Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rewriting Media's Business Model

A Jeff Jarvis profile on NPR raised some questions I've been deeply concerned about for years:

Jarvis argues that people need to prepare themselves for the collapse of big regional newspapers, which he says have failed to adapt to the Internet age. In their place, he proposes alliances of small news Web sites — each intensely focused on local news. He says they can provide useful coverage and still be profitable at a much smaller combined cost than the big older newsrooms. But in making his pitch recently at an Aspen Institute conference, Jarvis faced some tough questioning.
And those ARE questions that should definitely be asked. I find myself significantly concerned in my outreach work with Southeast Asian refugee populations and other issues that contemporary media is insufficient to get news and information out. Almost none of my colleagues watch local news or read the local papers, or even the ethnic community papers.

And big media collapses, it's not going to be deeply mourned by many, considering it already gave up its relevancy to so many already. It has largely ignored large segments of the population, and there's a price for that. But what's the healthiest way to rebuild avenues of communication with our community? I'm hardly going to argue for twitter or other major social networking as a sustainable media ecosystem.

In Minneapolis, I think blogs like The Adventures of Johnny Northside and the Twin Cities Daily Planet are indicators of where things might head, but to be fair, they also have their disadvantages. I love Arts and Letters Daily, but in the big picture, how do the voices of historically under-represented communities get news and opinions out? And in? And how do we train a new generation of writers to write for our community professionally, ethically and profitably?

Because if we don't want to find ourselves completely mired in a cowboy-media era of half-assed insinuations, innuendo and rumor-mongering, we've got to make it worth our while to generate community writers who will take the time to develop quality stories, do the right research and present it in ways that are meaningful to their audience.

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