The Last Stand of Local News


– So welcome, this is our
fourth, count ’em four, session of Journalism under Siege, Truth and Trust in a Time of Turmoil. I’m Dawn Garcia, director
of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships
program here at Stanford, and cohost of this course
with Michael Bolden who is the managing
director for communications at the JSK Fellowships. This speaker series is a collaboration with the continuing studies program here at Stanford and the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford. Each of the five nights is devoted to issues that are
important to our program, the John S. Knight
Fellowships and to journalism. Tonight’s class is focused
on the state of local news. We think that’s one of
the most important sectors in the media that’s supporting democracy. Here are some questions that
we hope to answer tonight. Why is there an accelerated decline in the number and strength of local news organizations around the United States? What does this mean for
our local communities? Where are there signs of hope? Will local news startups fill the void? And what does this mean for the state of our democracy? Failing business models
and changing reader habits have decimated local news organizations in many communities. Legacy news organizations are still trying to adapt to a changing media landscape, and new business models are emerging to try to fill those gaps. Tonight we’ve invited journalists and media experts who are going to provide a variety of unique
perspectives on this topic. The first part of the evening will be a conversation about
local legacy news media with Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst, Neil Chase, executive editor
of the San Jose Mercury News Bay Area Newsgroup and
Fernando Diaz, managing editor for digital of the San
Francisco Chronicle. They will talk both about
some trends in local news as well as what’s happening on the ground at two major news organizations right here in the Bay Area. We’ll take a short break
after the first session. Our second panel tonight will focus on some innovative models
in local journalism. Our guests for that panel will be Sue Cross, CEO of the Institute of Nonprofit News, Chris
Horn, a 2019 JSK fellow and founder and publisher
of The Devil Strip in Akron, Ohion, Jaquanda Johnson founder and publisher of
Flint Beat in Flint, Michigan and Clay Lambert, editor
of the Half Moon Bay Review here in the Bay Area. As we do every evening, we invite you to write your questions on index cards and pass them to the
left of the auditorium to the talented and
lovely Erica Bartholomew. Raise your hand, Erica. There she is. She’ll collect them for
you throughout the evening, and we’ll try to get to as many questions as we can at the end of each session. Friendly last reminder
that the full syllabus for this course is on Canvass,
and the course website along with biographical information
for all of the speakers. We’ve posted books and articles
and such for you there, and we’ve been doing that all
along throughout the course. And there are now a few
audio recordings up there of our classes. Want to just quickly
introduce just a bit more, our three panelists that
are on stage right now, and then let’s get to it. To my immediate left is Neil Chase, he’s the executive editor
at the Bay Area Newsgroup and the San Jose Mercury News. A veteran journalist and
marketer with deep experience in print and digital, he got his start at the San Francisco Examiner. And then he was at a Russian
American newspaper startup, and he did a stint as professor
at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a number of other places, The
New York Times included. And he’s worked as a consultant to media and business properties seeking to invigorate their content offerings in a digital age. He’s a graduate of the
University of Michigan where he now chairs the school’s board for student publications, and we were just sharing our love
of student publications a minute ago. To Neil’s left is Ken Doctor. He’s a media analyst,
speaker, and consultant. His work centers on the transformation of consumer media in the digital age from the New York Times to Netflix, from Comcast to Conde Nast. He’s a veteran of the
digital media industry combines deep experience as an executive in strategy, revenue
models and journalism. And he’s had experience including 21 years at Knight Ridder where I
used to work years ago. And his time also licensing,
corporate development, business development and syndication, he writes a great column
which a number of us read. His major non work
commitment is to education and improving life in Santa
Cruz County where he lives. He’s past president of the
UC Santa Cruz Foundation, and he’s a graduate of
UCSC, and a volunteer for many years for that university. And on the far left, not
lest, is Fernando Diaz who’s the managing editor for digital of the San Francisco Chronicle. Before joining the Chronicle,
he was the senior editor for Reveal at the Center
for Investigative Reporting, and before that, managing
editor of Oy! in Chicago and also the Chicago Tribune. Earlier before that, he
worked at Chicago Now as their community manager and a bilingual investigative reporter
at the Chicago Reporter, and also local reporter
at the Daily Herald and Democrat and Chronicle. So he’s got a lot of local news creds. He’s a graduate of
Columbia College Chicago, and he’s a Maryland native and now lives in the Bay Area. So without further ado, we’re gonna hear about legacy local news. Take it away. – Thank you. So we’re gonna start with a quiz. I feel I can ask the quiz. This looks like Alexa right here. I could ask Alexa a question. (audience laughing) I don’t know what we would get. So we had one gentleman over here. You wanna hold up your newspaper. We were watching who was reading what. Everybody was on electronic, and you’ve got the Stanford Daily. It should be a door prize. Is there a door prize? (audience laughing) So let’s try a little
audience participation to start out with. Oh a number two, okay. Anybody else? Oh, three, four. This is very good. Five, six, this is very
good. This is a good warm up. And seven, wait a minute
is that a newspaper? – [Audience Member] The New Yorker. – Oh The New Yorker, that’ good enough. – Close enough. – Yeah, that’s good enough. (audience laughing) Also doing very well in
digital subscription. How many of you, just raise your hands, how many of you subscribe
to The New York Times? (audience laughing) Okay. How many to the Washington Post? How many both? Ah, that’s good. Now how many of you have
either The New York Times or Washington Post app on your phone? Well that’s interesting. Okay, now we’ll go
local for a moment here. How many of you subscribe
to the Chronicle? – [Audience Member] Which version? – That’s a good question. – That’s a great question. – There’s 14 versions. – That’s right. – Okay, Chronicle again, one more time. A lot of people, okay. You? – I do. – The company pays for it though, right? – No.
– No? – I live in San Francisco. – That’s right. The Mercury News? Okay, so if all of
America looked like this, we would have no problems. (audience laughing) This is pretty amazing. How many of you have the Chronicle app or icon on your phone? Okay. So that’s good. How many have a Mercury News icon or app? – Not bad. – About the same number. Not bad, not bad. So I’m gonna start by
talking a little about– – [Audience Member] I
just want to get out, I don’t think it should be ignored. There’s a Kindle version. – Which? – The Kindle version. – Oh the Kindle version,
we could do e-Edition. Okay, Kindle version of the Chronicle? (audience laughing) Kindle version of the Mercury News? No. E-Edition? Anybody read the
e-Edition of these papers? – So our numbers tell
us about 25% of people who get the newspaper in print also read the e-Edition. And it looks like about a
quarter of people in the room. So that’s pretty representative. – And that means they actually spent, you know how much time they spend, or that means they open it up? – So people who go to the e-Edition, look at a lot of pages. Often it’s done on an iPad or a tablet, sometimes on the phone,
but a lot of tablet users, it’s so easy to flip through the pages. We count page views online, the number of pages somebody sees. And it’s one thing to go to your computer and look at a page, then
click and go to another page. But on the e-Edition, you can just flip through the pages, same
thing with the app. And so the page view
numbers are off the charts, but they’re not really comparable. – Same thing? – We’re the same thing, yep. The e-Edition which is one of the things that I wanted to improve when I got there over a year and a half ago. And we do everyday make sure
that all of the articles get to the Kindle edition. – Just for you. – Just for you. Because it begets a
question in the conversation later about platforms
and just how many places we absolutely need to be at all times. But our e-Edition is
among the most engaged products we produce. And the push and the pull now is that we already have those customers. And so the question
becomes well do we convert new customers into e-Edition customers, or do we convert them
into website customers, or do we get them into the newsletters? And there’s a lot of
friction around whether you want more e-Edition
customers, or you wanna migrate those folks into the website, the full featured experience. – But you said something
about, we’re just gonna run this conversation,
you can just sit there. – That’s fine. – You said something
about when you got there you wanted to make the e-Edition better. The e-Edition has such potential Because it’s
– Tremendous. – an unlimited number of pages. If you get the Sacramento Bee, I wanna ask how many Sacramento Bee
subscribers there are if you get the Sacramento Bee, and you get their e-Edition, along with it, you get a 50 page supplement everyday that has all kinds of other stuff that
wouldn’t fit in the paper, full business stock
tables, full sports scores. Because they can do is company wide, the McClatchy company across the country. That’s one of those things where it’s not that hard to do, and the e-Edition’s a wonderful place to do it ’cause people like to engage deeply. – The other thing, and again,
Ken, you can just back off. – That’s fine. – The other thing is that the e-Edition still is the tangible representation of the editor’s decisions on news, and they are not driven by
what clicks on the page. So you know most of my favorite
stories are on A three, B four, you know and I
think that a lot of readers will find that they’re the stories that didn’t have the necessary art, or they weren’t newsy enough for a cover, but they’re still important enough to include in the paper. – So you don’t like your editor’s choices for the front of the page. – Yeah. – He wasn’t quite saying that, but you can intuit that. I wanna step back for a moment and talk about reader revenue a little. And how important all
your subscriptions are. So if you look at reader revenue, if you go back to 2010,
there were some people in a place called Silicon Valley that said that the
internet wants to be free, remember that, and that all news would always be free on the internet because that’s the way
God wanted it to be. 2011, The New York Times started planning what they called, what the industry has mistakenly called a paywall
meaning a subscription. And in 2011, later it was launched. Since then, about 65% of daily newspapers in the United States have paywalls. And so they’re saying
basically that interim between when basically ’95, ’96, ’98, and 2012, 2013 kind of forget about that, we kind of made a mistake by giving away all this content for free, and have said to all of you what counts is the content, not the means of delivery. And a lot of people have accepted that. Now you could see from
the hands in the audience exactly the nature of the problem. Far more people here taking the Times or the Post than taking the local paper, and this is the problem
across the United States. If you look at the numbers, New York Times in particular which I’ve
written a lot about, now has about 3.8 million subscribers between print and digital,
more digital than print now. At the height of print, it
was less than half of that. So what they’ve done is they’ve used all of what has changed
to their advantage. It’s still not a thriving business, but it is a business that is transitioning and making it. Similar Washington Post,
Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, these
national, global papers. On the other hand, throughout the country and same thing is true in Europe and basically the Western world, local papers have a hard time
