More Journalism Green Shoots

The news this morning of a $5 million slug of money for a new non-profit local news organization in the Bay Area, together with other scraps of news, and anecdotal chatter here and there, has me thinking that while the news-media industry as we used to know it may continue to struggle, cut, and chew on its own leg, the innovations lifting journalism itself are starting to reach critical mass.

This feeling is reinforced by a second story in the Times that says PBS’s Frontline is teaming up with the highly regarded Tehran Bureau to report on Iran.

Veteran news watcher Alan Mutter provides a thorough account of the new San Francisco nonprofit, which is backed by F. Warren Hellman, founder of San Francisco-based Hellman & Friedman, and involves, interestingly, KQED-FM, and the 120-students of the University of California, Berkeley, school of journalism.

The operation will hire laid-off reporters and make use of KQED’s editorial expertise, as well as the students’ already-well-regarded hyper-local sites.


Their plan calls for journalists to collaborate across organizations and work in several media at once — which may mean retraining print journalists to do things like shoot and edit video.

Collaboration seems to me to be key. That’s new. I don’t recall the Chicago Daily News collaborating with the Sun-Times when I was a kid.

In its partnership with Tehran Bureau, Frontline will provide financing, editorial expertise, and host its website.

What these ventures have in common are the collaborative aspects, plus the fact that money is changing hands. Other than that, they don’t have that much in common. In other words, some fresh thinking is taking place.

I’m starting to believe.

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Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014). Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.