by William Skink
The Billings Gazette is losing an editor. Let me restructure that.
The Billings Gazette has decided it doesn’t need a thing called an “editor” doing in-house editing type things. That can be done by a guy in Butte. Here’s the article from the restructured newsroom of the Billings Gazette:
Editor Darrell Ehrlick and Editorial Page Editor Pat Bellinghausen will be leaving The Gazette.The positions of editor and editorial page editor were eliminated in Billings.
At the same time, Lee Enterprises announced that David McCumber, editor and general manager of The Montana Standard in Butte, will assume the role of regional editor, adding Billings to his oversight of news operations in Butte and Helena.
At what point do we declare the ravaged cadaver of print media dead by a thousands cuts?
The problem is of course much larger than what’s happening to print media. Corporate consolidation of traditional media platforms has been a decades-in-the-making, slow motion crisis enabled by both political parties and put over the edge by the internet.
Locally I feel the absence of the Missoula Independent every Thursday when no new edition hits the stands. I still clearly recall how Lee Enterprises and their newly minted hatchet man, Matt Gibson, locked out employees on September 11th, 2018. And I mean that literally. People showed up to work and the doors were locked.
There has got to be a better model for the essential role of holding power to account while also providing local communities relevant information about what is happening where they live. The share-holder focused, advertisement dependent media platforms of yesterday cannot survive in today’s media landscape.
One would then think to look at non-profit options, but a cursory scanning of wikipedia quickly exposes the problems there:
Non-profit journalism (abbreviated as NPJ, also known as a not-for-profit journalism or think tank journalism) is the practice of journalism as a non-profit organization instead of a for-profit business. NPJ groups are able to operate and serve the public good without the concern of debt, dividends and the need to make a profit. Just like all non-profit organizations, NPJ outfits depend on private donations and or foundation grants to pay for operational expenses.
The recent emergence of non-profit journalism may lead some to believe that this is a new trend in a struggling industry. However, journalism non-profits have been operating since the beginning of the newspaper age. In 1846, five New York newspapers united to share incoming reports from the Mexican–American War. That experiment in journalism became the Associated Press, which to this day is still a non-profit cooperative.
The problem is obvious: money. If you’re not going to chase advertising dollars, then you will be dependent on other sources of funding. NPR gets money from things like the Ford Foundation, while new upstarts, like The Intercept, are essentially billionaire-funded pet projects masquerading as anti-establishment journalism.
So where does a blogger/citizen journalist like myself fit in to all this? I’d like to be a part of the solution in providing my perspective on both local developments and other areas of personal interest, but the reality is I am a part of the problem.
I don’t get any financial compensation for what I write. That puts negative pressure on free lance writers who are trying to earn a living. Also, I haven’t paid WordPress to upgrade my little blog, so readers have to deal with advertisements. I guess I could panhandle readers for donations to pay for the upgrade, so my blogging isn’t enabling WordPress to sell you shit you don’t need, but that’s not the route I want to take.
When my job status changes in the next few months, and I finally have the time to fully invest in whatever the next step turns out to be, I may have an ask or two, and something more substantial to offer in return. Stay tuned…