selling digital subscriptions. They have their print subscriptions, they’re declining as all
print subscriptions are even at the Post and the Times. So this is a core
problem, and the economics of it is important for everybody here who is interested in this to know. The New York Times now gets two-thirds of its revenue from its readers. You think of the importance of this and especially in the times
we live in politically, and this is a direct connection
between the journalists and their readers. It’s not advertisers. It’s journalists and readers, two-thirds. Most daily newspapers about still maybe somewhere between 30%
and 40% is circulation, the rest is still advertising. We all grew out of a world
where all these newspapers when they were thriving
depended on advertising for 80% of the revenue. So that whole world has flipped. The national people
have made a transition, and the local people are
still trying to figure it out. So I wanna go to that
question with both of you and talk about what you’re
doing in digital subscription consequently with that kind of framework of what are you doing and how much is changing, how quickly? – It’s changing incredibly quickly. – And describe your parent company Hurst. – So I work for the Chronicle, and we are owned by the Hurst Corporation which owns everything from ranches to
health information companies to the books that your mechanic uses to estimate how much it’s gonna cost to change a ball joint. So they’re a hyper diversified
private corporation, and newspapers are just one portion of it. I would say also that we are behind the magazine division. The magazine division of Hurst is massive. And they are far advanced
in the subscription game. They are far advanced in the digital game. In the advertorial, sort of
the sponsored links game, where they’ll do links to products where they do reviews. They’re not affiliated, but if you buy a lipstick or a garden hose, then they get a portion of that revenue. So what we’re doing is we’re desperately trying to catch up because on some level, there is a limit to the number of people that we could theoretically
consider converting into paying digital customers. And for every– – [Ken] A limit because
geographically, you have a much smaller base than
say The New York Times. – That’s right. And even though on any give day we get a substantial amount of traffic, what I call the hate reads, the Drudge you know audience, the far right audience that just loves to hate this entire state, but specifically our publication for many things we publish
day in and day out. – [Neil] Mostly ’cause
the name is San Francisco. – Yes. – [Ken] Nancy Pelosi’s hometown. – [Neil] With the pastel condos. – So that’s traffic I
think in a classic sense that five years ago, we would’ve been counting and saying we need
to drive those page views. We need to get those impressions up. And we would’ve been
counting Drudge traffic as a good thing because it means that there’s audience for that. We’ve evolved into understanding that it’s very unlikely that we’re going to convert a Drudge reader
into a paying subscriber. And so we need to pivot
our editorial strategy to focus more on the
needs and the interests of what Bay Area, what California readers primarily are interested
in because our data shows that you’re much more likely to become a paying subscriber if you’re geographically proximate to us. – Let me stop you there for
a minute and then pick it up. So what Fernando’s
describing is what’s happened throughout the industry. When he says five years ago,
you’re looking for page views, meaning you want, and remember all these slide shows that you saw when you got on your phone and this
all this kind of stuff. They wanted you to consume as many pages as possible so they can put
as many ads in front of you. Google and Facebook have
won the digital ad war. The value of all those
page views has declined, and as that’s happened, what
Fernando’s talking about in terms of the importance of the readers, and look at this in terms
of so now it’s important to really serve well a smaller number of real readers who care about the news. And if you can get them to pay for it, you’ve got a life line for the future. And so that’s the larger
mechanics that’s going on really all over the Western world. Now describe a little about Hurst. We talked about this in
terms of the databases. What kind of information do you know about the people who are your
readers here for instance and how do databases
and repositories work? – So if you’re, and this
can be a little scary depending on how much you don’t know about what’s being tracked. But literally, we know
what device you’re on, what time of day you come to the site, what stories you read, how long you were on those stories, whether you shared them, how far you scrolled on those stories, what browser you’re using, to some degree what cell service provider you have. We know general geographic information based on your IP address. We’ve moved from what was the industry standard Omniture analytics platform into Google Analytics which offers us now demographic information
that is gathered based on all of the cookies that are put into your browser by all of the sites that you actually are
on in addition to news. So we now know that if you’re into sports, or you’re into food,
or you’re into videos, we don’t necessarily
know that it’s Bob Smith who lives at 1234 Main
Street in Half Moon Bay. But we know that there’s
a user of this sort of like persona. – [Ken] A cohort of people like that. – Yes, absolutely. And so that’s what Ken was describing. We will then use that information to say okay if they’re
in this geographic area, and they come to our website
about three times a week, and we’ve got them on
email, can we convert them into a print or a digital? Ideally a digital
subscriber because we don’t have the added cost of
distributing the newspaper. Then that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking through all of our data to identify the convertibles, the people that can be compelled into supporting our ability to do journalism. – And that changes the marketing offer. So you may all get different offers based on the information
that’s in that database. And the price could change. You may be offered newsletters. How many of you receive
an email newsletter from a newspaper or magazine everyday? So these have turned
out to be the major way that publishers are now reaching directly, and not just through Google
and Facebook, readers. You’re signaling that intent. The newsletters are free. That information goes into the database. The Chronicle for instance
does a really good job and a smart job around food,
food and dining and wine. And that is one significant part of it. Let me turn to Neil. So I know you’ve started your own unit in terms of digital subscriptions and using a Knight fellow I believe. Explain what you’re doing and why. – Yeah so as Fernando explained, he’s part of the Hurst Corporation, and you’ve all seen Hurst
Castle and remember the movies. I worked at the San Francisco
Examiner in the ’80s where Will Hurst III was the publisher. This is a family that’s been in the media business forever, and hopes to stay in the media business forever. We’re in a different situation. We’re owned by an investment firm better known as a hedge fund, and there’s some worse names for it on the East Coast that is very much interested
in the current cash flow. Newspapers because of all
our wonderful subscribers, we generate a lot of revenue now, and that money is a very
nice kind of cash machine for the owners. They’re far less interested
in actually investing in the future. And so some of the tools that Hurst has, the work that Hurst has
done as a corporation to move all of their papers
across the country forward, we’re doing that ourselves
in the Mercury News newsroom. And so there’s a gentleman who was a reporter for the Associated Press, was part of the Knight
Fellowship program here, spent his time here
researching subscription models and how subscribers will support
journalism in the future. And he’s now working with
us leading that effort in our newsroom. And we’re trying to strike that balance between doing the stories that we know are the most important stories to do, the stories that we have
to do as journalists that are important to serve our role in a functioning democracy or
a semi functioning democracy these days as best we can, and doing the stories people wanna read. And there are fascinating conversations in the newsroom about well I need to go do this story. I gotta cover this meeting, and well but nobody reads that. Well but it’s really important. Yeah, but if nobody reads
it, was it really important? When we put stories in the newspaper, we think we know what people wanna read, and every reporter will
tell you, every story I wrote that was on the front page was read by every single person who got the newspaper that day
because of course they all got the newspaper to read my story. And in fact, many of
us have the experience of picking up a newspaper and going straight to let’s say the crossword puzzle or the movie listings or whatever else. We all use newspapers in different ways. When you start publishing online, you really understand
what people wanna read and what they want more of. And so it doesn’t mean we only write the stupid celebrity stories. We do those because they
bring a lot of people in, but we do try to focus on the kinds of stories people really wanna read, and the stories that the data tells us people wanna read and they react to. We do a newsletter everyday that gives you a complete, it gives you the sense of somebody sitting down next to you on the bus or on Bart or at a coffee shop and walking you through
all of the day’s news. And we strongly believe
that the newsletter is the closest thing we have now to the old print newspaper. If you don’t get a print newspaper dropped on your front porch everyday,
the most analogous thing we can do to that is dropping a newsletter in your email box that tells you what’s going on in the newspaper. So we are within the newsroom trying to build and understanding of what people wanna read, giving people more
of those kinds of stories. And it’s causing us to
invest in more investigative reporters, in more regional stories. This will come as a shock to everybody, but we found out that
nobody in the Bay Area ever has a conversation that is not about housing prices and how expensive it is to live here and
all the trailers and RVs. And I don’t have to
tell you, you live here. – And are you finding like
on the investigative stuff, that that leads to subscriptions? Have you figured that out yet? – We’re starting to. We’ve benefited from being very close to a lot of other publishers and sharing a lot of information. The competition in this business is pretty much gone. We share a lot of
information with each other. We have to. And we’ve learned from
a lot of other folks who are ahead of us in this process that they’ve seen a good increase in subscriptions from investigative. A lot of news organizations are growing their investigative units. We do see that the local stories that have some impact do
draw more subscriptions. And we’re just starting
to bring in a bunch of new people and kind of wrap that up. – I wanted to bring that
up because I’ve heard from publishers around the
country that as they look at the data, it is that kind of reporting, longer stories and stories that are absolutely unique to their publication that they can now associate. Neil says you can track everything. Fernando described how you track it. And look at the small
piece of good news in that, that there are people who care about that, and that links to their money which goes to paying journalists. – And there’s a bigger
piece of good news in that. For 20 years, people in the newsrooms have sat there and watched
the business collapse. You remember shopping at
Mervyns and Circuit City and Levitz Furniture and Toys ‘R Us and Sports Authority, and I
could go on and on and on. – [Ken] How old are you? – I’m old. (audience laughing) I was at Wells Fargo when it was founded. (audience laughing) As those businesses
collapsed, the Sunday paper got smaller considerably. Those ads aren’t there anymore. There was a time when if you wanted to find out what was playing
at the movie theater, you either called up the theater, or you picked up the newspaper. We would sneak into the composing room at the Examiner in the ’80s to try to see the classified listings for apartments the night
before the paper got printed to get a jump on finding an
apartment in San Francisco ’cause it was hard. It’s still hard. So that monopoly is gone. There are many other places
to get that information. Journalists for the last 20 years have watched the business
