Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The New Front Page

Noncommercial news ventures sprouting around the country are feeling some blowback from their for-profit cousins, who don't seem inspired by the new journalism paternalism.

When Bay Area financier Warren Hellman said in a Forbes.com interview that he may seek city funding for his nonprofit Bay Area News Project, the San Francisco Business Times lobbed this volley: "William Randolph Hearst must be rolling anxiously in his grave. To say nothing of folks like Thomas Jefferson, who wanted journalism to protect us from government, not government to 'protect' an enfeebled Fourth Estate."

New financing models for news don't impress the Austin Chronicle. "A spotty track record" is how the alternative newsweekly describes their history thus far. Slate's Jack Shafer weighed in with this broadside: "In the current arrangement, we're substituting one flawed business model for another. For-profit newspapers lose money accidentally. Nonprofit news operations lose money deliberately."

The newest nonprofit news outfit to launch, the Texas Tribune, debuts Tuesday. Tribune's chairman, venture capitalist John Thornton, says of the criticism, "I call it the Stockholm Syndrome. They are sympathizing with their advertiser-captors."

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