John Kerry wants to save newspapers. Or something like that.
Anyway he's holding DC hearings on the subject today, presumably goosed by the fact that his hometown Boston Globe has been teetering on the brink of oblivion. Getting as testifiers Arianna Huffington, never dull, and David Simon, former reporter and scathing critic of the modern newspaper business as writer and creator of "The Wire," makes the thing a good show, full of pep, fury, and righteousness.
But Kerry is the guy whose senior adviser to his 2004 presidential campaign asked a bunch of donors here in SF back then: Did Mr. Kerry make a tactical PR mistake vacationing in Sun Valley instead of Disneyland? That was the wrong question. The right one was: why doesn't anybody in the US care where John Kerry goes on vacation?
The Senator was also the one, during a Chronicle editorial board meeting in that same period, who claimed he was responsible for deposing Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. I stopped him at that point and told him I'd been in Manila throughout that drama and there were a lot of other people -- including members of Congress -- who played a big role in that change. Instead of conceding, in the face of an eyewitness, that maybe he'd overstated his case, Mr. Kerry just kept on insisting that, no, he was the one. Weird. Then he got his windsurfing hide stripped at the polls by George W.
Today the Senator said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer had gone bankrupt. Wrong.
I'm guessing a panel Thursday night at Fort Mason Center on "What Comes After Newspapers?" might be a little less about atmospherics. Well, it'll at least be more fun for me because I'm on it, along with Michael Kinsley and former Washington Post managing editor Steve Coll. NPR's David Folkenflik moderates.
What's likely to come up, aside from big picture stuff, is all the experimentation that's going on now with information gathering, even just (or especially) here in San Francisco. This video provides a couple of examples.
While it's a piece about homelessness, specifically what might be a growing trend of people living in their cars South of Market, what's most interesting to me is the media start-up circuitry that got it done. The video shooter, Cassidy Friedman, is working through something called SanFranciscoIAM, part of a growing operation that's creating -- and even paying for, in some cases -- video journalism via their website assignment desk. You can pitch a story to them or try to snag one that's already on their boards. Skill and the popularity of your video both matter and determine how well you do.
SanFranciscoIAM also hosts the video itself, so YouTube or one of the other bigs isn't your only option.
Then, in our video, we interview Thea Chroman, a reporter for KALW radio who did her own homeless broadcast story through another SF media start-up Spot.Us. Founder David Cohn has set up a deal where you can pitch a story and his web audience makes bids to finance the piece (the amount you can bid is limited to avoid special interest plants). When the bids match the cost of the story, Spot.Us, or a media partner like the Oakland Tribune or KALW, then finds reporters to do it. Editing is either done by a media partner or by freelance editors Spot.Us has on their roster.
Who knows where either Petri dish test will go. But the mainstream media needs to pay attention to them, and have partnerships, before hearings in Washington turn into wakes.
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