The future of journalism in Israel and anywhere else in the world is unclear. The watchdog of democracy is slowly declining and no one has the cure for the big drop in profits, the influence of interested parties, advertising, decline in journalist pay, poor quality, the need for speedy reporting over fact checking & researching and other issues. The public absorbs this sub-par quality of information as it has no other source of information, but trusts the media as a reliable source less than it did in the past.
The importance of free journalism to a democracy is clear – the public needs information to make decisions, and its’ source for that information is the media. If the media is not free, if it is promoting propaganda, if it is owned by interested parties or if it is just of poor quality and just delivers stories from spin doctors, it does not do a good service to the public. I’ve seen how it works from the inside. Broadcast, internet, newspaper.
We all understand why newspapers are irrelevant in the morning, as constant news might have changed until we open the newspaper. We do have a need to be updated on current events, but we can get our updates online or on our cell phones. But there is still a place for newspapers or a “newspaper like” product in our day. On our way to work on the train, during breakfast or in other situations.
There is also a world of newsworthy information that does not reach the public through constant news updates. This is where “newspapers” can come in. Giving the reader the “other news”, more complex, more facts, more checking and researching.
I’ve recently watched conservatives framing master & consultant and current TV host, Frank Luntz interview new Congress members on the approval ratings of Congress. Mostly those Congress members were critical of the media which is not covering their initiatives and bipartisan agreements that are benefiting the public. This is where this new kind of journalism can be relevant. There are people who would like to read about things like that, but any complex issue will most likely not be covered by constant media outlets, as there is just no time to research the issue and then write about it. The media is busy providing constant news, constantly competing with itself, running from poorly covered story to another, while usually everyone is reporting the same stories and in the same way (unless it is an agenda promoting media outlet such as Fox news).
Another problem is the cost of operating a newspaper or a news site. It is not cheap. So my proposal for a quality and cheap news outlet is as follows: Hire 10 news people. 8 reporters, 2 editors. Pay each around 10,000 Shekels (around 2600$), which is a fair pay in Israel. Each reporter specializes in a subject or two. He/she will provide one story/item per day, which will be of a wider look on an issue. He/she will have the time to focus on that story and research it properly, instead chase the news, avoiding the constant news cycle, which is already covered regularly by almost every other media outlet. Your readers will visit a constant news source anyways. The average person will visit 4-6 sites on a regular day. If you offer quality information, he/she will visit your site as well, next to the constant news site.
Your media outlet can either produce one edition every morning, printed or online, upload all the stories at once or spread them throughout the day and by that will provide its readers a quality product of information regularly. The extra costs will be for a website (can be WordPress based) and a server for the site, and those are not to costly. All and all you can produce a quality news source for about 1.2 million Shekels a year, which is about 260,000$. Practically nothing.
Of course you can play with the number of reporters, you can build a model for advertising to bring in money, you can use news aggregation and collaboration with other sites, you can offer your content as a news agency for every news outlet to use to draw traffic to your site and more.
Who will benefit from this? Everyone. The public, democracy, the journalism profession, public relations professionals, issues which are not getting in the constant news cycle and and the list goes on.