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Finding, and funding, a way forward for local media
Written version of comments delivered at the Dec. 4 Public Press/Newsdesk.org fundraiser-friendraiser party in San Francisco
I want to thank you all for coming. I think your presence here is a testament to the passionate belief of journalists and supporters of good journalism that a vibrant and independent press is essential to keeping our democratic system healthy.
|Download a PDF version of the event brochure.
But it's clear that for generations, journalists have been reluctant, even resistant, to thinking about the business side of their profession. The last year has shaken most of us out of our complacency, with the truly alarming consolidation of papers under the Bay Area News Group and cutbacks of hundreds of reporters and editors. Just today, Editor & Publisher said Wall Street ratings firms expect that several cities will lose their only newspapers in the next two years if ad revenues fall as much as 9 percent, as they predict.
So in the last year or two a lot of creative thinkers have proposed turning the whole business model on its head. That’s why we’re here. Philanthropy and audience support have worked well for public broadcasting for decades. Now is the time to experiment with these new business models.
Local nonprofit news Web sites are popping up all over the place. The Voice of San Diego, MinnPost in Minneapolis, and ProPublica, based in New York, are all nonprofit ventures that put public service journalism first. UC Berkeley now has six hyperlocal Web sites throughout the Bay Area staffed by students. KALW Radio launched the daily CrossCurrents news program this summer on a shoestring, and does awesome original reporting.
So The Public Press and Newsdesk are really about expanding the traditional definition of public media. Newdesk hopes to build an online syndication model with a national network of small bureaus, and the Public Press wants to build a local print-and-Web subscription model.
What’s really exciting is that local philanthropies are now getting in the game. We’re really excited to announce that The Public Press Project has received a $20,000 seed grant from the San Francisco Foundation to start doing original San Francisco coverage early in 2009, on topics like economics, cultural diversity, the environment, labor and public policy. This money will help us hire a part-time editor, redesign our Web site and maybe have some money left over for freelancers. So anything you can give will go directly into helping us hire energetic out-of-work professionals to do serious, hard news and investigative reporting in the city.
But none of this would have been possible without the help of half a dozen interns and more than 50 volunteers who will continue to run the project because they believe that a better way is possible if we create it ourselves.
Thanks especially to Lila LaHood, the Public Press development director, for throwing an awesome party, and thanks to the host committee, the Public Press steering committee and everyone who’s contributed to our lengthy and nearly complete strategic planning process. Please donate, and please volunteer one or two days a week starting in January, if you can, to help create something this town has never seen before.
UPDATE 1: Ward Bushee, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, was interviewed on "Forum" with Michael Krasny the morning of our fundraiser, Dec. 4. He said the Chronicle, like other papers, was going to be relying more and more on the readers to support the cost of producing the paper in the future. Listen to him here:
UPDATE 2: Also check out a sobering article in Metro Santa Cruz by Public Press steering committee member Tom Honig, who was editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel from 1992 to 2007, when he laid himself off rather than make further cuts that the corporate owner, MediaNews Group, wanted to make.
One-stop shopping for news links in San Francisco.
Regional news updates and a lot of lifestyle coverage.
A local version of the national liberal politics website.
News website for KQED.org, focused on the Bay Area and beyond.
Locally focused, short info bits and a lot of opinion.
Insights on Silicon Valley and real estate.
Mostly SF-focused, “progressive” political agenda.
News, lifestyle and snarky writing.
Liberal politics blog run by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
Photographer/blogger Luke Thomas’ City Hall news-and-opinion site.
Some original reporting and aggregation, with a good bit of culture thrown in.
Plenty of attitude with coverage of MUNI & bikes and links to most of the important stories going on in SF.
S.F. politics and arts scene. Plenty of opinion pieces.
San Francisco news and politics.
Neighborhood news from aspiring journalists.
Promotes good planning and good government in the Bay Area.
SF Bay Times
News and events calendar for the GLBTQ.
Newspaper serving the LGBTQ community.
News website serving the Asian/Pacific Islander American community.
Architecture and some planning coverage.
The Noe Valley Voice
SF Bay View
The Western Edition
Visitacion Valley Grapevine
The Potrero View
Rincon Hill Neighborhood Association blog
A fun blog curating rider experiences on San Francisco's Muni.
"TK" provides his unique perspective on life in San Francisco.
One woman's blog about San Francisco neighborhoods.
Heavy on photos and commentary.
Strong political and neighborhood events listings.
Keeping tabs on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Good site for political gossip.
Political news, analysis and commentary.
California public policy and politics.
Critical Mass blog.
Part of the national livable streets initiative.
A San Francisco cyclist’s blog.
Greg Dewar sounds off on Muni and the Inner Sunset.
Akit’s Complaint Department
Lots of Muni complaints.
SF school board member.
Political blog from the guy whose lawsuit delayed the city’s bike plan.
San Francisco politics.
Writes about politics for Examiner and the San Francisco Business Times. He was previously host of a Comcast talk show,sfunscripted.com.
Former Examiner reporter and current investigator for the SF City Attorney's office.
She’s running for DCCC and Community College Board.
KQED’s foodies blog.
It’s beer and food.
Reader tips for dining, eating and food shopping.
San Francisco restaurant news.
A vegan eating and living guide to the Bay Area.