For those who are paying attention to the online journalism debate fostered in part by the looming closure of The Bristol Press, be sure to read Aldon Hynes' latest thoughts in The Future of the Newspaper, Part 2.
As he rightly points out, I am more skeptical than he is about the prospects for an online paper. But I also see that an online paper is a hell of a lot better than no paper at all.
What bothers me most about going online only is that it will leave out many, perhaps most, of our older readers, the folks who have read the Press their whole lives, the very people who have been most loyal to the newspaper and who most deserve to continue to have access to the news. I suppose some kind of arrangement with public access television might help fill that part of the gap, as he mentions. I hadn't thought of that.
There's been a little talk of running the paper online as some sort of student journalism project, which is interesting. But I have to say, as someone who has taught journalism to teens for 15 years with great success (see ReadTheTattoo.com), that it would require patient, experienced hands to function even reasonably well. Students' work needs a lot of editing.
I have no doubt that someday online papers will make serious money, if not the riches that daily newspapers used to produce, but getting from here to there is going to be a trick.
Personally, I think the only way it's going to happen in the near term is if Google decides to fund local journalism. It's made gazillions of dollars organizing information produced by others. If it's going to keep moving forward, it needs to shell out the money to produce, and own, some of that information. It has the cash to ensure journalism continues in this country -- and that information about what's happening in communities across the nation (and ultimately across the globe) is written up by professionals so that it is useful to others.
Hey Google Guys, why not fund a nonprofit newspaper right here in Central Connecticut to see how it works out? It would cost you less than a rounding error and we'd all know in a few years whether nonprofit online newspapers are a stupid idea or a great one.
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Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org