just shrink around us. And now we can say to the journalists, if we do stories people want to read, they will pay for them, and that will be a business that is sustainable longterm and will support the journalism that we’re trying to do. And that’s a big emotional change. – [Ken] It’s a big deal. So
tell them what Ryan’s up to. – Ryan, the guy who was
the Knight fellow here, is building a digital
subscription business for us with help in the newsroom
based on understanding how people behave online and how different kinds of people are more
likely to subscribe. So one of his areas of
interest in ad blockers. A lot of people use
software on their websites that block the ads which is okay. But if you’re using an ad blocker, we ask you to subscribe because
now you’re not seeing any ads, and you’re not
paying us for the content. And so we’re building specialized ways, all sites, Hurst does it
as well, where if you’re using an ad blocker, we invite you in a different way to
subscribe maybe more quickly than we would if you were
seeing some of the ads. We’re doing an event
tomorrow night in Oakland to talk about housing
issues with the community. And he’s gonna be there to understand how the community interacts with us and start to learn how the people who are closer to the issues we cover consume the news and in what ways they’re most likely to wanna
support us and subscribe. – So you can see there’s
a common thread here, and this is going on
throughout the industry. And Hurst basically maybe two years ago committed significant
resources in New York to figuring this out for their newspapers. Neil’s figuring this out for Bay Area and what they’re doing here. And when I go and talk to
Financial Times in London, they were the ones,
actually New York Times copied their paywall, Financial Times. They figured this out in the early 2000s. And the whole area is
called propensity modeling, how likely are each of you to subscribe and figuring that out. Now let’s move to a
little larger frame here and to some of the
questions that Dawn raised which are the pivotal questions about community, country, democracy. So if we look at overall
what this change has meant, we’ve had huge decline in advertising. The decline in advertising
is beyond belief. $30 billion a year less
goes into the daily newspaper coffers than it
did, well now 12 years ago. $30 billion a year. So the industry is 60% downsized. At the same time, Neil
mentioned all the cash that flows through the newspapers, it’s not just cash, it’s profits. So the profits, and I’m just
running down this number. It’s an imprecise number
today, but somewhere between a billion and a billion and a
half dollars in free cashflow, basically profits flow out of American newspapers still today. 1,200 newspapers left,
about 100 dailies have gone away over the last
decade, but they’re producing a billion and $1.5 billion in profit. Even though, the readership,
the print readership’s dropping 5% to 10% a year, struggling very much on print advertising, and digital subscription
is slow to take off. So what we’re seeing too much, and unfortunately Neil’s parent company is the poster child for it
is what’s called harvesting. It turns out that in an industry that throws off a billion dollars, you can harvest a lot of money for a long time. And people, and I’ve written
about this too much I think, but people didn’t
understand that there are a lot of businesses that just do that. They find declining industries. So what we now have, and we had a report coming out, came out last Monday or a week ago Monday from Penny Abernathy at the University of North Carolina who has coined the term news desert and also ghost newspapers. And she talked about in
that report that just out that there are not 1,500 communities that have lost substantial news. That there’re 1,800 newspapers that have closed since 2004, 1,700 of them weeklies. And then there’s this map. If you go to, if you just put news deserts into Google, you’ll see the map. And the map shows wide
swaths of the country where there is only maybe one newspaper in an entire country. That’s often a weekly. And there are a whole bunch of places where there’s no newspapers left at all. Now we can kind of see the results of that in the democracy. But if we look at the Bay Area, it’s a very interesting question. We have here. We have one of the most affluent, educated audiences in the world, and yet, in many of these communities because resources have been limited, there are news deserts. So let’s talk about
coverage and what that means in terms of and Neil
brought up the choices that you now have to make. The staffs of these newspapers are far smaller than they used to be. The industry is not only
downsized 60% in revenue but 60% in newsroom
staff across the country. About 24,000 people work in
daily newsrooms, that’s it. And that number was as
high as 56,000 in 1990, and we have 70 million more people. So this a bigger problem. Talk a little about your resources, and the kind of choices
that you have to make. – Well I would say, I mean I appreciate you sharing those stats
because they’re true, and they are alarming. You know back in 1990,
it was the newspaper. That’s what you had to publish. Now its an incessant news cycle that’s 24/7, doesn’t let up. It’s led by Washington. It’s led by climate. It’s led by California. It’s led by Sacramento. And so you do have a much smaller newsroom at a time when the
platforms are multiplying, and the ways in which people
are expecting their news. Now it’s not just the Kindle. They want audio. They wanna be able to
listen to their news. At some point, they’re gonna ask their refrigerator, play me the Chronicle. And, we need to figure that out because we need to be there, or we’ll need to be there in some shape. And we can’t go and cleave a portion of our newsroom to
start an audio division. So we’ve gotta find sort
of what we like to call or don’t like to call in the newsroom is just working in the margins. So we try to figure out like hey that guy two jobs ago was at a radio station. That gal over there, she
did newsletter management at her other job. And what can she tell us about how we can cobble together new workflows, reengineer our processes
so we can still create what we would consider
to be that polished, best in class newspaper experience for the folks who are
paying top dollar for it while at the same time,
being able to populate what feels like an infinite
number of new channels, and at the same time, still both meet our own journalistic
ambition and responsibility by covering the news. – And the Chronicle staff’s
probably been reduced, I don’t know the numbers of the Chronicle, maybe by half. – Yeah, we’re at 173, 178 right now. – It was over 400 at it’s height. – [Neil] That’s more than half. – More than half, and so you can see all the challenges there. That’s just a quick perspective of the kind of challenges of having to do more, and then of
course but you could say well just do the reporting. But through digital channels, you have to feed all of these kinds of products. And audio, Fernando
said you know we’d like to have an audio unit. New York Times, well it got to where it needed to be, how many of you listen to The Daily podcast? This is only maybe a
year and a quarter old at this point, amazing penetration. They didn’t know that it was gonna become a major part of what they’re doing. The last count, they have
18 people working in audio. So they recognize. Fernando recognizes the same thing that our Alexa smart speaker friend here will be telling us the news in five years. We know that’s gonna happen in some way because it’s so easy. But if you’re so resourced constrained, the businesses are in a downward spiral even though you’ve got editors like this, and many incredibly
hardworking journalists who know what to do, but they simply don’t have enough resources to do it. Tell us about the kind of choices that you’ve had to make as you’ve been in your job I’m guessing almost two years. – Two and a half years. – Two and a half years.
– It just feels like three. We make a lot of choices everyday. We have made some choices
to stop doing some things. You have to do that in order to focus on the things you’re going to do. We made a deal with our friends at the Sacramento Bee. They have a lot more
people in the state capital than we do understandably. Not just in the Sacramento newsroom, but they have a capitol bureau in the state capitol with
like six or eight people. They have two people in
their Washington bureau. They cover state politics
better than we do. We have a bigger sports desk than they do, and a lot of people in Sacramento follow the Bay Area sports teams. And so the editor and I were talking, and we said you know
what let’s just trade. Take all my sports stuff you want, do whatever you want with it. I’m gonna take all your politics stuff, do whatever I want with it. There’s no contract. There’s no terms. There’s signatures or dollars. It’s just let’s help each other out. Let’s share some things. So in some cases, we make a choice to share with somebody rather
than doing it ourselves. We have 30 weekly papers
around the Bay Area. They are, in some cases,
things that we started. In some cases, they were things that we acquired over the years. The Bay Area News Group is a collection of what used to be probably 20
different news organizations. It’s the Oakland Tribune,
the Contra Costa Times, the San Mateo County
Times, the Mercury News, and a bunch of other publications, the Marin Independent Journal. We’re down to three papers now, the East Bay Times, the Mercury News, and the Marin Independent Journal, and those 30 weeklies, they
have a lot of stories in them. And those of you who are looking at me with a scowl right now are the ones who get that weekly
every week and don’t find much from your community in it anymore because we don’t have
the level of community coverage we used to have. There are 101 cities,
towns, in the Bay Area, in the nine county Bay Area. There are 400 plus
jurisdictions, city councils, school boards, water
district, sanitation district, special this and that districts, sheriffs departments, police departments. To cover all those agencies
the way we used to, we can’t do it anymore. And so we’ve made some tough choices about doing more regional stories. The housing beat we created
is covering the housing, not just housing in
general and home prices, but one particular story
which is that for every 10 new tech jobs in the Bay Area, we’ve created one new housing unit in the past decade. – [Ken] Wow. – That leads to everything
we all experience everyday from the traffic to people who take a two and a half hour train ride from Tracy and Stockton
to come work in San Jose to the people in the RVs and things that you see around here, to people making $100,000 a year, 40 year old people living together in houses the
way college students lived. And college students can’t even afford to live anywhere near campus, right? So we made a choice to cover that story intensively because it touches
so many different areas of equity, of renting and
owning, and immigration issues, and traffic, and
infrastructure, and education at the expense of a lot of other things. We don’t cover many of the large companies in the Bay Area anymore. We don’t cover the earnings
of most of the big companies. Lots of other people do that. You don’t need us to do that. We need to take our limited
resources, relatively limited. You’re gonna hear from some people in the next session who have far smaller newsrooms than we do
and do more amazing work in their communities
that we could only aspire to be able to do to do as well as they do. But with the size of team we have, we make decisions everyday
about which things to cover, how to cover something
that’s of regional interest, skipping something local, picking up something national from somebody else, and they’re tough choices. We’d like to cover more of
it, but you’ve gotta figure you gotta make some
decisions about what’s, A, most important, and B,
most likely to drive people to subscribe so we have the revenue to keep covering things. – Well let me ask you, and let me ask Dawn to bring up some questions. I see we have a lot of good questions. So just bring ’em up anytime. And ask you both a question off of that. So smaller staff, a lot
of choices need to made, many, too many choices. Makes a lot of sense the
kind of regional orientation, and I know you’re doing the same thing. What about the smaller
startups that you see. Berkeleyside is one that’s gotten a lot of recognition. There are a number of smaller ones in the Bay Area and across the country. A lot of them, I think Berkeleyside has maybe a half a dozen people full time. – Yep.
