Saturday, November 17, 2007

Online news venture founded by laid off journalists

In 1995, a number of former San Francisco Chronicle workers decided to get into the online news business. The result: Salon. Twelve years later, recently dropped employees of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The St. Paul Pioneer Press have established their own site: MinnPost. The Associated Press has more in their report.

MinnPost, led by a former Minneapolis Star Tribune publisher and editor, Joel Kramer, is aiming at the small audience they believe is thirsting for substantive local journalism. The site's staffers say that kind of work is on the decline, and they blame it on cost-cutting as the industry faces dwindling circulation and ad revenue.

"The important thing that's happening there is that people are stepping up to create new journalism ventures in a time when traditional news organizations are stepping back" as they trim staff, said Dan Gillmor, a former technology columnist and founder of the Center for Citizen Media, a venture of the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and Harvard Law School.


Newspapers have struggled mightily to adapt to new technology, and offering readers more words on serious subjects might not seem like a winning formula. But Kramer thinks there's enough of an audience among people who believe that serious journalism is a civic good and an end in itself.

MinnPost's creators say they are not trying to replace traditional newspapers but to cultivate about 15 to 20 percent of the population: "news intense" readers who seek multiple sources of news every day and are willing to make yearly donations to the site, as people do for public radio.

Other regional news sites have popped up, including Voices on San Diego, Missoula, Mont.-based New West and Crosscut Seattle. But Kramer said none of those sites boasts a similar number of experienced writers, or pitches its work so explicitly to a relatively narrow group of highbrow news consumers. Kramer said his target audience in the Twin Cities is regular readers of the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.

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