We need reporters. Without them, we’re blind as to what’s happening in the world writ large. Or not writ at all, which is the problem. But with dead-tree media dying (if not dead and now searching the nation in search of brains that taste like, well, I defer to Slate on this one) and online media replete with minimum-wage earners explaining a world they can’t begin to grasp, where will the next generation of journalists come from?
Google’s got you covered.
Many local newsrooms have been cut to the bone so often that there’s hardly any bone left. But starting early next year, some may get the chance to rebuild, at least by one.
On Monday, a new project was announced at the Google News Lab Summit that aims to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms in the next five years. Report For America takes ideas from several existing organizations, including the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America and public media.
The problem, of course, isn’t that J-Schools aren’t churning out grads with the passion to crank out news stories, but that newsrooms eventually have to pay them because they get hungry. Every friggin’ day.
Unlike foreign or domestic service programs or public media, however, RFA gets no government funding. But they are calling RFA a national service project. That might make some journalists uncomfortable – the idea of service and patriotism, said co-founder Charles Sennott, founder and CEO of the GroundTruth Project. But at its most fundamental, local journalism is about protecting democracy, he said.
Damn straight. Except, you know, when journalism is all about informing the public about the truth, as opposed to the facts. Not that anybody would want “protecting democracy” to further a righteous agenda or anything.
“This program will not succeed unless the reporters are doing really good work,” he said. “It can’t just be a nice thing for the reporters.”
If not a “nice thing” for reporters, then what?
Pocketbook and soul
There’s really two crises in journalism right now, Waldman said – “a crisis of the pocketbook and a crisis of the soul.”
That could be interpreted more than a few ways, so what exactly are they paying for here?
Not to say that serving in a local newsroom will be guaranteed to be especially uplifting. Newsrooms are wonderfully cynical, beautifully curmudgeonly places, full of people that are resistant to anything that’s too shiny and new, he said.
That’s a good thing.
Beautifully curmudgeonly places. That is a good thing.