It is this of which I am most proud: we brought local coverage back. “No story too small” turned out to be a pretty good credo, and despite the faddishness of the term “hyperlocal,” the return to community journalism that websites allow worked, journalistically. The readers of The Sacramento Press feel an ownership of the site, and protect the civility of “The Conversation” zealously. And they are not pushovers when it comes to journalism. They appreciate what The Sacramento Press brings to our town, and they are engaged. And this is every bit as important as making sure every quote is accurate and word is spelled correctly.
It may also make this form of journalism profitable yet, for advertisers want, above all, an engaged audience. So while it is still losing its founders money every month—and making it hard or even impossible to pay people like me—The Press may still turn a profit and become sustainable.
But this much is still clear, whether for new media or old: Editing costs money. Citizen journalists are cheap and they can even be good. But even great journalists need some editing; citizen journalists need a lot of it.
Much of this piece, which was intended to be about journalism, is instead about money. Perhaps that’s the ultimate message, as journalists everywhere are discovering. As journalists, we’re nothing if we don’t tell the truth, backed up by solid reporting. But unless someone, somewhere, is bringing money to the table, our political insights or critical acumen or familiarity with the machinations of city hall are mere dinner party—or Facebook—fodder.
Without the money, we don’t have jobs. And “citizen journalism” notwithstanding, without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism.
Journalists like to say, “Follow the money.” Where that leads us might not be pretty or encouraging. But that, ultimately, is the promise of good journalism. Only by facing reality do we have a chance of changing it.