Front page of Issue 16Get the winter 2015 print editionwith a special report on school segregation. Plus an insert commemorating the now-defunct S.F. Bay Guardian.

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The Public Press Blog

Force break: Why I still have hope for the crumbling news industry

I could see the temblors everywhere. Bankruptcies, layoffs and a poisonous economy have thinned newspapers to the core, both in physical size and in substance. But I still felt reasonably insulated, since my little hometown newspaper dodged the bullet every time a new round of company-wide layoffs slashed through newsrooms. That's the newspaper I used to work for full-time, and I still pop in now and again on a per-needed basis.

Up until now, I felt like I would always have a role to play there, like they would always want -- and even need -- me, and there would usually be some way to make it happen during my breaks from school and from my Public Press internship. 

But Jan. 14 was the first day I felt everything crack.

Seeking solutions to ailing media business

The San Francisco Bay Guardian printed an interesting piece this week on the need to encourage more independent local voices. The article, which cites The Public Press as a hopeful example of media innovation, points to the source of the crisis in journalism: economic sustainability. While there's no shortage of good coverage ideas, there are few tested business models that can fill the void left by the contraction of traditional publishing enterprises.

The piece didn't go into detail to present The Public Press' provisional (i.e., untested) answer: a membership model blending aspects of local public broadcasters and nonprofit magazines such as Consumer Reports. We hope to roll out a membership structure in a year or so.

The piece cites Spot.us as another local experiment. We expect to be working closely with that project to get Public Press stories funded by the public on a case-by-case basis.

Publishers: Neighborhood papers write vital social history

A group of longtime publishers gathered in San Francisco recently to discuss the role of neighborhood newspapers in an age of newspapers' decline. When asked what defined a neighborhood paper, the publishers characterized their publications not just by geographic boundaries, but by a sense of historical and social purpose. They agreed that their papers help define the city's eclectic neighborhoods in a way that larger papers cannot.

Meeting at the Mission's CounterPulse theater on Dec. 10, the publishers of El Tecolote, The New Bernal Journal, The New Fillmore, and The Potrero View swapped stories of struggle, community and history. They made it clear that this city is cobbled together with distinct neighborhoods, and to read the neighborhood papers is to look through a San Francisco kaleidoscope.

 

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.

Thanks for a successful Public Press/Newsdesk fundraiser!

The fundraiser for The Public Press and Newsdesk.org was truly a teamwork effort, and that came across loud and clear for the new people who crossed the transom into the unknown world of journalism entrepreneurialism Thursday night. I heard a few stories of people who had spent their whole journalism careers plugging away at their jobs, until they were suddenly thrust into free agency by The Man. The companies that own traditional media are now, unwittingly, creating legions of energetic potential competitors.

This week's buzz on nonprofit local news

I got about a dozen e-mails within hours of the publication of a great story on the front page of The New York Times on Tuesday, "Web Sites That Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs." Reporter Richard Pérez Peña highlighted our friends at Voice of San Diego, and examined other projects in Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago and New Haven, Conn. These are all promising developments, even if most of them are dependent on philanthropic aid and chronically under-funded so far. This is just a piece of what we hope to accomplish for San Francisco.

Join us: Dec. 4 fundraiser for noncommercial journalism in Bay Area

Help bring real news back to the San Francisco Bay Area and meet area journalists at a fundraiser/mixer Dec. 4 that is sure to get you excited about the news again.

Spot.us goes live

Spot.us is going live today, Nov. 10, and it could be the wave of the future as far as new journalism goes. It uses "crowdfunding" to collect small donations from large numbers of people to support stories you might not see anywhere else.

The 'truthiness' is out there; many assume bias in media

The "Truthiness" election-ad fact-check project we've been publishing along with Newsdesk.org and Spot.Us is almost done, but suspicion from the public that anyone can remain dispassionate when it comes to politics definitely remains.

That sets a high hurdle for a startup journalism project trying to break into  coverage of San Francisco in a significant way.

Replacing Old Media

Newsrooms throughout the country continue to lay off workers, in hope of saving money and trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves as the Internet takes their advertisers and readers. The Christian Science Monitor is ceasing print publication and will be online only and is laying off staff, the New York Times reported today.

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