Where have all the journalists gone?

April 17, 2008 by barbara

barbara writes

It is altogether fitting and proper that, on the heels of the execrable "debate" on ABC last night, I received a snail mail today from MinnPost.com.

If you've missed it, MinnPost.com is a relatively new web journal that in its infancy is attempting to do the job that the MSM has abdicated, i.e., responsible, probing, bi-partisan, honest-to-goodness, old-fashioned journalism. They're doing a pretty good job and I suspect they're tweaking as they go.

Check 'em out here.

They've attracted some of the best and brightest from the dwindling and increasingly irrelevant and right-tilting Minneapolis Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press, including Joel Kramer (a former editor of the Strib) and former editorial editor, Susan Albright, along with the likes of Doug Grow, Eric Black, Joe Kimball, and Steve Berg, for starters. Real journalists! But wait, that's not all.

The letter I got today says they're launching a Watchdog Journalism Fund, the intention of which is "to help reinvigorate journalism's traditional watchdog role in reporting on public figures, institutions and businesses. The new fund will pay for the reporting and editing of investigative and enterprise stories."

They are matching all contributions made through April 30 -- just two weeks hence.

I think it's something to consider if you're as fed up and rising as I am with the state of "journalism" in the U.S. of A.

Tax-deductible donations can be made to MinnPost's Watchdog Journalism Fund. Suggested donations range from $25 to $500.

You can donate online

Snail-mailed donations can be sent to:

MinnPost
900 Sixth Avenue SE, Suite 220
Minneapolis, MN 55414

I think it is not hyperbole to say that these are increasingly desperate times. The final days and months of BushCo and the complicit media are apt to make all that has gone before seem like a romp in the sandbox.

BTW, other than my subscription to MinnPost.com, I have no personal reason for promoting their new initiative. I am now going to their website to make a donation. Please consider joining me in this, even if you don't live in Minnesota!! Maybe the idea will catch on elsewhere. We live in hope.

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Comments

susan | April 17, 2008 - 6:39pm

Bravo Barb! Full disclosure, I am a MinnPost backer, and have had two pieces published in Community Voices. But don't let that hold you back. Right now the MinnPost has been able to pick up the journalists who've fled or been driven from the Strib, but I don't think the MinnPost will be able to afford them after their Strib buy-outs are depleted. At least, that's the word on the street.
So yeah, jump in and do what you can and it'll be doubled. It's a non-profit, so tax deductible -- a sort of MPR of the written word. And I don't even want to think what pledge week will look like.

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Poet (not verified) | April 18, 2008 - 1:22am

Wow! What a neat idea. I liked it so much I am going to become a cub reporter (it's a donation level for the uniniitiated) and get one of those cool T-Shirts. Adding to Susan's comparison to public radio, this also reminds me of the coop and buy direct concepts too.

If everyone paid the same cost they do for a daily paper (buy direct without needing to fund domineering advertisers seeking to dictate editorial policy) then these folks ought to be able to make a go of it.

I know it's nowhere near a tit-for-tat comparison since all the advertising revenue also funds splendid salaries and benefits (albeit for an ever dwindling number of appropriately muzzled reporters and editors).

However, the great advantage the operation has is the lack of overhead cost needed to maintain the physical production and distribution of a physical paper on a daily basis. Classified advertising has become really effective on the web and could be a real sleeper source of income for such an operation run by the lunitics in the asylum instead of a controlling and manipulative heirarchy.. (That's the coop aspect!)

It was also nice to discover your local community (as opposed to "public") radio station advertising on their web site because the two operations ought to be natural partners.

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susan | April 18, 2008 - 4:16pm

A local bidness guy told me recently that he was in a meeting with other bidness guys about 10 years ago, and there was a presentation by someone in the newspaper bidness (This was a national group, so don't be guessing names here.) who said something to the effect that what was killing them was distribution -- that newspapers were in the distribution business. He told them that it would be cheaper and more efficient to buy every newspaper subscriber a printer and let them print out their own morning news than it is to pay the wages of the guys who run the presses, to maintain those presses, to buy the ink, the paper, to buy and maintain the delivery trucks and the gas to run them, to pay the drivers, and so on. Duh. Light bulb moment. That is SO over. And of course, that's pretty much what's happened, only we bought our own printers. And most of us skip the printing part anyway.
The MinnPost encourages people to print out copies and put them out for people to read, so you might find them in coffee shops and other places where people gather. Curious to see if anyone does that.
So far, the MinnPost has been full of good and varied writing, but they need more money to fund the investigative piece. I also think they need a format makeover so it "feels" more like a newspaper to folks like me who can't quite break that habit.
BTW, they also partner with the TC Daily Planet which is another local daily newswire ("Local news for global citizens") that publishes the best of the community newspapers, including those of the Somali and other immigrant communities, and a range of other news items. They have their own stable of writers as well, and the site allows you to select your own neighborhood for the micro news. In my neighborhood that was pretty micro indeed, including the announcement of a class called "Facebook for geezers". I don't want to read too much into that.

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barbara | April 18, 2008 - 8:58pm

I also think they need a format makeover so it "feels" more like a newspaper to folks like me who can't quite break that habit.

I think the print version is formatted in columns rather than story format, at least after the first page. Problem is, it's just 8 1/2 X 11, and the corners don't curl down while you're reading. Also, there's not that satisfying *snap* when you fold it in half and shake it out. And no newsprint on fingers.

Good reminder about running copies and leaving them hither and thither. I forgot about that.

And Poet, I love that you're excited about this, too. I helped start up a co-op back in the day (sigh), so I remember the fun (and mega hard work) of trying to make a cooperative entity go. It's still up and running, by the way.

Interesting to consider what diverting the same dollars we pour into the pale, pathetic rags that now pass for newspapers into MinnPost or similar ventures might accomplish. So what would that make their collective -- the meandering stream media? The hidden creek media? The babbling brook . . . oh, all right, I'll stop.

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