in talent to do great journalism. Do that and the subscribers and ad revenue will follow. It is clear that Omidar, Henry and Bezos are not hung up on the whether the actual newsPAPER survives. They are about quality journalism.
Omidar, Henry and Bezos are not too different from the media titans of the past – Sulzburger, Chandler et al. Do they have warts? Sure. But these guys are mapping the future survival of great journalism. They are seeing it happen at Pro Publica on a national scale. And they are seeing it locally. Check out VtDigger.org for a great example. (My regular pitch for the great Anne Galloway and her courageous new journalism).