Archive - Nov 20, 2008

The Future of the Newspaper, Part 2

My blog post yesterday about The Future of the Newspaper has received a bunch of comments on blogs in several locations and I felt that it was important to follow up on them.

First, I want to make this clear that this is not intended as a criticism of Steve Collins. Before reading Rick Green’s interview with Steve, I didn’t know who he was. I suspect that while Steve and I may disagree with some of the particulars about what the effect that the closing of the Bristol Press might have, I suspect that we also agree on many aspects about the importance of journalism and what can be done to improve journalism. I especially applaud his work with The Tattoo and encourage people to check out his blog, bristolnews.blogspot.com.

One of the key differences that Steve and I have is about how quickly the vacuum will be filled should the Bristol Press cease operations. Bill Densmore, the director of the New England News Forum (NENF) posed the question about how NENF could “rally j-schools around New England to incubate local online news communities in Bristol and New Britain”.

With Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain beginning to offer a major in journalism, there is the potential for a great center right in New Britain.

Meanwhile, David Cohn of Spot Us, has been talking about alternative ways of funding journalism projects. Spot.Us is centered in San Francisco and is an opportunity for direct funding of investigative reporting by the public. They have just completed funding The Return of the Hooverville: Car and Tent Cities on the Rise in San Francisco.

Spot.us is open source, which means that anyone can download it, modify it and run their own version. Geeks can check out the code here. David does not that the code needs further refinement before it is launched in other cities, which he is hoping to be able to do sometime in 2009. Could Spot.Us be used to fund an online replacement to the Bristol Press? Perhaps. Instead of focusing on investigative reports, it could perhaps also be used to fund a beat or other aspects of running a newspaper. Spot.Us might work well in collaboration with a project like the Online Journalism Project which Paul Bass runs.

Yet much of this is focused on how content can be created and the creators can be paid. Another issue is distribution. Steve notes that many of the Bristol Press’ readers are older and may not be online, or if they are online, may be limited in what they can do online. The Pew has found that only about 34% of people 65 or older are online, so Steve’s concern here is important.

However, I suspect that many of the older newspaper readers do have cable television and getting people to produce a public access show reading from an online news source might address a large portion of this issue. Today, in a completely unrelated discussion, I received an email from another person wanting to set up a public access television show in Fairfield County. Beyond that, I view some of this as a digital divide issue. If demise potential demise of a local newspaper could encourage people to address the digital divide, that would be another silver lining to the dark cloud.

Related to all of this are the efforts of the Journal Inquirer to better connect with other media sources online. As a result of this, I now have links to recent stories from the Journal Inquirer on my Connecticut and Politics pages. The two most recent article in my political section show on the Journal Inquirer pages. With that, I’ve been following articles in the Journal Inquirer more closely and found the story about Rell wanting her critics’ e-mails. It is a fascinating story that I would love to see get some legs and some discussion. Perhaps when I get a moment, I’ll write more about this.

Will the Bristol Press get shut down? Will online news rush to fill in the gap? Will people find ways of taking online news beyond the Internet to those that are offline? It’s hard to tell. Yet the way I see it, there are a lot of interesting possibilities and I look forward to seeing how they develop.

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