New Media

Consolidation won't save journalism

Craig Aaron and Joe Torres, The Guardian

Last week, House speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose hometown San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble, asked attorney general Eric Holder to consider loosening antitrust laws to help out struggling newspapers by allowing more media mergers. Holder responded by saying he is open to revisiting the rules.

Pelosi's request sounds innocuous at first – after all, struggling newspapers seem to need all the help they can get. But opening the door to more media consolidation is not the cure for the crisis in journalism. More of this bad medicine will only weaken reporting and worsen the health of our democracy.

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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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Newspapers make move to online only

Eric Pryne, Seattle Times

If the Seattle Post-Intelligencer stops publishing in print but stays alive in some form online — as now seems likely — it won't be the first daily newspaper to make the move. Over the past 15 months, two failing Midwest papers have taken similar leaps. On the last day of 2007, media giant E.W. Scripps shut down the shrinking Cincinnati Post and Kentucky Post, a zoned edition that served the city's Northern Kentucky suburbs. A day later it launched, with a veteran Post editor as managing editor.

In Madison, Wis., the struggling afternoon Capital Times halted daily print publication last April and unveiled a beefed-up Web news operation. It also started two new weekly tabloid print publications.

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P-I employees try to raise funds for online site

Greg Lamm, Puget Sound Business Journal

A group of Seattle Post-Intelligencer employees is seeking to raise $250,000 to start up an online local news site if Hearst Corp. decides to shut down the daily newspaper and not pursue an online-only site of its own.

The employees are setting up a nonprofit entity called the Seattle PostGlobe. About 20 P-I staffers say they are prepared to work without pay until they can raise funds.

New York-based Hearst is seeking a buyer for the P-I. If no buyer emerges, Hearst said it will cease the print edition of the P-I. A tentative shutdown date could be March 18. Hearst is mulling over the idea of operating the P-I as an online-only venture.

The P-I employees plan to seek funds from major donors, foundations and from advertisers.

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Newspapers' decline sparks fresh interest in nonprofit models

John Christoffersen, Associated Press

As sharp revenue reductions put the future of many U.S. newspapers in doubt, one idea gaining attention is the conversion of newspapers into tax-exempt nonprofits supported by large endowments.

Although viewed by many as a long shot at best, such a radical change could be a savior for the industry and its vital role in a democracy.

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Newspapers: from no profit to nonprofit?

Associated Press

As sharp revenue reductions put the future of many U.S. newspapers in doubt, one idea gaining attention is the conversion of newspapers into tax-exempt nonprofits supported by large endowments.

Although viewed by many as a long shot at best, such a radical change could be a savior for the industry and its vital role in a democracy.

That's why the endowment model is drawing renewed attention as newspapers impose massive layoffs, scale back home delivery and make other drastic cuts to counter plunging advertising revenue amid a recession that has compounded struggles from the migration of readers to the Internet.

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Markets have killed the daily newspaper. Let's get creative about the future of journalism

Steven A. Smith, Still a Newspaperman

There has been considerable energy spent on industry blogs in recent weeks debating questions that were, in my view, resolved a long time ago. That it is taking some so long to speak honestly to our problems is either testament to our industry’s notorious, self-focused blindness or confirmation that too many industry leaders were constrained from speaking their minds — speaking their truth — because of their jobs, their bosses, their bonuses or simple reticence to step out in front.

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Re. the P-I's online plan

Eli Sanders, Slog/The Stranger

While I work on a longer print story about plans for a new, online-only P-I, a few more thoughts about what I've heard and what I'm now seeing.

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