Don’t Ask How to Save the Globe, Ask How to Replace It

This morning the Boston Business Journal reported that the Boston
Foundation is discussing
ways to help finance The Globe if it is shut
down by The New York Times
. It's a little unclear what the nature of
the conversations are, but they seem to reflect the gist of
conversations
happening in public on the web: "Quick — the sky is
falling! How can we save the Globe?!?"

This is the wrong approach.

We shouldn't be asking how to save The Globe, we should be asking how we'll build its replacement.

The Globe has served us for years, but its financial dysfunction is staggering. It doesn't work any more. Period.

Instead of trying to prop up this dying system, our community needs to
come up with new ways to make information public, share it and discuss
it.

We're already seeing online substitutes for some pieces of The Globe.
Red Sox commentary is ubiquitous, sites like Blue Mass Group have rich
political discourse and there is a fair amount of local arts coverage
on the web. Of course, it's not clear what will replace The Globe's
hard news and investigative journalism. I believe there will be less
need for original hard news reporting as primary sources do the
reporting themselves
, but there will still be a big hole, without a
clear way to fill it.

There is one thing we can do: Experiment.

Instead of pouring one huge
chunk of money into The Globe, The Boston Foundation should fund
community news experiments. They should fund people like Adam Gaffin
who are highlighting local blogs, sites like Somerville Voices that are organizing community discussions and local versions of the Sunlight Foundation that are helping make government data public.

The Knight Foundation's News Challenge is a great model for this approach. If the Boston
Foundation started giving away grants to creative
local news experiments, their inboxes would be stuffed with great
ideas.

We're in the midst of a revolution. Blood is being shed. It's nasty out there.

The
good news is that once we get through this rough patch, we're going to
have an information ecosystem that is far richer, more diverse and
more truthful than the one we have now. I'm looking forward to it.

P.S. If this issue is important to you, these recent posts by Clay Shirky and Steven Johnson are required reading.

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5 thoughts on “Don’t Ask How to Save the Globe, Ask How to Replace It

  1. I do not think letting the Globe die is the right choice. I’m really for the Globe changing its model to be a non-profit organization. Take the profit out of getting correct, timely information. The amount of coverage that the Globe does cannot be matched by super local publications. Plus, it is known for its accuracy and we as consumers of information should not stoop down to a level where we accept anything less. I do think information is just share differently now and a daily publication is not the way to go, but the orgnization should be saved.

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  2. Darcy, Two things:
    First, I don’t think it’s really a “choice” to let the Globe die. The Globe is in decline and there’s nothing the community can do about it. The question is how we spend our time and resources now — are we going to pour money and time into the Globe or setup new and better ways of gathering and sharing news? I vote for the later.
    Second, I think that you could get all that you talk about at a far lower cost and higher quality than the Globe with a handful of non-profits. The estimates are that the Globe is losing about $2 Million a week. Imagine if we took that >$100 Million (or even two weeks worth of it) and put it into dozens of new creative non-profit solutions to local news. I think we’d end up with something a lot richer and better for our community than the Globe.

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  3. It is only natural that people are loathe to change important parts of their life. They get in a good groove and like to stay there- it is an important part of their identity. Especially something as personal as a newspaper, which can be ubiquitous and something interact with on a daily basis. But business models that are no longer relevant eventually die (its like evoluation)BY DESIGN. Trying to keep a business alive that is not profitable is not really a business, it is a charity, government or educational institution. Innovative newspapers will survive the 21st century. Most newspapers (who have not shown innovation in 50 years) will die.

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  4. You had me right up until “I believe there will be less need for original hard news reporting as primary sources do the reporting themselves” What you’re talking about is press-release journalism and that’s not journalism. Everyone who issues a public statement has an agenda and is either overtly or subconsciously trying to spin the story in their favor. The role of a real journalist is to take those public statements and (without spin or bias) fact-check, analyze and put the story into perspective. Amateur (non-paid, non-trained, non-edited) bloggers can do some of that but blogging isn’t the same as journalism – for one thing bloggers have no assignment editor so they cherry pick interesting stories.

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  5. George, I agree with the thrust of what you’re saying, which is why I said “less need,” not “no need.” There will always be a need for independent journalism, but the new tools we have make it so we can rely less on news organizations.
    Consider a typical big local business story. In the old world, the Globe would have a reporter write the news story, getting information from the company involved, then a second analysis story.
    In the new world, the news is old by the time the Globe gets it — the company announced it on their blog, and a dozen bloggers have reacted. The Globe’s role is now to do one independent fact-checking story. So we’ve gone from two pieces of traditional journalism to one — and we’ve gained a lot of rich information in the process.

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