– Yep. – And Sue is on the next panel from INN. Lots of organizations
that incredibly dedicated journalists, small staffs. How much do you see that
going on in the Bay Area, and can you see a world in
which those proliferate, and you connect with them? Is that happening in your view? Should it happen? What do you think? – You guys have a good
partnership with Berkleyside? – You guys have done a lot. – Yeah. – And you’ve done more
regional projects too. – Yeah, and I would say
that the better partnership is with CALmatters now. We’re publishing a lot
of CALmatters stuff. Which to Neil’s point about partnering with the Sacramento Bee. Our choice was to go with CALmatters. Which is a– – [Ken] And let me ask the audience. How many of you know,
recognize the name CALmatters? So relatively few, four or five. Describe what it is. – So CALmatters is a
nonprofit, nonpartisan are they watchdog, are
they policy oriented? But they’re basically doing
a lot of policy coverage in Sacramento that, as Neil described, has just sort of fallen away as everybody has pulled bureaus, paired them down. But they also have a Creative Commons, open copyright policy where they want to share their content. They want to get more
reach for their journalism, and so they offer it for free. And so my counterpart
in print, Michael Gray works very closely with the folks at CALmatters to coordinate publishing their stories in the Chronicle. So that’s been one way. I would say my personal opinion is that Berkeleyside, Devil
Strip, you know Flint Beat, that’s the future. The question is what’s after that? Do those smaller news organizations ban together to form the
regional infrastructure necessary to do larger swings
like what Neil’s describing, like what Audrey Cooper led
with The Homeless Project, right, because they are small. And by necessity, have to focus on topics that they can tackle, but
they can also partner. And you’ll hear from Sue about how INN and newsrooms do that. You have a model in the Panama Papers and ICIGA of doing this
at a massive scale. The question is just how do you deal with it organizationally. And how do you– – [Neil] And who does it, right? – And how does it?
– When his boss Audrey Cooper reached out to papers, news organizations all around the Bay Area and said let’s all cover homelessness
on the same day, it was a brilliant idea, and it got a lot of people talking about homelessness all on the same day. We have failed time and time again over the past 20 years in
the large media company world to be the leaders in
making new things happen. And if we fail again, it will be because organizations like
the Mercury News go away, and smaller startups have to
scramble and fill the hole as opposed to saying look we are the largest news organization
in the South Bay, but we’re not where near
as large as we used to be. So we need to partner more aggressively. Professor Craig’s here
from San Jose State. The Spartan Daily has a wonderful staff of editors and reporters
who are far more diverse than the people in my newsroom and touch every part of the community
in the San Jose area. We should be using them as
part of our news gathering. Berkeleyside, all the other
startups, small organizations, bloggers, the more we
reach out and partner with those folks, the more we create sort of a news ecosystem
that supports everybody. Let’s reach out to people who are doing a strong, good job of community journalism and help them do it rather than sit here and expect it all to go away or somehow, we’re gonna die if we don’t find a new way to rebuild our business. And by the way, we’re gonna
die before the Chronicle does because they have a real owner. (audience laughing) Yes, this is on the record. I don’t care. It’s very possible that the Chronicle will end up being a
Bay Area wide newspaper if we become too small. The better idea, right, is to have an ecosystem in the Bay Area where a bunch of journalists at all
different levels local and regional expert and amateur, student and veteran professional are all doing journalism all day long
to get the best report we can for the Bay Area. – What I would just add to that is one of the things that you do see in an organization like Berkeleyside is that innovation toward membership, toward engagement that companies of the size that Neil and I work at, there’s a lot of layers of bureaucracy. So I give them a lot of credit for hiring to build that infrastructure
in his own newsroom. But whichever way it goes, the Chronicle will not have six people
covering Berkeley ever again, and neither will the Merc, neither will the East Bay Times. – [Neil] That’s right. – So that’s something that
we also have to embrace. It’s competitively, collaboratively. It’s about the journalism. You know it’s not about
beating each other. It’s not about beating Berkeleyside. It’s about ensuring that we
are holding power to account. And if Berkeleyside broke that story, then we should give them that credit, but we should also help
amplify that story. – [Neil] Get it out to lots of people. – ‘Cause we have the
audience that they don’t have because we reach so many
more readers than they do. – [Neil] For now. – So you see here, and this is happening in basically every metropolitan
area around the country. So a lot of smaller communities depending on who their owners are are even in worse shape. And so you have a system
that worked so well especially since World War II. And the power of that
essentially monopoly daily and the reporting power
it had was amazing. And the ability to have at least a couple people in Berkeley and people covering a lot of the institutions
of the 101 cities. It is broken. There are pieces being rebuilt. The pieces being rebuilt are maybe 1/10 of what was lost, and
they’re not connected. And that’s kind of a snapshot
of what you’re hearing is this is going on across the US, and amazingly, our smart Canadian friends have it even worse. They have one other hedge fund that bought all the newspapers
across all the provinces, and it has treated ’em very poorly. Let me get a couple of questions here. I like this one. No offense to anyone in the audience, but this group skews older, smiley face. I never see anyone under 40
reading a physical newspaper. When do you expect the
physical paper to disappear? Have you looked at that? Any of you guys looked at that question? – Yeah, so there is a principle in making change happen in an organization that I’m gonna mangle
’cause business professors talk about it. It’s over my head, but the basic idea is you scare the crap outta people, and then you show ’em a solution, right? Dissatisfaction, vision,
and plan equals change. When I got to my newsroom two and a half years ago, a lot of people who’d been working there for a long time didn’t know how small our circulation is now compared to what it used to be, didn’t know that the East Bay Times circulates more copies
than the Mercury News, didn’t know about a lot of the changes that have happened in the industry. The data just wasn’t shared with them, and they’d been there for a long time just doing their thing. So I said look the first thing that we have to understand is where we are. And I built a very simple chart. The circulation of the Mercury News and the East Bay Times
together, the two papers plotted over the past I
think eight or 10 years. It had gone down every year. The number of copies goes down every year because this person’s right. Nobody under 40 reads a print newspaper, very few people. They read ’em on campus ’cause you’re in a concentrated place where you can pick up a print paper which is great. I have a 21 year old daughter who consumes more news everyday than I do
but never reads a print paper. We looked at the
circulation and plotted it over the past eight or 10 years, and just drew a line through that. And through that line,
the Mercury News in print is gone somewhere in the mid 2020s. There are no more print
copies of the Mercury News. I don’t now that’ll necessarily happen. At least on Sunday, I think we can sustain a good Sunday paper if
it’s a good weekly paper. We just invested a bunch of money to upgrade our printing press. The Chronicle just took
over their printing press. They’re running it from the company that used to run it. There’s still a commitment
to the printed newspaper. We’re gonna do it as long as it’s physically possible and feasible. The other thing that is
hurting our circulation, not just the number of
copies people are buying is the difficulty in
distributing the newspaper which to our surprise is becoming a bigger problem, and
those of you who have a lousy delivery service
are nodding at this point. I’m sorry. – [Ken] Just email Neil if
you didn’t get your paper. – Just email Ken, he’ll take care of it. Our delivery service sucks in some areas. And if you think about it, a carrier gets paid a certain amount of money to deliver a newspaper to a house. It used to be us. We were kids riding on
our bicycles and wagons going around the neighborhoods. Every house in the paper got it. You could hit 100 papers within 10 blocks. Well now there’s maybe
two houses on the block, and some of these blocks
are giant subdivisions in the southern half of San Jose. They’re miles apart. It doesn’t make economic sense to be a carrier anymore. And
you can make a lot more money sitting in your air conditioned car working for Uber and Lyft or working in the Amazon warehouse or whatever else. And so we’re now sharing. – [Ken] Your guess is 2025? – Mid 2025, something like that. The Chronicle will be around longer. – [Ken] What do you think? – I think that print, and
this is the digital guy. But I think that print also
is ready for a disruption. And a lot of the conversations
that we’re having, you know ’cause our deadlines keep getting earlier and earlier, right? Which means that ultimately, you have– – [Ken] This is the next question. Let me add that into your thinking as you answer that. – Yeah. – Why does the Merc and the Chronicle give me news that is two days old? – Right. (audience laughing) – So answer the deadline
question in there. – Yeah, so part of it I would say, and I’m not gonna try
to dodge this question because I think your
concept of news is relative. If it’s what happened two days later, then absolutely that’s old. But if it’s why did that happen, what does it mean, what will it mean? That’s a different context. And I think that right now, as Neil was describing the sort
of like how we make our bets and how we resource, we break stuff on the web. And if we’re publishing
a story in the paper that ran on the web at
three p.m. the day before, then we’re not doing our jobs, right? We’re not editing. And I think that what we need to be doing is doing more analysis, more context, and that the newspaper is for reading. – [Ken] You think it’ll stay seven days for a long time? – I think that through
2020, I think the paper will stay seven days. – [Neil] 2025, 2026? – No, I think by 2025, well we’re heading into a recession, so we’ll see. Maybe it’s 2020 right because
it’s all just hard cost. It’s logistics. If the drivers don’t wanna carry it– – [Ken] Listen to that 2020. That is almost next year. – The fact that a recession is coming I think that a lot of people who, people who seem to know what
they’re talking about, all think there’s a recession coming. That is gonna hit hard in businesses that are already on the edge like us. – The tariffs, the tariffs hurt. – Everybody in the Bay Area wants the recession to hit before the midterms. – Right, yeah right. – It’s not here quite fast enough. – The tariffs which have been on and off, and the tariffs on newsprint have hurt us. We’re taking a big hit
right now in the advertising related to H1B visas. You wanna bring somebody
in from another country on an H1B visa, you have to place an ad in the paper. Those ads are a lot of revenue to us. That’s going away. There’s a lot of change
that’s happening very quickly. And if we just sit here saying gee I hope the print paper goes on forever,
we will be out of business. – So The Boston Globe
is the most successful of all regional newspaper
at digital subscriptions. And tying back to what I was saying at the beginning what we were discussing. They’ve got about 100,000
digital subscriptions. And what they’re doing is they
are charging a dollar a day, $365 a year for digital subscription. By far, the highest I’ve heard. And the owner basically has
said, and he’s a billionaire, John Henry, and he has
