On the new “What Works” podcast, Ellen Clegg and I talk with Howard Owens, the publisher of The Batavian, a digital news organization in Genesee County, New York, way out near Buffalo. When I first met Howard, he was the director of digital publishing for GateHouse Media, which later morphed into Gannett. Howard launched The Batavian for GateHouse in 2008. In 2009, GateHouse eliminated Howard’s job, but they let him take The Batavian with him, and he’s been at it ever since.
The Batavian’s website is loaded with well over 100 ads, reflecting his belief that ads should be put right in front of the reader, not rotated in and out. He’s also got an innovative idea to raise money from his readers while keeping The Batavian free, which we ask him about during our conversation with him.
We’re also joined by Sebastian Grace, who just received his degree in journalism and political science from Northeastern. Everyone in journalism is freaking out about ChatGPT and other players in the new generation of artificial intelligence. Seb wrote a really smart piece, which is up on the What Works website, assuring us all that we shouldn’t worry — that AI is a tool that can allow journalists to work smarter.
Ellen has a Quick Take on Mississippi Today, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for stories that revealed how a former Mississippi governor used his office to steer millions of state welfare dollars to benefit family and friends. Including NFL quarterback Brett Favre! We interviewed Mary Margaret White, the CEO of Mississippi today, on the podcast in November 2022. And reporter Anna Wolfe has a great podcast about her prize-winning series.
I observe that journalism these days is often depicted as deep blue — something that liberals and progressives may pay attention to, but that conservatives and especially Trump supporters dismiss as fake news. But Steve Waldman, the head of the Rebuild Local News coalition, says it’s not that simple, and that the local news crisis is harming conservatives even more than it is liberals.
You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.