Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Where will all the newspaper reporters go when the newspapers go away?

Apparently, it seems, to the Web, and to the blogosphere.

Recent news stories have been describing news reporters who have started their own blogs and/or web sites. The articles I’ve read so far have seemed cheerful, hopeful—perhaps the reporters who are writing these pieces want to see blogging as their own backup plan, their next career. Here are some I've read about recently:
  • Geoff Dougherty, a former Chicago Tribune reporter, got in on this trend early, in 2005, when he started the Chi-Town Daily News. He left on the Tribune of own accord, before its recent bankruptcy. Dougherty sees Internet publishing as a way to keep local news coverage after (he thinks) the regional newspapers disappear and only a few national dailies will remain. He now has a paid staff as well as volunteers. But, according to a recent Washington Post story, most of the money for his venture so far is coming from foundations and donors.

  • Former reporters from the recently defunct Rocky Mountain News have started  INDenverTimes, a beta web site that they hope to offer as a full-service news site if they can conjure enough subscribers to keep it going. The site calls itself "A Vision Based on a 150-year tradition." News on the site will continue to be free but its writers' blogs will be available only with a subscription.  According to the web site's FAQ page, subscribers will also have access to "Insight, perspective, live blogging, live chatting, commenting, interactivity with writers and other readers." An interesting model—having readers pay for the blogs, but offering the news for free. Subscriptions are $60/year or three months for $21. That's still cheaper than my print edition of the Washington Post, which is around $30/month, but I don't see how they are going to convince people to pay for something that people have grown to believe should be free.

  • Some reporters who were let go from the Seattle Post Intelligencer are creating their own web spaces and blogs that feature their fields of expertise. For example, the former food writer and restaurant critic has a blog called Eat All About It; the former children's book reviewer has a blog called Cover to Cover Kids, which currently lists 11 followers.  At the same time, the Intelligencer, which stopped publishing a print edition in March, is Web-only and now features staff and readers' blogs, as well as a prominent column of online advertising.
Is there going to be any money in these new kind of online ventures? From my limited experience, no. I haven't made a cent from blogging, despite my insertions of Google ads and Amazon widgets on my other blog (I've resisted putting them here). Readers want to read, not click on ads; or, they're like a friend of mine who is afraid to click on the ads because she worries if she is downloading viruses or making herself vulnerable to future spam mail.

And, who is going to read all these blogs, anyway? (She wrote in a post on her "Writing Home" blog). I am a blogger who rarely reads other blogs myself, since I want to spend my limited free time writing, or reading books or a print newspaper. Where are the readers? Maybe they'll be too busy writing their own blogs, or posting status updates on Facebook. 

It will be interesting to see what is going to happen with print and online media in the next year or so. I can't predict anything, but I have a sinking feeling that there will be more former reporters flooding the blogosphere until we're all sick of blogs and blogging and some, if not many of them, will begin to look for work in other fields.

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