The Next Newsroom: A New Model for Local News

An updated  business plan, an organizational framework, and a creative commitment to launch a new model for gathering local news in a community where 21st century citizens work together with committed journalists to strengthen civic life with the aid of digital technology.

Working Draft by Chris Peck, Co-Founder
Journalism That Matters
March 2008

The whole paper is attached: JTM Next Newsroom Business Plan Revised

Below is the overview.

An Overview

For mainstream American media, the shipwreck is here.

Cracks are ripping apart the economic keel and business model that traditionally have kept print and electronic newsrooms afloat. Both top line revenue and bottom line profit have fallen by 30% or more at most major newspapers in the last five years. As a result, the staffs of most American newsrooms have been cut 20% to 40%, with no bottom in sight.

And there is more. The traditional roles professional journalists assumed they played in geographically-defined communities also have begun to morph. Today, citizen journalists and digitally-defined communities rapidly are rewriting the definitions of who is a journalist and what journalists do.

As more people bypass newspapers and TV and go to Google, YouTube or community blogs to find indexed news, as more traditional advertising evaporates, many American journalists ask themselves, “Is this the end of journalism as we know it?’’

Here is a paradox. At the very moment when the world is poised to be more interconnected than ever before, at the time in history when citizens hunger for more constructive conversations about issues of the day, at this critical juncture where journalism needs to be reinvented, many venerable news-gathering organizations are frozen in fear and trapped in their old models of doing business. This paralysis could grow into a civic disaster. Never before have journalists so needed to rediscover their passion even as they make room for citizens who are willing and able to help shape and gather the news. Never before has digital technology opened so many doors of opportunity for easier delivery of information even as the traditional business model for supporting news erodes. The opportunities for building a 21st century newsgathering organization seem ripe.

But how? Plenty of promising conversations are underway these days about saving journalism. Conferences to discuss the problems facing newsrooms abound. Foundations, former publishers and academics are generating innovative ideas and experiments every week to better define what will come next for journalism. Yet strangely, few comprehensive, real-life efforts have been mounted to devise and road test what might be called The Next Newsroom.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen would attribute this failure of traditional news organizations to stay atop of their industry to what he calls the innovators dilemma. In essence, Christensen argues that successful, well-managed legacy media businesses simply are incapable of acting upon changes needed to survive the tsunami of new expectations and new technologies now washing over the news business. Think about these five Ws for a moment:
• Who has actually pulled together all the promising, innovative guiding principles now being discussed for The Next Newsroom and put them into practice?
• What journalists actually are being hired and trained to succeed in The Next Newsroom?
• When will new revenue models be field-tested to support The Next Newsroom?
• Where are the real-time examples of local communities being served by The Next Newsroom, built to serve 21st century citizens?
• Why is getting The Next Newsroom launched and running taking so long?

JTM’s Next Newsroom wants to answer these questions with a comprehensive plan for action.
The JTM Next newsroom plan isn’t an anguished plea for a return to the good old days. It’s past time for all of that.
JTM’s Next Newsroom builds upon the solid academic research. The JTM Next Newsroom plan incorporates best practices from leading media reformers.
JTM’s Next Newsroom embraces the transformative powers of both digital technology and citizen journalism that will profoundly redefine journalism.
And now, the time is ripe for The JTM Next Newsroom to be launched.