What Is an Entrepreneurial Journalist?

After two and a half years working independently as an entrepreneur and a journalist, this video resonated with me:

I embrace everything Dan and David say, and I think we’re lucky to have them leading the way, encouraging experiments. 

I also think the discussion of entrepreneurial journalism needs to get
more specific. Without restricting people’s thinking, we need to do a
better job explaining the existing models and their challenges. What
are the specific options for journalists that want to experiment and be
independent?

I think there are four main paths for entrepreneurial journalists:

(1) Blogging — Anybody that picks a good topic, writes passionately
and builds a community can create a sucessful blog. The catch is that a
successful blog usually isn’t a career or a business. And even if you
assume you can be one of the exceptions like Rafat Ali or Debbie Gallant, you’ll probably have to start off blogging on the side while you hold down a full-time job.

(2) Non-profit Projects — Non-profits are funding a lot of serious,
quality journalism, and some people are able to make a career out of
these projects. David Cohn has made a name for himself on non-profit
projects like NetAssignment.net, NewTrust.net and now Spot Us.
Of course, the challenge with this approach is that your work doesn’t
sustain itself — it always depends on the next grant review committee.

(3) New Online Publications — New West and MinnPost.com are great examples
of this approach. These kinds of projects are ambitious, expensive, and very hard
to raise money for. But if you can find enthusiastic, committed financial backing, why not?

(4) News Tools & Platforms — This is what we did, first with Atlas and more recently with 9Neighbors.
The challenge here is that the best news tools are usually not created
for the news industry — they’re broader services like YouTube, Google,
Facebook and Twitter. The limited scale of tools that focus specifically on
journalists, like Atlas, makes them harder to monetize.

If you work on
an open-source project like Drupal, you’re more likely create news
tools with broad use, but unless you do open-source work as part of a
consulting business, it’s unlikely to be a career in and of itself.

In the traditional news world, a journalist’s central career challenge was getting a job. Today the challenge is building a following.
Journalists need to be entrepreneurs not in the sense of finding a new
business model for the news, but in the sense of independently managing
their careers. They need to be entrepreneurial in the way they weave
work on blogs, non-profit projects, tools and stints with established
publications.

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