Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Foundations look to enter the news business

Daniel Weintraub writes:

Cutbacks in coverage of civic institutions – and dissatisfaction with the coverage that remains – is creating opportunity for a new entrepreneurial culture. For-profit companies, scrappy individual operators and nonprofit foundations are looking for a chance to step in where they see openings and a potential audience.

A conference here Monday showcased several of these efforts. The gathering focused on health care reform and was convened by people concerned about what they saw as inadequate coverage of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed 2007 reform proposal. But the examples went beyond health care.

Marc Cooper, a senior editor at, approvingly described the recent turn of events as a "revolution" allowing anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to work as a journalist. The computer, he said, has "broken the monopoly" that newspapers and television networks once had on the distribution of information.

"We've seen a seizure of the means of production," said Cooper, who also teaches journalism at the University of Southern California.

The Internet's rise has siphoned readers and viewers from print, shifting eyeballs to Web sites run by traditional media and, in some cases, newcomers. Newspapers, meanwhile, have lost advertising to sites that lack news but offer job searches, auctions or personal ads.

All of this has disrupted the status quo, but while layoffs and buy-outs have swept through the news industry, the demand for information has not abated.

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