At Thunderdome, I proposed a core metric that could guide Digital First Media:
The cumulative number of years our newsrooms have been serving their communities.
I estimated this figure to be in the thousands. The New Haven Register has been doing business for 205 years; The Denver Post for 125; The Daily Freeman for 146. That’s just three papers!
But holy crap, have I became a sad & cynical person at my not-so-old age of 28. Was it me? Was it the newspaper industry? I pay a therapist pretty well to help me figure that out. There was so much history riding on us getting this right. Why do folks push back against innovation and change?
And, even if these newspaper institutions were bullish on change – if DFM hadn’t closed Thunderdome and had backed “Brother.ly”; if PMN knew how the Crovitz/Friedlich investment in the ultra-light digital model reconciled with their own weird cerberus of two newspapers and a site – what does it say about the future of the paper brands? The same could be said about Gannett, which continues the bloodshed with no real roadmap for the papers in sight.
I’m finding less and less reason for optimism. Help me!
I’ve been thinking about changing my metric. In some ways, this feels like giving up. But in others, it feels like a breath of fresh air.
The total number of journalists earning living wages to cover their local communities.
History remembers institutions, but what is an institution other than the cumulative character of its people? Should we care who employs a journalist so long as they can practice ethically? How else should we respond to institutions that aren’t taking care of themselves?