said, it’s the same content. We’re doing a good job. We’re doing all these products and had really good people working the system. I’ve talked to the Globe, and I said okay what does it look like to you? Do you think is print gonna go away, and do you want it to go away? ‘Cause the question for all of us here and all of you isn’t the paper as much as we may be attached
to it and we like it, but of course the
reporting and the content. And so the question really
is, and a lot of people ask that question in some form, will newspapers ever go away? When I’m asked that as an analyst, I say have you looked at one lately? Because it’s a shadow of what it was. It’s still physically printed, but look at the content. The Globe has looked at this question. And the Globe would like print to go away. It is very, very expensive to print, truck, deliver all of
that, have a big building, pay all those salaries, and they would like it to go away. And so the exercise is how do you keep the same number of people
in The Globe newsroom in a purely digital product? And their answer is
between 250,000 and 300,000 digital subscribers at
about that current price which I hope would go up at
365 could pay that newsroom. The company would be much smaller. Now they’ve done it. Some other companies
have done that exercise. But as Fernando said, this could be, and we’re seeing papers close this year. Gatehouse just closed seven papers in Missouri and Arkansas. And when the recession
comes whenever it is, we’re gonna see a real wash out. But I think it’s really important for us to focus on that question. And this is a smart audience. We know that you’re all newspaper readers. You gotta be smart, right. This is the question of how
do we maintain the reporting. It’s gotten to such a point that there is an emergency declared within our industry, and there are people
talking about a billion dollar fund here and a
billion dollar fund there to get more money into the industry, but there’s no place to put it in a way that’s gonna sustain
anything because the system today is broken. So it’s a really interesting moment. I know we have to wrap up. I apologize for not getting to all these. If we had another hour of questions, it would be good. But it’s a really interesting moment, and Fernando and Neil
have really given you a good portrait I think of on the ground, and as much as we can get to in one hour, of the real challenges that they face and why the situation is so hard. But this is a national question, and it’s now being approached nationally by some very wealthy and powerful people who see the threat to democracy and are trying to figure
out what that new system whether it’s 2020 or 2025 might look like. And I would just urge you to participate in that thinking in any way
that you can as we go forward. So thank you. – [Fernando] Thank you. (audience clapping) – Okay, good evening and
welcome back from your break. I’m Michael Bolden, one
of the managing directors for the Knight Fellowships
here at Stanford. In our first panel, we
had a robust discussion with two newsroom leaders
in legacy newsrooms adapting to the changing demands of the digital age. In this panel, we’ll talk with four people involved in novel ways of sustaining local news organizations. I’ll provide short
introductions of our guests, but for more in depth backgrounds, please visit Canvass,
our online class platform which has additional
information on each of them along with more information
about their organizations. Also as a reminder, if you have questions, Erica Bartholomew, our
administrative director, is circulating index cards. Please raise your hand, and she’ll be glad to collect your questions. So first at my far right, we have Sue Cross who is
executive director and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit News. That’s a network of more
than 180 news organizations that share best practices and training and collaborate on public service and investigative news stories. She is a former senior vice president of the Associated Press and served as AP’s Los Angeles bureau chief. To my immediate right, we have Chris Horn. Chris is a 2019 JSK fellow and founder and publisher of The Devil Strip, an arts and culture magazine that focuses on connecting residents of Akron, Ohio to each other by sharing stories about what makes the city unique. And The Devil Strip, if you don’t know, is a term used to refer to the space between tracks on a streetcar line or the no man’s land between public and private property. To my immediate left, we
have Jaquanda Johnson. Jaquanda is founder and publisher of Flint Beat, an online news publication that focuses on covering
the city of Flint, Michigan. She launched Flint Beat in March 2017, and she’s worked for the Detroit News, NBC 25, Fox, and MLive Media Group. At my far left, we have Clay Lambert. Clay has been a newspaper
reporter and editor for more than 30 years. Since 2012, he’s been editor
of the Half Moon Bay Review which has served coastal
San Mateo County since 1898. Last spring, a group of community members bought the Half Moon Bay Review from the Wick Communications
newspaper chain. So that’s our panel. To quote Fernando from our last panel, he talked about you
know some of these news organizations being the future. The future is now, so let’s go there. So first I’m going to turn to Sue Cross because she runs an organization called the Institute for Nonprofit News. Sue, what is nonprofit news? What is this thing that
we keep hearing about? – So nonprofit news is one model of news that’s growing
rapidly, and it shows us some new possibilities
around these economic tangles. It isn’t a substitute for
running a news business. Nonprofits have to run as businesses like other businesses do. But what’s happening around the country is that communities that have seen these cuts in their commercial news media or lost any local media are forming their own news media. This is often journalists displaced from traditional media
who are starting these up. But increasingly, we are hearing from business people. We are hearing from community foundations, other community leaders calling saying we have lost our news. Can you help us figure out
how to get something started? And this isn’t just in the US. I just returned from a week in Canada with foundations and government officials and journalists looking at the same issue. The same discussions are happening throughout the UK and
other countries as well. So what distinguishes nonprofit news are a couple of things. The biggest one that
people go to right away is well you get donations. It’s based on donations
rather than selling things. And to some extent, that’s true. The nonprofits we see around the country, and there’s somewhere between
200 and 300 of them now, and their numbers are growing rapidly that 90% of their funding
comes from philanthropy. So traditionally that was foundations that gave them seed
funding and started them. Increasingly it’s
individual donors, people like you and me and wealthy individuals who decide to back these things. And that piece is growing. And they also do, they do do business. They hold events. They’re very community based. They get sponsorship. It’s not so much like
traditional advertising, but more like the sponsorship of programs you might hear on NPR, and they’ll find other ways to make money as well doing training and all kinds of things. So they’re feeling their way toward different business models. So that’s how they make money. The other thing that I would say really distinguishes nonprofit news is its ownership structure. Because it’s owned by the community. By law, the way it’s structured, the public owns a
nonprofit, and it is founded on the basis that it is
providing a public service and therefore gets a tax break. And that means it’s much more difficult for a nonprofit that’s essentially owned by the community and controlled by a board representing that
community to fall subject to being taken over by an investor who might strip out those
costs and that kind of thing. And that’s the other reason
I think you’re seeing the model growing is this sense of a public trust, and
that it’s a public good like a library or hospitals
and things like that. So that’s the other
foundational difference. – Thank you, Sue. So Jaquanda, Flint Beat is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News. And you’re a relatively new organization. Can you talk to us about
why you went that route, and what you thought
that being a nonprofit in Flint would mean for community news? – I think I went that route because I do provide a public service. One of the reasons Flint Beat was launched is because the residents asked for it. I was working for MLive
Media Group at the time covering city hall, and we were in the middle of this water crisis. And so residents would talk to me. I’m from Flint. And so residents would talk to me about what was missing,
like those news gaps. And they were pretty much tired of seeing crime, water crisis, and sports. And so it was because of the community that I jumped out there
without thinking it through (audience laughing) and launched Flint Beat. So I’m really grassroots,
community driven news. You find me in meetings
that other news media, they don’t attend, or
they’re not even invited to. If you go through my Facebook page, most of those people are residents and people from the community. And so I look at it that way like this is a real grassroots effort that we do with Flint Beat. – So I read in an article
that in 2017 I think you raised $5,000 through advertising or something like that. (Jaquanda laughing) – I started a modest GoFundMe campaign, and I raised just shy of $2,000. And again, since I’m community, 30% of our residents, they do not have internet access at home. And last year, we had this
really big recall election. We had about 17 people running for mayor, then we had about 17 people running for nine seats on the city council. And I produced a voters guide, printed 5,000 copies,
and we sell ads for that. – Okay, great. And so Chris runs The Devil Strip which is also a nonprofit, and you made that decision fairly recently I believe. – Yeah, we’re nonprofit-ish. – Okay, so tell us what
nonprofit-ish means, and why you went that route. – I started as a for profit. We’ve been around for
three and a half years. We started March 2015. Wait, yeah, I think. – You’re a journalist
– I really should know that. – not a mathematician, so it’s okay. – Thank you, I appreciate that. I can’t do that math. So we started as a nonprofit, I mean as a for profit because it’d be easier frankly than the
paperwork than it would’ve required to be a 501c3. Plus, kinda like Jaquanda I
didn’t think about it very much. I was just like I wanted to do this thing, and just jumped right into it. Now after getting to meet Sue and getting to hear some of the other nonprofits working in that field at IRE, a conference in Orlando this year. I thought well this would make sense to dabble in this space a little bit. Ultimately what I wanna do though is be a community owned cooperative. So I come from a part of
Georgia, middle Georgia that’s not exactly rural but really close to a lot of rural stuff. So they have these
electrical utility co-ops operating in these areas where for profit companies never saw the
financial incentive to go. And I look at our
situation with news deserts in a very similar way. Now I don’t think we’re gonna get the kind of government support
that those utilities got. They got loans that they
were able to pay off. But we also don’t need quite as much because producing good local journalism doesn’t cost as much as
running cable and wire I hope. So I’m pursuing that
model, but in the meantime doing the nonprofit stuff to kinda get a feel for what that looks like. – So are you making money? – Am I? – Well that’s part of it. So who is making money as
part of The Devil Strip? – We’ve been sustainable-ish
since we started. (audience laughing) I mean you know it depends, I’m not good at math we’ve already established this. To publish the first issue we used a little bit of our money. We didn’t have a whole lot, but we used a little bit of our money, and then I went and sold ads. It’s actually kinda how
I got into journalism was selling ads. And so I knew how to do that. I hustled up some money. We started printing. Hustled up more money,
started printing more papers. And been on that sort of hamster wheel for a little while. The fiscal agent that we used to kinda be nonprofit-ish allows us to take donations. We’ve had some funding
support from a couple of local foundations
who allowed me to hire some people so that I could
