As the economics of high-end journalism continue to worsen, it is interesting — and, if you’re a fan of journalism, encouraging — to see how much non-profit journalism is being created. NPR is of course the most famous model but there’s also ProPublica, Pierre Omidyar‘s First Look Media, and a lot of other foundation- and philanthropist-funded projects.
Add to this list The Marshall Project, a “not-for-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering America’s criminal justice system.” It’s being launched by Neil Barsky, a former journalist, hedge-funder, and most recently film director. (He’s also a friend of mine, but don’t hold that against him.)
Here’s the rest of the Marshall Project’s mission statement: Read More »
If you want to remind yourself what a really good magazine article can be, check out Willy Staley‘s N.Y. Times Magazine piece “22 Hours in Balthazar.” Balthazar is a SoHo restaurant that’s been around long enough to be an institution but is still good enough to inspire devotion from scene-setters, tourists, and locals alike. How?
That’s the question the article (and photographs) answer, in an elegant and fact-filled manner. For instance:
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For now, everything is quiet at Balthazar. The last guests from the night before left just a few hours ago, and the nighttime porters are still finishing their thorough scrub of the restaurant. But the delivery trucks are starting to arrive all over again, idling on Crosby. Men in lifting belts wheel hand trucks stacked high with food from across the globe: 80 pounds of ground beef, 700 pounds of top butt, 175 shoulder tenders, 1 case of New York strips, all from the Midwest; 5 pounds of chicken livers, 6 cases of chicken bones, 120 chicken breast cutlets; 30 pounds of bacon; 300 littleneck clams, 110 pounds of mussels from Prince Edward Island, another 20 pounds from New Zealand, 50 trout, 25 pounds of U10 shrimp (fewer than 10 pieces per pound), 55 whole dorade, 3 cases of escargot, 360 Little Skookum oysters from Washington State, 3 whole tunas, 45 skates, 18 black sea bass, 2 bags of 100 to 120 whelks, 45 lobster culls. That’s just the fish and meat order.
I overlapped a little bit at the New York Times with Charlie LeDuff and let me just say that his reputation as a one-of-a-kind reporter is thoroughly deserved.
He now works for the Fox TV news station in Detroit. If you have ten minutes to spare, you should check out his recent piece: “Charlie LeDuff Golfs the Length of Detroit”.
Is it a) one of the most interesting pieces of reporting you’ll ever see? b) a kind of cultural criticism that almost never shows up in mainstream journalism? c) a golfing adventure that even the most adventuresome golfers have never considered? Read More »
I love the New York Times (and not just because I used to work there) but goodness gracious, this kind of thing really hurts its credibility.
An article about News Corp.’s decision to split off its publishing business (including the Wall Street Journal) from its entertainment business contains the following sentence:
Both companies would maintain their controversial dual-class share stock structure, which enables the Murdoch family to control nearly 40 percent of the voting power.
Well, guess what other family-run news organization maintains a dual-class share stock structure? Yes, the New York Times — as well as the Washington Post and others, as Rupert Murdoch pointed out in announcing News Corp.’s move. This fact, however, isn’t mentioned in the Times article. But here’s the reality: given the turmoil in the newspaper business in general and at the Times in particular, it’d be easy to argue that if anyone’s dual-class ownership is “controversial,” it is the Times‘s more than the Journal‘s.
The Times article also omits that the new publishing unit will include News Corp.’s education unit and HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest book publishers. (Our books are published by William Morrow, a division of HC.) The Journal‘s coverage of the story is superior. Read More »
Felix Salmon recently proposed an interesting new profit source for newspapers like The New York Times. Citing the Times‘s recent expose on Walmart and the resulting drop in the company’s share price, Salmon wonders why the company doesn’t charge companies for early access to big stories:
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[S]houldn’t the NYT, which can always use a bit of extra revenue, take advantage of the fact that its stories can move markets so much? Not directly: I’m not suggesting that the New York Times Company should start buying out-of-the-money put options on Mexican corporates in advance of its own stories. But how much would hedge funds pay to be able to see the NYT’s big investigative stories during the trading day prior to the appearance of the story? It’s entirely normal, and perfectly ethical, for news organizations, including Reuters, to give faster access to the best-paying customers.
An article published in the American Journalism Review last week by Paul Farhi argues that despite the popular narrative, America’s schools aren’t doing so badly. He writes:
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Some schools are having a difficult time educating children – particularly children who are impoverished, speak a language other than English, move frequently or arrive at the school door neglected, abused or chronically ill. But many pieces of this complex mosaic are quite positive. First data point: American elementary and middle school students have improved their performance on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study every four years since the tests began in 1995; they are above the international average in all categories and within a few percentage points of the global leaders (something that few news reports mention). Second data point: The number of Americans with at least some college education has soared over the past 70 years, from 10 percent in 1940 to 56 percent today, even as the population has tripled and the nation has grown vastly more diverse. All told, America’s long-term achievements in education are nothing short of stunning.
I like keeping up with things, large and small, as much as the next person.
Or maybe I don’t. That’s what I’m trying to figure out.
As someone who’s done a lot of journalism, I certainly have an appetite for being first with a story. In fact, most of the journalism I’ve written was stuff that no one else was writing about. But there’s a big difference between looking off the beaten path and trying to land a scoop within a beat that 100 other journalists are covering. I was never much into that. I understand that news organizations value the scoop but I do question how valuable such scoops really are — especially these days, when the first-mover often gets drowned out by the 1,000 who follow.
But lately I’ve been thinking about the information flow from the demand side rather than the supply side. Read More »