Underwriting the News (and some news from New Orleans)

A. C. Thompson’s Nation article about racist vigilante killings during Hurricane Katrina has been on the edges of the news recently, but what I noticed when I first saw the article was the italic type at the top of the page.

A.C. Thompson’s reporting on New Orleans was directed and underwritten by the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute. ProPublica provided additional support, as did the Center for Investigative Reporting and New America Media.

We’ve written here before about the need for funding for in-depth and long-term journalism about what might be unpopular subjects as newspapers are drying up, and I think we’ll see a lot more of these sorts of underwriting disclosure statements. Maybe every article will soon start and end with “portions of this article have been funded by readers like you,” ala the American Public Broadcasting System’s “Viewers Like You”. (And here’s a short wikipedia history of “Viewers Like You”)

And while the portrait for the Nation article doesn’t make me swoon, I’m always curious when I see two names underneath a photo. Chandra McCormick and husband Keith Calhoun have been photographing New Orleans culture for 30 years (NYT slideshow, MSNBC article with video). They’re also fellows at the Open Society Institute (unfortunately, not too many photos there or elsewhere online, it seems). Their house was destroyed during the hurricane, and it was where they ran their photo studio. Much of their photo archive was damaged, but the water transformed the pictures into a visceral record of the damage caused by the storm and floods. This page at Architecture for Humanity suggests that the Calhoun Center for the Arts has been built, and it might be the new L9 Art Center which is mounting the Prospect.1 exhibition right now, featuring McCormick and Calhoun’s work alongside others’. Wish I could see it.

More on the emerging new journalism

A couple of followup links to my last post about new developments in online journalism and dying newspapers.

  • This article from the Sept./Oct. Columbia Journalism Review discusses the movement toward nonprofit funding for investigative and international reporting.
  • The New York Times likens newspapers’ current style of layoffs to the now bankrupt Circuit City’s policy of laying off the most experiences employees in their stores. What set Circuit City apart from other electronics retailers was their knowledgeable staff. In an effort to cut costs, they laid off the most senior employees in favor of hiring new staff at lower wages. The race to total bankruptcy took Circuit City a little less than 2 years. (apropos to this, I just heard about a 50,000 circ. paper that laid off their entire photo and local business departments…yeesh!)
  • Colin M. Lenton’s take on the Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers trying to get him to subscribe. This is where I found the above NYT article, and he makes a lot of sense. The value of the AP to individual newspapers is almost nothing once readers are online. If they can read the same story in countless places, or somewhere convenient like Google News, why would readers go to any particular newspaper. By focusing instead on original content, both local and international, newspapers other than the NYT or Washington Post could become relevant again.
  • Online Journalism Review’s series The State of Local News which includes this article about the profitability of local independent news sites.
  • Jeff Jarvis’ thoughts on emerging models of news online and sustainable models for journalism.
  • Summaries of three 2006 forums hosted by MIT called “Will Newspapers Survive”: The Emergence of Citizens’ Media (the New Yorker talks about how all of the citizen journalism is underwhelming), News, Information and the Wealth of Networks,and Do Newspapers Matter?.
  • An article about ChiTownDailyNews and other nonprofit online journalism outlets and how difficult it is to meet their bottom line.
  • Journalism That Matters
  • (many links via Metafilter)