Good on Richard Perez-Pena for reporting on new sites doing strong local reporting and investigations — and good on The New York Times for playing it on page one: “As America’s newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover.”
OK, so there was one reflexive snipe at the internet: “Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.” Yeah, yeah, yeah.
What Perez-Pena’s story makes clear is that there are new models for creating reporting, that there is a demand for that reporting, and that there are journalists who will do it.
The business angle bears further investigation — and we’ll do that at the CUNY New Business Models for News Project (finishing a MacArthur Grant and starting on a new McCormick Foundation grant).
Perez-Pena says that “publishing online means operating at half the cost of a comparable printed paper, but online advertising is not robust enough to sustain a newsroom.” Actually, the cost is way less than half; I refer you to Edward Roussel’s chart from the New Business Models for News summit.
Revenue is also way less than half — and much or all of that is coming from contributions in the sites Perez-Pena profiles — but it’s also important to measure how much is spent on such reporting from big organizations today — how much are we trying to replace (or increase!) — and how this fits into a bigger ecosystem of local news, the new press-sphere.
News will not come from one organization anymore. It will come from a collection of organizations, networks, individuals, companies, technologies, and collaborative projects each operating under different business models. What Perez-Pena profiles is a slice of the new news pie. It will take other slices from other players to add up to a whole.
Still, the recognition by the Gray Lady of these new girls in town is an important moment in the evolution of news.