Hope for Journalism?

There are some welcome signs that our muddled and fragmented media landscape–which has clearly been “in transition” to something–is beginning to figure out how to do real journalism in the post-Newspaper age.

Recently, Ezra Klein announced that he was leaving the Washington Post, where he ran a very well-regarded and well-read blog, in order to start a new (as yet unidentified) media venture. As the Poynter Center reported, he is not the only one:

Klein’s new venture joins a suddenly crowded market of startups founded or staffed by journalists with large personal brands:

• Nate Silver decided last year to leave The New York Times for ESPN, which plans to relaunch his FiveThirtyEight.com under its auspices soon.

• Glenn Greenwald left the Guardian last year to join a “a new mass media organization” funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. Dan Froomkin and Jay Rosen also joined the new organization in varying capacities.

• Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman will be the editor-in-chief of a starting shareup called Whisper.

• Gabriel Snyder, formerly the editor-in-chief of The Wire, will be chief content officer of a mobile news startup called Inside.com.

• Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg’s site AllThingsD announced last year they would part ways with Dow Jones & Co. and relaunched as Re/Code this year. The Wall Street Journal launched a replacement site, WSJD. Both promised live events. Another spinoff from the Journal: The Information, a subscription tech-news site edited by former WSJ reporter Jessica Lessin.

• Proto-blogger Andrew Sullivan left The Daily Beast in early 2013 to relaunch his Daily Dish as an independent, subscription-based publication. Sullivan wrote on Dec. 31 that in its first year, the publication had raised more than $800,000 in subscription revenue and has “almost 34,000 subscribers.”

• The New York Times, while obviously not exactly a startup, announced late last year that it would launch “two newsroom startups,” including one headed by former Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt aimed at the same subject areas as FiveThirtyEight.com.

These moves are a welcome sign that some journalists, at least, disagree with the conventional wisdom that has paralyzed the media and all but destroyed news geared to a general audience: the belief that there is simply no business model that will generate enough money to sustain a mass news-gathering organization in the age of the internet.

Of course, even if these efforts are successful, they don’t address citizens’ most pressing need: coverage of local government, which is virtually non-existent in far too many places. (Just today, the Indianapolis Star announced the departure of one of the few remaining reporters covering city hall.)  Interestingly, Pew reports an uptick in audiences for local television news–which I take as a sign that folks aren’t getting such news from the sad remnants of their local newspapers. Let’s hope that the new national ventures prove so successful that they spark a renewal of interest in investigative reporting focused on city halls and statehouses.

Relying on the Mayor’s office to tell us what’s happening really doesn’t cut it.



  1. While I am very pleased to see that real journalists still have a place to publicly provide good reporting, it makes me sad that so many will be unable to access the articles or blogs either because they do not have the ability (no regular access to a computer or smart phone) or the money (to pay for subscription sites). The poor and otherwise marginalized members of our society who need to have this information may be shut out completely.

    Local television news in generally fluff and sensationalism, not hard news, especially when reporting on local political news. I depend on IBJ for the most thorough reporting of local business and politics. And, of course, follow bloggers like Sheila for the best commentary on local and national political and social issues.

  2. WOW, I did not know The Star had any reporters covering City Hall. The Star reporting just appears to be Cut and Paste Press Release Journalism.

    The Star must have burned it’s budget up for Investigative Reporting with their first page and multi-page article on Exorcism in last Sunday’s Star.

  3. Interesting Weather report, just released on the radio for this evening in Indianapolis


    Early Evening, “Rain mixed with Light Snow”
    Late Evening, “Light Snow mixed with Rain”


  4. Louie; I think that article on the exorcism was meant to distract us from the continuing dangerous conditions of our streets. My granddaughter came to visit me Wednesday afternoon and commented that my streets are icy disasters. She lives at 16th and College; said after the 10.7 inch snowfall little was done in that area or anywhere she drove. She is a nurse at Riley Hospital, said streets around Methodist and Riley had very little done to clear them.

    Red George; I don’t think you – or any of us viewing weather forecasting – are supposed to notice there is something wrong with that statement. I have believed for years that forecasters could do a much better job if they had a window in their offices to see what is actually going on outside.

  5. The whole point is that talented people no longer need to patronize those who have the capitol to buy the printing press. It has been a lesson that has been slow slow to be learned, but at least it is finally being learned.

  6. Copied and pasted from Gannett’s homepage.

    “The company’s 82 U.S. daily newspapers, including USA TODAY, reach 11.6 million readers every weekday and 12 million readers every Sunday, providing important news and information from their customers’ neighborhoods and around the globe. USA TODAY, the nation’s No. 1 newspaper in print circulation, and USATODAY.com reach a combined 6.6 million readers daily.”

    From my point of view, Gannett and its USA TODAY local insert are a huge disappointment for delivering national, state, or especially local news. In my mind, I’ll forever associate USA TODAY with the flimsy generic newspaper left at the door of every hotel room in the US.

  7. Thank you, Jay. If I wanted to subscribe to USA Today, I would do so. Since the mini-version has been included in our daily Indianapolis Star, the quality of all local news has deteriorated and been condensed. Section A must be searched through for articles once easily found, obituaries may be in Secton A or part 2 of Section A and on Sunday in the Things To Do section. Gannett/Indianapolis Star have a monopoly on supplying the daily news just as local utilities do. We are at their mercy.

  8. @JoAnn, I’m a relative newcomer to the Indy area who spent 25+ years in the Tidewater/Hampton Roads Virginia Area (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Hampton, Virginia Beach). I continue to pay a few dollars per month for Internet access to The Virginian-Pilot, the local Tidewater/Hampton Roads newspaper, that remains locally owned by Landmark Communications and the Batten family. Gannett has managed to ruin not only the Indy Star, but also the Louisville Courier-Journal which was the newspaper of choice growing up south of the Mason-Dixon Line in Kentucky.

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