be here in this fellowship and not trying to work
remotely serendipitously. Or not serendipitously, what’s the word for now one notices? – You’re good. (laughing) – I’m also not good at words. – So Jaquanda of course,
you laughed at the use, what was the word you used? – [Chris] Sustainable-ish. – Ish. – [Jaquanda] Yes. – I imagine, I mean so Flint Beats, you know it’s not even two years old, and I imagine you’re experiencing some of the same challenges. – Yes, so I started solo. So I was by myself. And when I first started,
I left the newsroom, made some announcement about what they wanted to do at that
particular organization, and I wrote my resignation while they were having this meeting. And decided I was leaving
and put in my two weeks. And my last day was March
10th, and Flint Beat officially launched on the
13th that following Monday. For six months, I
functioned like a journalist like I’m covering city hall, kicking butt. They’re chasing me. You know I’m loving it. Six months into, I’m like
I gotta pay my bills. (laughing) I didn’t think this through. Community they’re loving it. They’re not helping me with these bills. And so I had to pick up a day job. So up until this past September, I was still working a day job. Content suffered though. I couldn’t cover the city
like I usually cover. Like I’m a city hall girl. You know I leave city hall,
the mayor’s calling me, council people are calling me, the residents are like
where you at, nobody’s here. Even though we have one,
two, three TV stations and then a legacy newsroom. Nobody covered city hall. – [Michael] And you weren’t
able to use free lancers? There were no money for free lancers or anything like that? – Out of my pocket. So I had a young man. There’s no journalism programs in Flint, and that was a big issue
for me to find writers and free lancers and students that were interested and engaged in
covering an area like Flint. And so I did find a young
man, he was 19 years old. And he relaunched the
newspaper at his high school, really smart young man, Andrew Roth. And so he covered politics. I can’t find anybody to
cover Flint City Hall though. He would do state
politics with local angles because everybody was in the city of Flint because of the water crisis. You know that was fun. And then he ended up walking MSU freshman writing for the state news
after he worked for Flint Beat which is great, but I can’t find– – [Michael] You can’t replace him. – So I launched a journalism program, so I can start shaping young
people through journalism. So I think right now we have 16 students. We launched July ninth,
and we received a grant. So I got a $75,000 grant for a program we call News Movement in Flint. And just starting again this October, we have 16 students. – [Michael] Are you working
with high school students? – They are grade six through 12. – [Michael] Wow, okay. – So it’s different because
they are six through 12, and I am working with a
photographer, Mark Felix. He’s an independent, so he
does like New York Times, Wall Street Journal, what not. But when he came to Flint
as an intern for MLive, I can’t get rid of him. Then another gentleman, Kofi Myler, he’s a visual journalist. He worked at the Free, but he’s been doing journalism since elementary school. So he works with me, and we have people come in and volunteer and what not with the kids, and they’re working on a big gun project right with The Trace. And then after that, they’re gonna do a Flint water crisis project. But I had to reengage the community in it. Flint schools, they do not
have a journalism program. Our local universities and colleges, they do not have journalism programs. And so it was see a need, fill a need. It’s on top of what I was doing working full time, trying to run Flint Beat. I said oh let me teach young people. – [Michael] Add something else. – Why not just add
something else to my plate, make my kids participate in my program. – [Michael] You weren’t doing enough. Okay, and Clay, so you
have a different model. I mean so the Half Moon Bay Review was owned by a newspaper
chain that decided to sell it. And then several community
members stepped up to buy it. So how did that come about? Can you give us some background on what happened just in the spring? – Yeah so, I was minding my own business. I was the editor of the
Half Moon Bay Review and also the editorial director for the parent company which
was Wick Communications since September of 2017. And one day, the CEO
called me up and said, “Hey Clay, funny story, we’re gonna sell “the Half Moon Bay Review.” And I thought, well okay
what does that mean? So there was about a month of just trying to figure out what that meant. And then it became sort
of clear what that meant when he said there’s these people who wanna talk to you on
the phone about the market. And there was a private equity firm in Wisconsin that was wanting to know about the demographics and
was it a tourism trade. You know it was clear there were no questions about journalism that I was getting from these potential buyers. So that was concerning. And I thought about writing
one of those letters like Jaquanda wrote, you
know my resignation letter. I didn’t do that partly because I didn’t have the gumption that she had to start my own thing. But what I did and frankly
I should give him credit. Francis Wick, the CEO
of Wick Communications said why don’t you find
a nonprofit to buy it. And I thought I don’t know
how to do that either. And there was no such
nonprofit in existence in Half Moon Bay. So that was sort of the first bright idea. And when I started to
connect with local people in the community who I thought understood the value proposition
of the local newspaper. Their heads were in the right place, and they didn’t see it as a cash cow. That was sort of the first thing that we thought about was forming a nonprofit. And we had an interesting phone call with some lawyers from a large nonprofit in the Bay Area that was willing to be our fiscal sponsor. And it was basically an hour and a half of what we couldn’t do if we
accepted that arrangement. And so we thought well
that doesn’t seem very fun. We wouldn’t be able to endorse candidates, wouldn’t be able to do some
of the sort of political things that we do now. So we didn’t go that route. – [Michael] So you formed a public benefit corporation I believe. Explain for us what that is. Yeah so, and I’ll get
over my head pretty quick. Some people might be
familiar with B corps, benefit corporations, well
a public benefit corporation is sort of like that. They exist in many states, and the way it works in California is you essentially write into your bylaws
that you don’t simply exist to maximize shareholder value, but that you also exist
for some community good. And we thought that was symbolic both for the public that they knew what we were up to and also for people who might invest in the paper so that they knew they wouldn’t 10 years from now decide that this was a losing proposition and somebody shoulda told ’em. – Okay, so we keep hearing you all talk about the community got involved, the community did this,
the community did that. So who is the community
when you talk about that? I mean let’s start with Chris. Because you know you have a magazine that’s for and about the community in all aspects apparently. How do you define community? – In a couple ways. So one I wanted to steal from Derika who came and spoke to our JSK fellows. I just knocked over my water. Also not good at physical space. (audience laughing) – [Michael] But you’re good at comedy. – Thank you, and it helps with my wife. So community, we are already a community with each other whether
we recognize it or not, whether we want to admit it or not, whether we want to act like it or not. And so I think about that
as part of mission too. So even though we specifically serve communities inside of
our geographic bounds. When I first moved to
Akron, it was pretty obvious that these different sectors were all separated, siloed, whether it was arts and business and nonprofit
and all that good stuff. But also our neighborhoods
were too all siloed off. It was the product of a different time. And I wanted to bring
these folks together. I wanted to see them
connect with each other whether they were individuals or they were a part of these sectors and industries. So I think about okay we’re all in this community together in Akron. We all have sort of
this big banner over us. We’re Akronites. So how can we bring these folks into community willingly
and not just staying in their little bubbles? So that’s how I think about it. So yeah we serve you know a bunch of different sub
communities and sub cultures and all this stuff, but we’re doing it with this goal of broader
sense of community. – Okay, so now I wanna turn to Jaquanda. How do you think about community? Because I mean you talk about getting phone calls from the
mayor and everybody saying where are you? This sort of thing. – Yeah, mine is easier, Flint. I’m hyper local. I only think about the city of Flint and news that empowers,
impacts, and informs people in Flint. So outlying communities,
I could care less. When I approach news, our
tag is your community, your voice, your news. I’m not doing it from the state’s voice. I could care less. And a lot of times, you know I’m not even doing it from city hall’s voice. I’m first going to the residents. I’m gonna put those people in place to see how they feel and
what they feel about issues. And that’s what I’m there for. So it’s really easy for
me to define community. – So actually, in a minute
Sue, I’m going to turn to you for your take on that. But before we do that, I don’t wanna let this question get away from us. So we’re what four years
into the Flint water crisis? – [Jaquanda] And some months, yes. – So what’s going on? What’s the state of things now? Because we’re all curious about Flint, and what’s going on with the water. – Well thanks for asking. (audience laughing) The city of Flint is still struggling with the water crisis. What most do not know is that it’s really not a lead issue anymore, it’s more a medical issue, bacteria. They deal with that
ongoing skin conditions. Residents are still losing hair. But you know they tackled the lead as best that they could. They’re still replacing
the infrastructure. We do have some homes in the city of Flint that have high lead content. I just had a young lady
speak at the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference, and she said her levels
are 78 parts per billion, and federal guideline’s 15. And this is more than four years later. And then also I had them speak with a young lady who had
legionnaire’s disease. She survived. Her name is Jasmine, and the health issues that she has after that ordeal. So the city is still going
through a lead crisis despite what you hear on some
national news media outlets about the condition of the water. They still can’t drink it. – Okay, thank you for sharing. So Sue, let’s talk about
this issue of community. So you represent you know more
than 180 news organizations, and all of those
communities are different. Are there commonalities? Is it different everywhere? Can things be replicated? – To give you a sense of the overall mix of those 180. It’s now about 190. About half of them are
local in that they’re local or state, but the
state is very different. So they cover the state government usually or state wide issues, and that’s something that is falling to
nonprofits increasingly. So they have a little different community. They may be followed by policy makers or authorities, and they often distribute their content as Neil
and Fernando described in partnership with these organizations that have bigger audiences
and bigger brands to begin with. And then about a third are national, and a third, I would say
the fasted growing ones are single subject. So they’re expert
reporters who cover health or cover social justice. And I would even count
Laquanda in one of those, really being a specialist
about water quality and these issues of the water supply. So you get these pockets of expertise. So I guess what that adds up to is they’re quite varied. What we’re seeing is that the ones that are strong, and some
of them are very small and some of them are very
well funded from the get-go. But the commonality in that
is that they are grassroots. They’re growing out of the community, and so they are quite different. They’re covering what the community finds important and tells them is important. They do a lot of community engagement. Their mix of revenue varies. And so we don’t see that classic kind of business pattern
