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

Balboni begins again

You can count the number of Boston media people who’ve created significant, sustained news organizations on one hand. Stephen Mindich, who in 1966 launched the weekly newspaper that became the Boston Phoenix. Jane Christo, who transformed WBUR from an eclectic college radio station into a news powerhouse. And Phil Balboni, who founded New England Cable News. Have I missed any?

Now Balboni, 65, is leaving NECN. But rather than retiring, he’s starting an international news site to be based in Boston. According to Jenn Abelson’s story in today’s Globe, this is no small venture, having attracted heavy hitters from business and journalism, including former Globe publisher Ben Taylor. The project will be known as Global News Enterprises. Balboni has already registered the domain name (a placeholder is there at the moment).

The entire news business is undergoing a wrenching cycle of destruction and reinvention. It’s easy to focus on the destruction. Today comes word that GateHouse Media, which owns about 100 community newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts (including The Patriot Ledger of Quincy), is cutting 60 jobs. Nationally, Tribune Co. and other newspaper owners keep slashing.

But Balboni’s move shows that there’s plenty of reinvention going on, too. At a time when major metros like the Globe have eliminated their foreign bureaus to focus on local coverage, there are opportunities to provide new kinds of international reporting.

It sounds like Global News will be a relatively low-budget operation, occupying a slightly different space from Global Voices Online, a Berkman Center-affiliated project that intelligently aggregates bloggers from around the world.

This is worth watching — and rooting for.

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  1. Peter Porcupine

    Reuters began as one person.I would suggest that Glob, Herald, et al, can make up that foreign deficit by utilizing a local source for foreign news.

  2. Jessica Torrez-Riley

    This sounds very encouraging. As a student journalist who had pretty much given up on the idea that being a foreign correspondent would be a viable job opportunity, this restores some hope. The Globe article said, “Correspondents for the website will not be full time or receive benefits, but Global News will offer ownership shares to correspondents and other key employees in an effort to get journalists more deeply invested in charting the future of their profession, Balboni said.” Perhaps not the most stable job description, but it’s nice to see that in the midst of all these cutbacks there are still exciting opportunities opening up.

  3. Anonymous

    We needed to hear good news, Dan. My hope is that you (and your colleagues)are preparing a new generation of Phil Balbonis, since the “pipeline” looks a little shaky right now. Hopefully, the 30 and 40-something journos in the trenches can establish relationships with money-sources to make their pipedreams a reality. It would be great if Phil’s effort were so successful that it became a template for others.

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