Sheer “citizen journalism,” though it has its place, is insufficient to the demands of a new way of doing journalism. It has also so far proven to be largely untenable economically. Corporate journalism is too consolidated and shareholder concerns have robbed it of its mission. At this point ad-driven lust for the “local” is a symptom of this wide-spread disease.
What’s needed is a way to use adaptive professional journalists, who can utilize the new suite of communications technologies, in conjunction with old-fashioned story sense, to both break news and do good enterprise work. Yeah, there’s Politico and Iraqslogger, the latter being subscription-only now. But honestly, these are the very subjects that established media organizations already do to death, to the expense of so many other important areas of coverage and neglected stories. And plus, they both bore me. The only outfit I can think of that is doing anything close to what I am conceiving is Alive in Baghdad (with their Alive in Mexico outfit, both getting hammered financially now) and, to a lesser degree, Chris Albritton’s Back to Iraq.
The difference in the organization I would create would be how it was constructed and what it was modeled on. I would build an organization that would look like a general-news, non-tech version of ReadWriteWeb, CenterNetworks or TechCrunch. It would be a lean, mobile organization, full of people who were devoted to employing social media tools in the service of old-fashioned news gathering. Each organization member would be a combination of field producer, reporter, editor, anchor and web producer. No room for passengers. The revenue model would combine advertising sales with content licensing.
Headquartered in Central America, the Latin American News Bureau would take that region as its focus and area of coverage. Thanks to the War in Iraq and the War on Terror, along with the Greatest Hits mentality of too much of corporate-owned media, LatAm is now the most underreported place in the world. Thanks to Bono and Brad Pitt, even Africa, the perennial red-headed step child of the news media, gets more coverage than Latin America, and Central America gets the least of all. But the area sure does not lack for stories. There are sea changes happening in the politics of the area and in the religious life of the region and neither has been covered to the depth they deserve in the American media.
There’s a need, there’s room, there’s the technology and there’s a model for a new kind of news organization.