of oh we found it, it’s a pilot, it works here. Let’s duplicate it everywhere
across the country. What we think we’re seeing emerging is a new kind of interaction
between communities and the journalists that is tightly woven. It’s highly customized,
and then they’re banding up through INN and other organizations to share resources, kind of connect with each other underneath. But right now, and I suspect
for the next five years or so, they’re going to be highly experimental, and they may look a lot
different from each other community to community because they are trying to tailor themselves to what people will support and need. – [Michael] So Sue, how
much growth are you seeing among these type of news organizations? – We’re seeing very substantial growth. So they’re tiny by standards
of global media, right. So there’s about 200 around the country, somewhere between 200 and
300, but the pace of growth is really astonishing. While you’re seeing this
decline in traditional media, they’re growing more
than 20% year over year. I mean we’re hearing from
multiple communities, people launching these every week, and the pace is accelerating. Now we’ll see if a recession dampens that, but right now they’re growing very fast. And they are gaining financial stability. So one of the big questions in our mind is if you are bootstrapping one of these, will they survive? And the answer is yes. It’s a few really tough
years like you’ve heard about here, but these organizations even the tiny ones that are bootstrapping themselves are surviving. And after a few years,
they really start to grow. They get a couple anchor grants. They find some local patrons,
and the failure rate’s under 10%, like considerably under 10% which is not at all typical of startups whether they’re for profit or nonprofit. So something’s really happening in this pace of growth in this momentum. And it does give me great hope because I think you are seeing a new form created. – Sue, not to keep you in the spotlight, but to follow up on that,
so one of the things that’s unique about
INN, your organization, is that you have standards
that organizations have to meet to be a member of INN. – We do. – So all of these things that, for ’em, aren’t members of INN, can you tell us a little bit about the requirements and why you have those standards. – Yeah, the requirements started back when the organization was founded about 10 years ago. It was founded by
investigative journalists. And they required editorial independence, no advocacy, no publications that were founded by a cause other than serving the public and the reader,
and financial transparency. This is always a question mark that hangs really over all of journalism but in a particular way around nonprofits. If somebody’s funding you,
are you beholden to them? Do they want to control the coverage? And so stating editorial independence is really important to the
readers and to the funders so they know if I’m giving you $100,000, I don’t have any say in
what you’re reporting, and that they know that up front. And so we do require
financial transparency and for them to have published editorial independence policies. Increasingly, we hear from publications that are kind of in a
gray area in that they are founded by advocacy organizations that are genuinely
concerned about the lack of coverage of their issue,
hire professional journalists. They’re often doing outstanding work, but they have a mission that’s broader than just informing the reader. And I think we’re going to create a separate kind of category for them because they need support. There’s nothing wrong or unethical with what they’re doing. It’s important, but it’s different. And we think it’s very important that readers know what’s different. This issue of trust is also becoming more important for that idea that you have this bond, and you know the news you trust and believe whether
you find it on Facebook or shared through another media form. So we see those standards
actually becoming more important. – Thank you. So let’s tease out this
issue of trust a little bit. I mean because we’re all
dealing with you know news organizations that are
rooted in the community. So Clay, especially with the model that you all have undertaken
at the Half Moon Bay Review, have you seen an increase of
community trust, a decline? Is that something that comes up in the conversations that
you have with the public? – Yeah, you know I couldn’t say our trust was at seven and now it’s at 12. But I can tell you just anecdotally that everybody is very
excited and supportive of what’s going on at
the Half Moon Bay Review. They like that is owned
by local people like them. You know I am sure, and
I have heard some people who think that the investors
are up to something. That they have sort of an ego in this, and that they’re trying to
promote their own values. And what I say is I guess the proof will be in the pudding. I mean there’s certainly
no evidence of that so far. You know that always was an issue whoever owned the paper could’ve exerted that kind of an influence. So you know people are excited
about the possibilities and the fact that it’s owned
by people like them for sure. – Great, and Jaquanda, everybody seems to be trusting what you’re doing. I mean based on the feedback you seem to be getting at all levels. – Yeah I’m like at 200% trust. (audience laughing) The elected officials trust
me, my residents trust me, other news agencies trust me. They trust me enough to copy my stuff and do it verbatim even with the typo. – [Michael] And without giving you credit. – Without giving me credit. I just recently I broke
a story about NAACP vice president deciding he was not going to support
a Democratic candidate because she’s gay. I had two news agencies
call me that morning to get my story, you know whatever, tapping me for sources. I had news agencies send me scripts, so I can read ’em over before they aired stuff on TV and what
not, but they trust me. And it’s important for
me for the residents to trust me, for them to know that I’ll do a nice three part series on the mayor, but I’ll also write when she tries to put a PPO out against a
man trying to recall her. That’s bull crap. Like I’m not judging anybody. I’m just doing my job. I’m just reporting, no
personal agenda at all, but I have opinions, but
I just keep ’em to myself. And that’s what I’m there for. – Great, okay. So our comedian? (laughing) So what about Akron and trust? – It sounds very familiar,
or will sound familiar. I don’t know if we’re at 200% trust. We’re working on it. I think about like why we need trust. It’s because we evolved to be social, and this is how we
interact with each other. If I don’t trust you, I
won’t do business with you so to speak. And so that trust is mightily important. We got a lot of trust out of doing a series of stories on
the University of Akron, and a president there who was doing some stuff that was shady including trying to buy ITT Tech chain
of for profit schools that is now out of business. Anyway. I think when people know
you’re on their side, they’ll trust you. And like you said, proof is
in the pudding, you know. So if you’re doing the
work, I mean, I don’t think we have an agenda, but we
definitely have a bias. We have a very pro Akron bias, and so we work through a
lens of like what’s going to be good for this community. Not that we’re the
ultimate arbiters either. Like we take that feedback. And so I think that’s why we have trust. I think we have trust because we’ve demonstrated that we’re doing this because we love the city. – So one of the things
I think stands out to me as I talk to you three
who are directly involved in particular news organizations is that you all actually embody elements of trust in your communities I think. So I’m very curious about your role when you got started, how it’s evolved. And Chris, of course, now you’re here. Can you just talk about that? You know you moved from Macon to Akron adopted that as your community. And now you’re here. So take us through that process about what you mean to Akron
and Akron means to you. – Well I don’t know if I
actually told you this, but there was a good week or two where I didn’t want to take the fellowship if it were offered. The community means that much to me. My life in Akron means that much to me. And the idea of spending that much time away for awhile was
really hard to swallow. The weather has made up for that. (audience laughing) Ultimately
what is was is I would be able to do more good for Akron after being here and getting to do things like this and meeting the kind of people that I’m in the fellowship with and the people that the fellowship brings me in contact with. My role, I’ve realized, I’ve mentioned all the things I’m not good at. One of the things I’m not good at is understanding my limitations. And so when we started, I did everything that I could possibly do. I tried to learn design. I sucked at that, so I
got a graphic designer. But other than that, I was
just like doing all the stuff. Fortunately, other people
saw what we were doing and came in and joined the platform, and it became a vehicle. The magazine became a vehicle for people in the community to contribute. Even though Akron doesn’t have a journalism program, we found people who were close enough to good at this, and we could groom them. We have an ethos, and they followed it. It started really working out. And so what’s happened, my role has really been to sort of
elevate other people’s voice at this point. And that was another reason why I felt comfortable coming here
’cause you know we could bring ’em more people. We could strengthen the platform, and it could be a better vehicle for more people to get their
view of Akron out there. And I don’t mean like
opinion pieces, not op-eds. I mean like real work. But now I’m rambling. – No, you’re good. Okay and Clay, so you were
editor before the community group bought the Half Moon Bay Review. You’ve been there for awhile. Has your role changed at all? Do you see it evolving? – Well I think so. Probably most people here
have been to Half Moon Bay. It’s a very particular place. Part of the reason why what we did works I think is because it’s not Burlingame, and it’s not Menlo Park. Nobody ends up in Half
Moon Bay by accident. You go there with intent. And so to kind of bring that
around to your question, I think part of my role
has shifted a little bit in terms of evenings like this. Or last week, I spoke
to the Odd Fellows Hall. People are more interested to know what we’re doing. And you know it wasn’t that long ago that Half Moon Bay was in real
serious financial straits. And you know I don’t think it’s going too far to say that the newspaper was literally one of the
pillars of the community holding kind of the glue
of the thing together. And so I think my role has sort of evolved a little bit to be not so
much you know lower casing all the things that people
bring in in capital letters, to more sort of speaking for the community in things like this. – [Michael] So are you sort of
representative of the owners to the community, is
that the way it works? – To some degree, there’s
also a managing partner who also represents the
owners, but that’s fair. – And so and Sue, now you
run this collaborative now, but earlier in your
career you were managing new media ventures within
the Associated Press. So I’m very interested in
that transition for you from being inside you know
this 100 plus year old organization trying to start something new to actually being on the leading edge of some of what’s happening
in news in America. – There are similarities and differences. The similarities are the
passion of the journalists which I think is true
across traditional media and new media. The dedication in news
rooms runs really deep. People do this out of a
love of their communities and their country, and that
really does motivate them, very traditional kind of
patriotic values in a way even if they’re watchdog tough reporters. The differences that we’re seeing from traditional media to these startups though are interesting. The AP is a global organization
and is pretty nimble which is why it’s survived
where others haven’t. But still when you have
these large organizations with large boards, they can’t
turn the ship back quick. And they do have that
classic innovators dilemma of the bulk of their funding from things that they know are going away. And what is so striking with
