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