Wednesday, March 25, 2009

EXTRA! Unruly Mob Reads, Watches and Believes Whatever It Wants: More OnThe Uncertain Future of Journalism

by Scott Hall

Hardly a week goes by that we don’t read or hear about another newspaper laying off staff, declaring bankruptcy, or going out of the newsprint business entirely. This week it’s the Houston Chronicle, last week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Minnesota’s largest newspaper, the Mpls Star-Tribune, is publishing while going through bankruptcy.

This has been going on for a long time - well before our economy crashed. More people get their information from the internet now. That’s a factor. Now the economy is lousy so money from advertising is way down.

But it’s not that newspapers weren’t making money. It’s just they weren’t making it in big enough amounts for Wall Street investors. Of course, now a lot of investors would love to find investments that have the profit margins that newspapers once had. That's another story.

Good journalism is expensive. It’s labor-intensive. And, compared to other businesses, it’s not a good investment. The editor of the on-line Slate Group, Jacob Weisberg, has a good essay on different ways to pay for the news in a recent edition of Newsweek. Those who tried to figure out how to make the news more profitable, have, for the most part, given us news sexed up with scandal, personality, and opinion. This approach to news drowned out serious journalists doing good work.

We can find lots of good reporting if we care to look. Here in northern Minnesota, I like to read the work of Marshall Helmberger and his crew at the Timberjay, and Brad Swenson at the Bemidji Pioneer. They consistently turn out good stuff. Tell us about the northland journalists you like to read.

I don't like to get my news from the internet. But I'm glad it's there. If I miss a story from National Public Radio, a story in one of our local papers, or an interview on KAXE, I can go on line and listen to it or read it.

Here at KAXE we are building a place for reporting on issues important to us here in northern MN. It's called Northern Community Internet. We’ve found talented writers, photographers, and people creative in new forms of journalism. We need a reliable source of money to pay them.

When KAXE went on the air 33 years ago, there was no guarantee that the first public radio station in rural Amerca would survive. It was a risky venture. KAXE is still around because thousands of listeners voluntarily support it every year, along with dozens of northern MN businesses.

So we’re asking you to take a chance and invest in Northern Community Internet. You might think of it as something like a newspaper subscription. Or maybe you just like the idea of being part of a good new idea, and sharing the dream of creating a new kind of community-owned media. You can get more information at the web site, or call KAXE, 218-326-1234. It's a work in progress. Make a donation or tell us how you can help.

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