these little organizations is they can take a lot
of risk really quick, and they do. And they also if something doesn’t work, they’re not wed to it. They drop it in a minute, and they say, “Oh God, that didn’t work at all. “We’re gonna try something else.” They’ll just be very frank
about what doesn’t work. And so they are very nimble, and they’re well suited to experimenting. You know the median size of these things. Half of them have a
staff of eight or under, and then half are eight or more including some that are
up above 100 staffers. But that’s up at the top like ProPublica and Reveal and Center for
Investigative Reporting. Most of them are very
small, and so they’re very flexible, and they’re
trying to figure it out as they go. It’s that risk taking that
I see as being different and that community connection. – [Michael] Okay, thank you. And so your organization is really based on a collaborative
model to a large extent. – The way we think of it, you know I used to talk about this as
grassroots journalism. And I got a lesson in
botany that actually was quite useful from a woman
named Heather Chaplin at the New School in New York. And she said what’s really
happening in the startup world is you are rhizomes which
I had to go look up. And it’s like a forest of bamboo. So if you’re a little
grassroots, you know you can be squashed, or you shrivel
in the heat really easily. And all this connective
stuff that’s being built underneath through INN and
a few similar organizations, they’re all linked together, and they are building a new ecosystem. And that is in partnership
with for profits as well. I think that’s also part of
the resilience and strength. So I now think of them
as a field of bamboo. If you’ve ever grown bamboo
’cause it grows here, you know it’s like
impossible to kill, right? You pull up one blade,
it’s not going anywhere. So that’s what’s happening. – Okay, and so Jaquanda,
you’re part of the rhizomes that are shooting all into the ground. So how has that been to your benefit? – So with Flint Beat, when I started, I didn’t think about
for profit, nonprofit. Again, I thought news. I find that being part
of an institute like INN, we do proposals for projects. You know I didn’t think
about it until I started talking to people from INN, it was two, also Knight Foundation,
the Democracy Fund, Jason Alcron, you know they just started having these talks with me. The ONA, so I’m a member of ONA, Online News Association. And so I met ONA September of 2017, and I’m doing one of those talks, and Jason Alcorn happens
to be at this table. He’s with the Democracy Fund. And so he just starts talking to me about this nonprofit model. And maybe I should think about it. Then I bump into Karen Rutledge
from the Knight Foundation, and she’s having the same
conversation with me. And so I started to think
about it differently. Like what is out there so far as support for journalism that’s boots on the ground in communities like
Flint that will support the work that we’re doing? And I got a fiscal sponsor. It happens to be the community center where I teach the youth
journalism program. This is before I even
launched the program though. And so we’re brick and
mortar because we have an office in there, and I run
this program and everything. And they started to
teach me grant writing. So I was like oh this is cool, you know? I’d rather write a grant than sell an ad. That’s just how I feel about it. And so I started to write proposals, and we got funding to
build our revenue model through LION Publishers
through Democracy Fund with some money that they came up with for a mentorship program called Ramp. And then I also received funding with the Solutions Journalism Network for a gun violence project
that we’re working on. So when I just started
to think about the work that we do differently
doors started to open in a way that I didn’t even
anticipate them opening. I thought I would be trying
to sell and ad here and there and getting money that way. But things just started
to change really fast. So I think we started applying for things in April, no it had to be March– – [Michael] Of this year? – Of this year, and so
now I think, so LION, I’m really transparent about money. I don’t care. So LION was $7,500. Then Solutions gave us $5,000. Then someone else who supports my work gave us $10,000. Then I got a $75,000 grant
for the youth program. This is less than a year. And it’s just thinking about
this as a public service. You know I wasn’t making cold calls. I wasn’t trying to put
together marketing plans and ad packages for people. I just sat down and starting
writing my butt off. Like what I already do saying the work that I do you should support it because you have the money, and
this is what I’m doing. (audience laughing) I did start separating
myself for some things. Like now I mentioned Kofi Myler earlier. We’re partnered now, and
we’re shaping some things under a company that’s
called Brown Impact Media. And what Brown Impact Media Group does is we’re aiming to launch news outlets in under served communities
starting with Flint Beat. And so we’re already
thinking about other products in other areas where they
can use the same type of journalism that we’re
doing in the city of Flint. So he’s in Detroit. You know and so he’s working
on learning grant writing and writing proposals and
those opportunities out there that support this work
where I don’t have my site with all these ads from car dealerships and you know popups and things like that. I just want people to get the news. Just be able to get this
news that we’re doing here. – That’s awesome. Thank you. I’ll get questions from the audience. Clay, are there any collaborative efforts that you’re undertaking in Half Moon Bay? – Yes, also I’ve been very interested in the Solutions Journalism Network. We’ve had a couple of
training sessions with them. We also partner with CALmatters which is a fancy way of saying we print their stuff which is a new thing for us because we’ve always defined our community in a geographically very precise way. You know we have discovered
lo after 120 years that our problems are all of our problems. I mean whether it’s
housing and homelessness and traffic are regional things. And it kinda doesn’t
make sense to just stop those things at the border. So yeah, and you know I’m about six months behind Jaquanda and Chris
in terms of writing grants and looking for other things. – Okay, great. So now we’ll turn to
some of your questions. And I’ll throw this to the group, but I think I’ll turn to Jaquanda first ’cause you hinted at this. Well no, you addressed
it directly actually. Could nonprofits be providers to regional or national newspapers and make money? – Great question. I mentioned the $10,000,
and that’s through Sarah Alvarez from Outlier Media. And the big thing I think
with independent publishing is to be able to collaborate
and provide content to some of those legacy newsrooms. We’re there. We’re in the communities. I look up and New York
Times, they’re sending free lancers to my community
to cover the water crisis. You could get content from me. So we are collaborating and working to provide products and
content to other newsrooms outside of our communities. Sarah and I just recently did
a water rates story together. So we’ll see what happens there. And someone, they purchased it, and we’re gonna see what happens next. – And I’ll give a shout
out to Sarah Alvarez. She is another JSK fellow working in the city of Detroit trying
to serve that community mostly through the
delivery of text messaging around housing and utility issues. So a huge shout out to Sarah. So Chris is that a model that you’ve tried at all in Akron– – Making money? (audience laughing) I haven’t tried that yet. All of our collaborations are to amplify the work right now. I’ve seen situations
like you’re talking about where people spend money
sending reporters in where we might’ve been able to help. But that wasn’t a part of our model, so I can’t blame anybody who’s done that. I can see it being something that could be a revenue stream. I don’t think it’d be a big enough one to really invest much in. Otherwise, I just like
doing the collaborations because it gives us, not more
reach but more experience. So we’re working with public
media in the Akron area to do some series of
stories where we do print and online, and they have the audio stuff because we don’t know
what the heck we’re doing. And that was the censored version. – [Michael] Sue, do you see other members of INN doing this sort of model? – Yeah, there’s a lot of distribution. There’s a lot of content sharing. The majority, like three-quarters of our members do share content or provide it under a
Creative Commons license which is a little
different than copyright. It basically says you can use this. Some of them get paid for that. Many of them will distribute for free because they’re trying
to establish their brand. They’re trying to help the
audience discover them. And I think a good example of that came up earlier when you all showed your hands on who knows CALmatters. CALmatters is sharing content
with many, many newspapers, all the big public media in the state, and so it’s a little bit
of a dilemma for them. They’re getting huge reach. Their journalism has huge impact. Their funders fund them to provide that, but if they ultimately have to get readers to support them, do they then get these other for profit media to
chip in for that coverage? Or do they try to get
that, hope that it builds enough of an audience they
can support themselves? So there’s a lot of kind
of strategic thinking and experimenting around that. In some states, the
nonprofits don’t distribute unless they’re paid somewhat, and they may have less foundation funding. And then some that have
strong foundation funding or individual funding,
will share it freely. So I think that’s a moving target. It’s within their
mission, but they’ll have to be sustainable over time. – Okay, so we have another
very interesting question which, Sue, I’m also going
to direct this to you because you probably have
more experience with this. The Sonoma West Publishing Company, a very small local operation, did a direct public offering to raise money. This person invested after reading an article about it in The New York Times. Do you have an opinion on this model? And I think Berkeleyside also did– – Berkeleyside also has done that yeah. I think it’s fine. I think communities, again, as long as they have editorial independence. You know you don’t get
to doctor that headline or change how they report something. The community investing
in its local publications like Half Moon or Sonoma
or through donations to nonprofits, I think
that can all be healthy. – You know if I could
jump in, so the publisher of Sonoma West is Rawley Atkinson. He said that, the only reason I wanna interject is it’s still
the power of legacy media. He wanted to raise
$400,000 through the DPO, and he had 100,000. And then The New York Times
did a story about him, and a week later he had 200,000 including people from all over the country who just wanted to contribute
to what he had done. – [Chris] Can I jump in on that? – [Michael] Yes, please. – So I’m curious why not
a co-op in that situation? I hope to ask them this. Direct public offering
if you’re not familiar means that you can all
be shareholders in it. The community owned co-op
model that I’m working on would also involve control. You would get to vote on certain things. You get to represent your community on a board of trustees. And so there’d be more access to guide the direction of the organization. And so I think it’s great. I think that nonprofits are great. I’m just curious why in those situations they didn’t go whole hog and just give the community the chance because I feel like the community deserves to own the media that covers it. – Okay, and unfortunately,
we’re out of time. – Oh sorry. – Yeah, we’re going to
have to leave it there. Thank you very much for
being with us this evening. – My bad. (audience clapping) Sorry. – It’s all right. – Well thank you again so
much for joining us tonight for a really important conversation about the state of local news. Next week, we’ll be talking about the Misinformation Society. With the midterm elections looming and a deluge of information
flooding the internet and the airwaves, how do we
make sense out of it all? Please join me in a warm round of applause for all of our speakers tonight. (audience clapping)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *