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.