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David Carr: Saving Journalism Means People Must Pay

Two years ago I was one of the few voices saying that if we wanted high quality ethically sound journalism, we would have to pay for it. I said advertising would totally decouple from the news. Lucky for me, Ruth Ann Harnisch of the Harnisch Foundation heard my voice and fully agreed and started pushing me to take action with her inspirational, intellectual and financial support. Hence the Representative Journalism project in Northfield, Minnesota.

Today in The New York Times media critic David Carr wrote:

Is there a way to reverse the broad expectation that information, including content assembled and produced by professionals, should be free? If print wants to perform a cashectomy on users, it should probably look to what happened with music, an industry in which people once paid handsomely for records, then tapes, then CDs, that was overtaken by the expectation that the same product should be free.

Here is what I wrote on January 12, 2007 exactly two years ago to the day:

Here is my biggest question. What will happen when only the journalism is left? It has grown out of a Christmas present I received. It is a small portable GPS. So I can walk about, tell it to find me the barbecue places or the department stores or the visitor center. In other words, what I might have needed a newspaper for in the past all pops up instantly in front of me when I need it and literally walks me to my destination step by step, street by street.

So who needs newspaper advertising if you have that, and, of course, soon everyone will have it in a more perfected form than we have now.

Today we have the iPhone and that is only a primitive example of what we will have in the future.

David Carr ended his piece today by saying:

Now all we need is a business model…

Well a week later in January 2007, I posted my manifesto of sorts called: The Need to Reinvent Journalism While We Can. In it I wrote about what we needed then and still need now. We need:

A model where everything goes back into paying for the journalism. High quality equipment, high quality reporters and editors paid an excellent wage, high quality connectivity with the communities served, and high quality journalism that helps the community members find their way, while always being ready to speak truth to power. We can do it.

3 Responses to “David Carr: Saving Journalism Means People Must Pay”

  1. KC Says:

    There are numerous publishers that already are doing this – my favorite is E&E News – the mjority have built in audiences due to the niche they cater to – to do a mainstream news business, all of the major media outlets that are giving content away for ad space currently will have to discontinue paying top journalistic talent…how old are you? It will take some time for this to evolve…

  2. Leonard Witt Says:

    Thanks KC for the tip:

    I tried to find out how much they charge, but had to sign up for a trial subscription to find out. Here is CJR said:

    It has around 40,000 “regular readers,” most of whom come from the slightly less than 2,000 institutional subscribers that comprise local, state, and national governments, embassies, major corporations, universities, think tanks, law firms, consultants, lobbyists, and environmental groups.

    So it can support 40 journalists with 2,000 subscribers. Interesting. They must charge a good deal indeed.

  3. KC Says:

    This particular publisher has the BEST energy and environment policy wonks in the industry and they charge quite a bit – but they are not alone – many investment community publishers and “think tank” publishers also have pay for content models that employ hundreds of journalists (some large and some small).

    The blogosphere is of course blurring the lines of what a “professional” journalist really is and in the end, my feeling is that a rating system will be developed (not based on popularity or web links – but on journalistic performance and writing ability, etc. In this way one can differentiate the best and most capable from the rumor mill and wannabe bloggers.

    I have actually been putting quite a bit of thought toward this and see real business potential in creating a ranking and rating business based on a set of validated criteria that are academically supported and easily understood by all.

    It would separate the true professional from the rest and provide the consumer with access to those most worthy…what do you think about that?