In my previous post, I wrote about how traditional news media in the U.S. are worried. The Internet has shattered the old business model. Many are now turning to digital and mobile devices for information.
Take a look at this: Data from the Pew Research Center show 50% of Americans now turn to the Internet as a source of news – a big jump from 13% in 2001. TV as a news source is declining from 74% in 2001 to 69% in 2013, and an even more dramatic decrease for newspapers from 45% to 28% in the same period.
But in this bleak environment, not everybody is worried. Our media visits have brought us to news organizations which are unperturbed by all this. In fact, they are happy, driven, enthusiastic and energetic. They’re the media start-ups. A new breed of independent media organizations. They’re taking advantage of this exciting digital and mobile age. They’re media groups built from the ground up by journalists raring to break free from the clutches (evil clutches?) of big media – those that are ruled by big media bosses, advertisers, politics, money, readership or ratings stats.
One such news organization is ProPublica, established late 2007. We met its editor-in-chief and CEO Paul Steiger in their New York office. Steiger was a long-time managing editor of the Wall Street Journal which had won a number of Pulitzer Prizes under his tenure.
(ProPublica CEO and editor-in-chief Paul Steiger talks to the WPI fellows)
Steiger tells the World Press Institute (WPI) fellows that the broken business model has negatively impacted an important area in many newsrooms: investigative reporting. “Many newspapers are in the red. Some have closed. Many have reduced staff, and many could not do this kind of investigative reporting. Now it is important that this kind of reporting come from the nonprofit sector,” Steiger explains.
(“We’re prepared to do the tough stories,” says Steiger)
ProPublica is a nonprofit news organization whose mission, as Steiger says, is “to shine the spotlight on abusive power in government, business, healthcare, courts, education, media and nonprofit organizations.”
On its inception, ProPublica raised $10 million in initial funding from a philanthropist! They employ full-time staff writers at salaries on par with big media organizations, and their journalists have the luxury of time for deep-dive investigative stories that go beyond the scope and depth of the 24/7 news cycle these days They’re also big into data analysis and reporting, a growing trend in big newsrooms today. It is investigative reporting that sifts through volumes of data through computer-assisted metrics analysis.
(Texas Tribune CEO and editor-in-chief Evan Smith talks about changing the old media mentality in the U.S.)
In 4 years, Texas Tribune has raised some $21 million in funding. Calling it an “intersection of journalism and technology,” Texas Tribune is heavily involved in data reporting on issues like the flaws in the state prison system and public school education.
(Young and upbeat. Politico’s James Hohmann and Martin Kady talk about changing the landscape of political reporting)
Politico has hired some of the best specialized journalists in the U.S. to write about specific areas that affect American policy-making in defense, healthcare, trade, financial services, education, agriculture, transportation. It is incisive political reporting combined with digital and mobile savvy.
(Independent journalism. Matthew Brunwasser and Caitlin Mcnally, Investigative Reporting Program fellows of University of California in Berkeley)
We met the current batch of fellows who are doing interesting work on subjects such as the juvenile justice system in America. Some of them left their respective media organizations out of frustration because they were given the thumbs-down on their story ideas, not because these weren’t good, but because the subjects weren’t too popular or the process would be too time consuming and costly.