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Archive for May, 2010

The all-out panic among journalists to save newspapers has prompted a few new tricks of the trade.

Consider endowments to underpin publications as institutions essential to democracy. It could free up the journalists to do what they do without the pressure to perform for the benefit of a corporate business.

At a Bay area conference for the Society of Professional Journalists recently, Victor Cantu, the out-going president of the Chico State chapter, saw a push for nonprofit Web journalism, he said.

What he described got me thinking. Isn’t lack of advertising what makes National Geographic so substantially stunning and professional?

Looking into the idea, I found others are thinking about the benefits of nonprofit journalism as well.

“…only by turning the Post into a nonprofit trust and raising a university-size endowment to support the newsroom could the paper retain the vitality it requires to serve as a successful watchdog over our constitutional system,” wrote Steve Coll of The New Yorker.

Coll refers to an article by David Swensen and Michael Schmidt of The New York Times, in which they argue that if journalism is such a vital part of democracy, then it should be preserved, just as educational institutions, through endowments.

“…there is an option that might not only save newspapers but also make them stronger: Turn them into nonprofit, endowed institutions — like colleges and universities,” the article stated.

This is the best idea I have heard yet. I have always hated the method of newspapers to have to placate advertisers and balance content with ads in an endless dance that is more like a chaotic, disjointed rave than a romantic ballroom dance.

If journalists could find a way to pay the bills without having to worry about ad play, they could focus more on the important elements of great writing, quality reporting and creating a solid package employing all the canons of good journalism, such as interpretation and fairness.

Perhaps creative solutions like this will save American journalism in the end.

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