New news

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.

  • Jeff: I was wondering about the “Revenue is also way less than half” part.

    If we lost local newspapers and their ability to take adverts and perhaps also local commercial radio (in the UK) and say local (UK regional commercial) TV too, would this not allow the value of those adverts targeted to local markets online to rise to the point where they can sustain a local news operation online?

    This must be the assumption, otherwise local news would either have to become an unpaid or casual profession (sic) or “byte the dust”, so to speak.

  • Walter Abbott

    Here’s a keeper for you, Jeff.

    Lunch Panel Debates War Coverage, Blogs and Fairness
    By Joe Strupp
    Published: November 18, 2008 4:50 PM ET

    “Finally, when discussion turned to the dangers of growing opinion online and on cable television…”

  • MikeS

    “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.”

    Snipe, maybe, but it happens to be so, Or, at least, in my experience.

  • MikeS

    Jeff, I have some simple questions for you and I apologize if it’s been covered somewhere else on this blog: Do you think Advance Internet’s websites are well-designed? And, if you could, what would you do to improve them?

    I ask because I don’t find them particularly easy or fun to use and it’s a little difficult navigating them.


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  • I’d say half the expense is a huge overestimate. We’re kicking the hell out of the Trib and the Sun-Times on local coverage, and we’ll spend about $500,000 this year to do it.

    In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be this easy, or cheap. But newspapers have sunk low enough that it doesn’t take much in the way of resources to improve on their work.

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  • Kerry Kreiitnger

    I support anything that pushes the 500 pund gorillas out of the way. the story below won’t run anywhere nationally, which shows how great and caring Americans are! while lesser stories go on for days.

    One Million can food drive has new pledge of 10000 cans if the site gets more unique visits!

    The DJs have pledged their unique visitors bonus of 10K to the 1 Million can drive. When a video of a punk running his bicycle into a wall can get a million hits why can’t we promote something that is truly for a good cause? This is the kind of change and optimism we need in America now!

    I don’t think they had any idea of just how many cans that would be or the effort that it takes to round them up and deliver the cans. Hundreds of schools and businesses have kicked in and the goal is being close din on. A small push from national news could easily drive this over the edge.
    Kerry Kreitinger
    Mesa Arizona

  • spencer reiss

    calling George Orwell–as of Saturday morning US eastern time, the NYT is still managing not to use the word “Islamic” or “Muslim” in ANY of its Mumbai coverage. immaculate “miliitants,” who just happen to target Americans, Brits, Jews etc–ah yes, it must be about Kashmir!

    Actually call the suicide help line–this newspaper has a death wish

  • Spencer,
    Yes, I heard a CNN person trip over her tongue four times yesterday trying to remember the current cant: terrorists, militants, alleged terrorists…..