Elephant Diaries: The Affirmative Answer to a No-Newspaper World

I have no reason to think Albuquerque will become a no-newspaper town, but the set of questions confronting civic life in Seattle as the P-I goes down and the Times teeters are nevertheless worth thinking about in our own context.

In that regard, I’ve been following the discussions my old college chum Chuck Taylor and others have been having about what happens next in Seattle (a city I’ve always loved). Chuck, an alum of the Times and other Seattle media, yesterday began sketching out a framework for how one might organize post-newspaper journalism is his town (or how it might self-organize).

Setting aside that thorny revenue stream question, Chuck sketches out five full-time beats, and then probes what might need to go on beyond that:

So that’s five full-time reporters, and they will be stretched pretty thin. What about all the other stuff going on?

Time to tap and organize the neighborhood bloggers, a number of whom are already dominant voices in their own right.

He goes on to talk about the neighborhoods and issues already well covered in Seattle by citizen journalists, and the gaps in the system there. It raises an interesting question here in Albuquerque. What are the blogs that are most integral to our civic dialogue, that do the sort of work that could be integrated in a post-newspaper structure that would, in the absence of the work of paid journalists, give people a foundation for understanding what’s going on in their community?

I’m especially interested in those blogs that do original content, rather than (or in addition to) linking to and expanding on MSM work. This is the sort of citizen journalism that is a gap-filler for what the MSM misses, either because there simply are far too many topics for the big media to reach, or because there are far too many ways of viewing any given topic for the mainstream media to provide a comprehensive discussion.

I have my own ideas, but rather than turning this into a discussion of the pros and cons of my list, I’d like readers’ input. What is the Albuquerque citizen journalism on which you rely? I’d especially like your thoughts on how the content of those blogs would change if they were the primary information source rather than an extension of a discussion that includes funded mainstream media.


  1. Should Albuquerque be the focus or Albuquerque plus selected other sites in state? Is the Journal an Albuquerque newspaper of a de facto state newspaper?

  2. I am an advocate of the post-publication model of transmitting/absorbing information and knowledge but fear that this change of paradigms is also indicative of a time that will ultimately be post-literate — in much the same way, i suppose, that a poet or story-teller of the oral tradition might have worried that his voice could not possibly be recognizable or even unique, on the printed page.

  3. Both items somewhat off topic:

    1. It scared me to see our banner up there.

    2. On R’s point, I worry sometimes that we’re also moving back to a pre-literate time. So many commenters write as if they lived in the 1500s — meaning no agreed upon spelling or punctuation. Admittedly, they had Shakespeare back then, so it wasn’t all bad. But they also had people flinging pots of night waste out into the street. So not all good.

  4. Sophie – Sorry if I scared you. It was my way of telegraphing the first site that is on my list of critical Albuquerque resources in a post-newspaper world.

  5. Keeping with Sophie’s model:

    1. This is a topic that would make for a very nice discussion during a 60+ mile bike ride along very quiet roads.

    2. I’m no business major, but I’m not seeing a workable business model yet for internet content news that rises above the “pre-literate” stuff to which Sophie alludes. Again, I’m not an expert, but it looks like the only ‘net folks making money are some retail, social networking, and porn. And porn, from what I’ve heard, has seen better days.

    2a. I like the hyper-local idea, but even more attractive to me is the specialized content area idea. Connecting a bunch of subject “beat” bloggers under a simple, middle-management-free banner sounds like it could work (emphasis on could) if the profit margin were expected to be small and all the reporters probably had to have “real” jobs.

    2b. Since those “real” jobs would probably be in the fields covered in the “beat”, there would need to be certain freedoms of thought/press some employers might not be comfortable with.

    3. And that’s why I’m gonna miss newspapers. At least one of the reasons.

  6. Thanks to Scot, it seems that the evolution of cable channels on TV and the response of the networks as well as the rise of FM channels on radio and the response of the AM channels, including the rise of Clear Channel, give plausible starts to viable business models for newspapers. Hulu also seems to provide a model for how newspapers might evolve.

    Any thoughts?

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