Earlier this week, Monday to be precise, I went to a panel discussion on the state of the SF Chronicle during the “transition” it finds itself in. “Transition” is such a nice word. The panelists included:
Historian Gray Brechin
Investigative Reporter Lowell Bergman
Multimedia journalist Kevin Weston
Public radio producer Holly Kernan
San Francisco civic leader Clint Reilly
Introduced by Dean Neil Henry,
Moderated by Senior Lecturer Susan Rasky
I am not going to pretend that I am a subject matter expert, at least from the producer end of things. I do consume news, lots of it so I am pretty knowledgeable in terms of what I want to read and how I want to read it. And yes, I am willing to pay for it.
As far as the panel was concerned, they were a pretty sympathetic bunch, and some even grok’ed the fact that what needs to be saved is journalism, and not necessarily the delivery mechanism. I personally believe that the demise of newsprint was a long time in the making if for no other reason than that most print media relies on advertising to subsidize their operations and subscriptions help to close the remaining revenue gap.
If that is the case, then it was only a matter of time before some other medium came along (seems this medium was the internet, or at least that is the spin, though the actual dollars taken from print media by the internet needs to actually be tallied, and I am sure someone has that information) and put a hurt on the advertising revenue news print took in.
I am sure I am naive with this observation but wouldn’t it have made sense to have a purely subscription driven business model (though that might not have allowed some pubs to even push a first edition)
The panel itself was pretty sympathetic to the Chronicle’s plight although I had to agree with Kevin Weston when he indicated that maybe the Chronicle was not serving the needs of the right communities.
Clint Reilly has put a lot of effort into saving the news print version of the Chronicle bless his soul but I suspect that in the long run this effort may be in vain
What concerns me is that no one had any idea of a model (profit or non-profit) which would seem to work. I guess I am wondering as to whether or not people are willing to pay for news. I know I am, but maybe something is wrong with me. How big is the online news market ?
Who, if anyone is paying for news ?
Where does one go if one wants to pay ?
During the panel discussion, there was a fair amount of talk on seeing to it that journalism covering local news was important. My first response was to disagree as I tend to be focused on international stuff but in thinking more about what actually potentially affects my pocket book, it would be local issues. So then the question is how does that get financed, and then for me, how does international reporting get financed. It was suggested that maybe the future lies insmaller news/journalist coops/consortiums but that did get a lot of discussion. The NPR reporter suggested the best, albeit impossible model, A magically funded 700 person news room. We all chuckled at how nice that would be, but hey, I believe in Santa Claus too.
Newsprint kept coming up over and over again, I just didn’t get it, seems to me that newsprint is an anachronism at this point, though I can’t suggest a more robust replacement for it….
I am worried, we don’t know what we will lose if local, national, and international are weakened further beyond their current levels. Can you imagine what the coverage of the financial crisis would have been like if the fourth estate had degenerated further than it already has….
Pay for content, its the only way to go…, but pay the actual producers and not their middlemen