What I learned from two journalism conferences last week

I spent the week of June 5 in Washington D.C. attending two back-to-back journalism conferences and returned this week with a sense of optimism about the future of local news.

It is easy to despair about the news industry as legacy media companies continue to make job cuts that destroy their once-great companies. As I began my conference week, colleagues in New Jersey at several Gannett papers, including The Bergen Record and Asbury Park Press, staged a one-day strike that coincided with the company’s annual shareholder meeting. They demanded new leadership, better working conditions, and more investment in local news. While their newsrooms struggle and many of their reporters receive such low salaries that they qualify for affordable housing, the CEO of Gannett earns $3.5 million.

Meanwhile, at my conferences, I met dozens of founders of new local, regional, statewide, and national media companies who are seeking to build paths to sustainability for their companies while finding new ways to serve the public’s information needs. They see news not as something to make as much profit as possible from, but rather as a community service and public good.

The non-profit journalism sector is blossoming, and so are organizations that are working to help these new media outlets flourish and serve their communities. Media organizations that will thrive must:

  • Serve a community need
  • Offer a product the audience wants
  • Report without fear or favor
  • Develop a revenue strategy
  • Collaborate with other media organizations to serve the public good

We were excited to build some new relationships with other media organizations at the conference and develop partnerships for news story collaborations.

In the next month, we will also have some news to share about our latest efforts to fill information gaps in the Garden State and ensure the sustainability of both Planet Princeton and statewide investigative reporting for the next several years and beyond (and beyond my tenure).

If you have ideas about the future of news in New Jersey or feedback to share, or would like to be involved in this work as an advisor, volunteer, or worker, email editor AT planetprinceton.com.