If you’re a reader of this blog, chances are you’ve already heard about the new online news organization being formed in Hawaii by Peer News. The brainchild of Pierre Omidyar and Randy Ching, this next-generation news service will bring a lot of web cred to an issue of considerable current interest: the future of local accountability journalism.
I’ve spent some time with them as an advisor, and plan to do whatever I can to help ensure success. I think this can be an important step in the evolution of news in the digital age and a chance to strengthen the role professional journalism needs to play.
I’m interested for a lot of reasons, but I’d sum it up this way: the new venture intends to demonstrate that a digitally native, technologically fluent web organization can profitably serve targeted readers who want sophisticated journalism focused on local civic affairs.
There are lot of key words in that sentence that all speak loudly to me. If I was tagging it I might choose “digital” “targeted” “accountability” and “civic.” I guarantee I would select “profitable,” and add another: “sustainable.”
I think tomorrow’s best local public service journalism (like today’s) is most likely to come from organizations built on success in the marketplace. I applaud any effort to create the journalism democracy needs — profit, non-profit, hybrid or otherwise — but my heart and my guts both tell me that journalism that meets real needs can pay its own way — and should.
Peer News hasn’t revealed many details of the new venture at this stage, and it’s certainly not my place to do so. But they have started looking for an editor, and that’s a subject I know something about; I’ll be part of the team looking at candidates. You can find rudimentary information and an opportunity to express interest online at the Peer News blog.
Like most things digital, this project is on a fast track, with announced plans to launch in “early 2010.” There will be a lot more details and transparency as the project nears launch. After all, this is all about transparency and accountability, about involving readers and audiences in the process, about listening as well as speaking. Stay tuned.