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Save the Manatee and Journalism Too

The New York Times has a story about the nonprofit St. Petersburg Times, with this key excerpt:

 “We don’t put out a newspaper to make money,” says Paul C. Tash, the chief executive of the Times Publishing Company, which oversees the paper. “We make money so we can put out a great newspaper.”

Still the St. Petersburg Times is hurting as ad revenues and circulation steadily drop. I think Representative Journalism could help, at least in part. Indeed, they have at least one Representative Journalist in their midst, but just don’t realize it. His name is Thomas French, and here is what The Times story says about him:

He has spent years examining endangered species, alongside other tasks he juggles for The Times. He recently visited a local zoo to witness a 1,000-pound manatee being hauled into a truck so it could be released into the wild — part of a lengthy series on the behavior of animals in zoos and the wild that he plans to get into the paper by the end of the year.

“I don’t know of any business plan where this kind of in-depth reporting makes sense, except for one that is built on a long-term goal of excellence,” he said. “I don’t know how long they’ll let me do this.”

Thomas, the Representative Journalism business model will let you do it. Endangered species is not just a local St. Petersburg story, it is a statewide story. Surely the paper could find 1,000 people around the state willing to pay $100 each, who would want to join an endangered species Representative Journalism community built around solid reporting and research by French.

Everyone wins. French keeps his job and continues to do important reporting, the St. Petersburg Times gets a $100,000 revenue stream agumented at least in part by people outside its traditional circulation area, the people most interested in endangered species get  high quality journalism aimed at their passion and they get to lend their expertise to the coverage while becoming a part of a community of people with like interests. The community’s website with French’s stories and the newspaper’s graphics and photography  could be fantastic and build an international audience.

 I will contact the folks at the St. Petersburg Times later today and try to stimulate some interest.  I want to know if the idea appeals to them or to French. It should; I am certain that in this case Representative Journalism can save journalism and the manatee too.

One Response to “Save the Manatee and Journalism Too”

  1. Joel Whitaker Says:

    Contrary to your first line, my understanding is that the St. Petersburg Times is a for-profit publication and that pays taxes.

    It distributes dividends to its owner, the not-for-profit Poynter Institute.

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    Leonard Witt

    Leonard Witt is the Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University and the chief blogger at

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