Journalistic Practice

Former P-I staffers hope to launch new journalism Web sites

Eric Pryne, Seattle Times

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's print death has spawned at least two local initiatives to launch new Web sites devoted to in-depth journalism, and to explore new ways to pay for it.

Laid-off P-I reporters and editors are involved in both efforts. One group has been talking with public broadcasters, the other with academics.

People involved in both initiatives say their plans are far from firm, and that finding a new business model to support serious journalism could take time.

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Senator proposes nonprofit status for newspapers

Associated Press

Struggling newspapers should be allowed to operate as nonprofits similar to public broadcasting stations, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., proposed Tuesday.

Cardin introduced a bill that would allow newspapers to choose tax-exempt status. They would no longer be able to make political endorsements, but could report on all issues including political campaigns.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to support coverage could be tax deductible.

Cardin said in a statement that the bill is aimed at preserving local newspapers, not large newspaper conglomerates.

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Imagining a National Endowment for Journalism

Ted Glasser interviewed by Josh Wilson, On Public Media/Independent Arts and Media

Go big or go home! On Public Media's John Wilson chats with Stanford communication professor Ted Glasser, who outlines a fifty-state strategy with his modest proposal for the creation of a National Endowment for Journalism. Glasser also weighs in on the FCC and its adequacy to the changing media moment, and the importance of developing journalism support structures that can serve basic civic needs, particularly in communities outside of the commercial news-publishing model's target audience.

"We're at the very early stages of talking about [this idea]... One good place to begin would be tapping into the billions of dollars the FCC brings in when it auctions off our airwaves... there's no reason why that couldn't be used to begin to create an endowment for journalism."

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The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers

John Nichols and Robert McChesney, The Nation

Communities across America are suffering through a crisis that could leave a dramatically diminished version of democracy in its wake. It is not the economic meltdown, although the crisis is related to the broader day of reckoning that appears to have arrived. The crisis of which we speak involves more than mere economics. Journalism is collapsing, and with it comes the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law as it has been understood here in the United States.

After years of neglecting signs of trouble, elite opinion-makers have begun in recent months to recognize that things have gone horribly awry. Journals ranging from Time, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The New Republic to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times concur on the diagnosis: newspapers, as we have known them, are disintegrating and are possibly on the verge of extinction. Time's Walter Isaacson describes the situation as having "reached meltdown proportions" and concludes, "It is now possible to contemplate a time in the near future when major towns will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters." A newspaper industry that still employs roughly 50,000 journalists--the vast majority of the remaining practitioners of the craft--is teetering on the brink.

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Native editor ends chapter at P-I

Annie Greenberg, RezNet

This story could start out: Newspapers are dying — Mark Trahant is losing his job. But Trahant wouldn't like that.

While Trahant, editorial page editor for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, will join thousands of other laid-off journalists after the paper's last print edition today, he remains optimistic about the state of the industry.

"I think the opportunities are going to be extraordinary," he said. "(Young journalists) aren't going to be doing the things I did, but they're not going to be any less important — they just have to get used to the changes and see where it goes."

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Last P-I printed; Seattle becomes a journalism lab

Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Patrick Sheldon has been a loyal reader of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer since 1965, when his dad started buying it because he preferred its sports coverage to that of rival Seattle Times.

Will he continue being a loyal reader, now that the P-I exists only as a Web site? Like many of the paper's customers, he says it depends on who writes and what they cover.

"If it's just bloggers, I probably won't," he said, sitting on a ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle.

After 146 years, the P-I's final edition rolled off the presses Tuesday, but a skeleton crew remained in the cavernous newsroom to take part in a journalistic experiment: whether a major newspaper can make money, and consistently produce good stories, as an Internet-only operation. It's the first major U.S. daily paper to switch from print to digital, a step that the P-I's parent company, Hearst Corp., took after it failed to find a buyer for the newspaper.


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Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable

Clay Shirky,

Back in 1993, the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain began investigating piracy of Dave Barry’s popular column, which was published by the Miami Herald and syndicated widely. In the course of tracking down the sources of unlicensed distribution, they found many things, including the copying of his column to on usenet; a 2000-person strong mailing list also reading pirated versions; and a teenager in the Midwest who was doing some of the copying himself, because he loved Barry’s work so much he wanted everybody to be able to read it.

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.” I think about that conversation a lot these days.

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Afghan student journalist facing 20 years in prison

Jerome Starkey, The Independent (UK)

Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country's highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence.

The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan's top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer. Instead, almost 18 months after he was arrested for allegedly circulating an article about women's rights, any hope of justice and due process evaporated amid gross irregularities, allegations of corruption and coercion at the Supreme Court. Justices issued their decision in secret, without letting Mr Kambaksh's lawyer submit so much as a word in his defence.

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Union accepts cuts in response to Hearst threat to shut down SF Chronicle

Associated Press

The San Francisco Chronicle and its largest union reached a tentative agreement on contract concessions that are part of the newspaper's efforts to dramatically cut costs to prevent a sale or closure.

The terms reached Monday with the California Media Workers Guild give the company expanded ability to lay off employees without regard to seniority, according to a statement on the guild's Web site.

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McClatchy cutting 1,600 additional jobs

Associated Press

McClatchy Co. is shearing an additional 1,600 jobs in a cost-cutting spree that has clipped nearly one-third of the newspaper publisher's work force in less than a year.

The latest reduction in payroll announced Monday follows through on the Sacramento, Calif.-based company's previously disclosed plans to lower its expenses by as much as $110 million over the next year as its revenue evaporates amid a devastating recession. The layoffs will start before April. Several of McClatchy's 30 daily newspapers, including The Sacramento Bee and The Kansas City (Mo.) Star, already have decided how many workers will be shown the door.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey