As landscapes evolve, there are moments when you suddenly perceive them
differently. Maybe you see a new limb on a tree, maybe a storm blows
through or maybe there’s no catalyst at all. For whatever reason, you
suddenly see the results of slow, constant change.
conference earlier this month was such a moment for me — I was struck
by the richness and vitality of young non-profit institutions like Global Voices, Creative Commons and the Sunlight Foundation, and my view of the news business changed.
years, I had deep respect for newsy non-profits, but viewed them as
side-shows. I assumed that only for-profit institutions could operate
on the scale needed to have broad impact. Global Voices, Creative
Commons and the Sunlight Foundation all demonstrate that this isn’t
true. With a small budget, an ambitious mission and a platform that
empowers, it’s possible to build institutions that have enormous impact.
fact is changing the news business. The industry is evolving from a
handful of NYSE corporations running local monopoly newspapers to a
complex mix of institutions. As Dan Gillmor points out, the news industry is becoming more like the arts industry. There are for-profit institutions (galleries, auction houses, news aggregators,
mass-market publishers), non-profits (museums, theaters, advocates of
investigative reporting and open data) individuals (artists, bloggers)
and all sorts of other wild cards.
is a view of journalism with fewer professional journalists. Careers in
the arts are tough. Yet it’s also an optimistic view that gets us
beyond layoffs and circulation declines, and on with the business of
inventing new ways to report the news.
The institutional landscape is
changing, but journalism, like the arts, will continue to flourish.