By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The future will be cheap

I’ve been editing 29 final projects by my students over the past few days, so I’ve been a little out of it. But one of my students passes along this Washington Post story by Frank Ahrens on life at the Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press, a Gannett paper that’s on the leading edge of the company’s experiment in pro-am journalism.

Intrigued as I am by the idea, I nevertheless find Ahrens’ story a little dispiriting. The photo of mobile journalist (or “mojo”) Chuck Myron says it all — hunched over in his car, simultaneously writing a story and editing photos and audio, all to be uploaded to the News-Press Web site before he moves on to his next assignment. He doesn’t even have an office. And no one edits his work.

The Gannett experiment is certainly worthy. But let’s not kid ourselves: For a profit-hungry corporation like Gannett, this must look at least as much like an opportunity to load up on cheap and free content as it is a chance to help define the future.

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Stupidity defined


  1. Anonymous

    EB3 herewhom kneeds editing!I aks yew?

  2. Lisa

    I have to say that looks exactly like how I work on H2otown, the placeblog I run for Watertown, MA, right down to the cables and the Coke (although I prefer Diet Coke). The stuff I use to create H2otown fits in a small courier bag. And my office is the planet. I’m curious, as an outsider, is the mental picture of a journalist at work (when they’re not out in the field) of someone at a desk?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Lisa — And you are unpaid. Which is what the Gannetts of the world find most exciting.

  4. Lisa

    Yep. The question for guys like the one in this car is: why not go independent? Others like me have done quite a bit more to get advertisers. I suspect that if I extended H2otown into Newton and Waltham, and dropped a monthly free print edition, I could make a living at it.

  5. Anonymous

    EB3a free press will only work if it is profitable.Now that’s an oxymoron

  6. Anonymous

    pretty frightening, if you ask me. the question raised here is, if the journalist’s work is used by the company (in this case Gannett) how much do they owe him and how much does he owe them? Lisa makes a good point, but should also note that very few blogs have the resources (and capability) to keep up with a daily news operation, which, presumbaly, staffs more than a few reporters, editors and photogs.I am curious exactly how they move copy if the reporters are all mobile. Must make it pretty tough trying to edit a piece, no?Looks pretty lame, trying to type up stories in your car. Personally, I liked my cluttered desks. They helped keep my stories clean.

  7. Lisa

    anon — I was thinking more in terms of a weekly. Our local paper has 1 reporter, can call a photog. There’s an editor, it’s not clear if they edit more than one paper. In the past 18 months 3 people have rolled through the reporter job and 3 people through the editor job. One person might be able to make a profitable local placeblog in that environment — but a placeblog isn’t the same thing as a newspaper. They don’t have to “keep up” or even compete directly with the paper: they’re going after the audience that doesn’t subscribe.

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