Brother, can you spare a scoop?
: Updating this post as the day goes on, below.
: I’m at an Annenberg event in Philadelphia bringing together mostly journalism academics and others to talk about the role of the press in a democracy. I’ll blog it occasionally.
Tonight, Chuck Lewis, who founded the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit source for investigative journalism, argued in favor of a nonprofit model for reporting, saying that an organization such as the CPI can dog stories and spend money news companies often can’t.
I do believe that nonprofit reporting will have a growing role. NPR is invoked by many, with contributions and foundations supporting quality and growing journalism (though it’s interesting to me that many newspapers have larger staffs covering one town than NPR has covering the nation and the world, according to the numbers I heard tonight)
The questions after his talk raised interesting issues. A few (I among them) cautioned that foundations, too, have agendas and when they pay for reporting that’s just another means of using money to control journalism.
Others pushed for hybrid models. One academic suggested the need for an Associated Press of investigative journalism and I like that: such an AP doesn’t handle commodity news but real reporting… if news organizations can give up their addictions to scoops. Someone who has run a nonprofit journalistic organization for years said that when alternative newspapers goosed the news business a few decades ago, none of them thought for a second of running their businesses on contributions; they supported themselves the old-fashioned way — with profits — and ethnic journalism is doing the same thing today. I also, predictably, raised the prospect of individually supported reporting: witness Hoder going to Iran, Josh Marshall going to New Hampshire.
: After the wine and before the food, the room introduced itself and there were some interesting moments in that: One academic said, “get rid of objectivity”(I stopped myself from applauding). Another academic argued for the British model of journalism. One TV producer said, “the economic models are hopeless broken.” An alternative journalism vet says there should be profit caps on media companies (I stopped myself from hooting). A dean said we need to stop serving “the porridge of journalism, forcing it down people’s throats.” A newspaperman said we must “stop thinking of our readers as stupid because they don’t want us… We must abandon our core products.” These were the soundbites I want to hear more about.
: LATER: Jim Naughton, former head of Poynter and a nostalgic former editor on the Philadelphia Inquirer, just pushed a proposition that newspapers should advertise the value of journalism to the public: Wearing a Darth mask, he said, “We must go to the dark side, we must market.”
Arrrrgh. Merrill Brown said what needed to be said (and what I wanted to say) — that that is moving the deck chairs, that this is a dying industry that should be spending money on changing the product and then we should advertise that.
: I’m surprised — but shouldn’t be — at how much I hear in this crowd of academics and editors disdain for corporations and profits.
I, on the other hand, believe that the marketplace is journalism’s best hope.
: Case in point: Claude-Jean Bertrand, professor emeritus from the University of Paris, says: “A free market is indispensible but it cannot create good media as is evidenced right now in this country.”
Arrrgh II. This displays an essential mistrust of the public the press tries to serve. What are we all but the marketplace?
He puts forward a list of more than 80 “media accountability systems.”
I’d counter that with three notions that cover it as far as I’m concerned: conscience, good sense, and transparency.
: They talk about news councils and such. I blurt out that we have a million press critics and they are our readers and former readers. We have to read them.
: Dave Winer would have a screaming fit at an event such as this: One person takes the mike for 40 minutes; one person responds; a few people get to raise their hands in what passes for discussion. In this kind of crowd, the Bloggercon nonconference model would work best: capture the wisdom of the crowd via discussion and a meritocracy of ideas. Rather than have people present papers and propositions, it would be better to present, read, and react to them beforehand online so we can arrive for the center of the discussion rather than the prelude.
And, yes, I wish Winer were here. What these journalism confabs always miss on the invitation list is the public they should be serving and hearing.