Since the Winnipeg Free Press gave seven reporters the pink slip last week there has been a large amount of chatter on the future of the Free Press and traditional news sources in general.
Over the weekend, Free Press reporter Dan Lett saw red over a tweet with the hashtag #newfreepressslogans that read, “Finally – a paper for you. Not for your grandchildren.”
After the tweeting debate, Mr.Lett wrote a lengthy blog post on the subject of the future of the Free Press. Mr.Lett makes good points about the problems facing traditional media in our times; although I take issue with his assertion that online content will not pay for itself as people will not pay for it.
Mr.Lett says at one point in his post, “It wouldn’t matter if we only employed devastatingly attractive, wickedly intelligent, early 20-something male and female runway models. They would be writing great stuff, and people would still be refusing to pay for it.”
The appearance of reporters is of no concern to me. What I do care about is content and I DO pay for long form investigative journalism. Mr.Lett asserts that the Free Press can’t charge enough for content but this has nothing to do with poor content. I think it does.
I support a handful of news sources through being a “sustainer”. Being a sustainer means that I give five or ten dollars a month to support what they produce and I get what I pay for. Take a quick look at what Intercontinental Cry and The Media Co-op (monthly publication called The Dominion) have produced in news content. Intercontinental Cry has news and analysis that you would be hard pressed to find in English speaking media. The Media Co-op’s publication, The Dominion, over the last five months covered stories ranging from racism in the Canadian military, the proposal to use nuclear energy in the Tar Sands, and the recent partnership between NGO’s and Mining companies. I have no trouble giving money to these news source because I get what I pay for.
So, yes I will and do pay for provocative, in-depth content. Ex-Free Press reporter Melissa Martin understands this. As she puts it in a post on her blog, Nothing in Winnipeg, “Content is everything. It is the only thing of value, the only thing you have to sell, the only thing that defines who you are and what you stand for.”
All of these news sources deliver great investigative journalism even with the rapid and vapid twenty four hour news cycle. I’ll also point out that CKUW has been operating with a similar model for the last ten years. So, even a group of eccentric voluteers producing idiosyncratic content on a “dead” medium can produce 50,000 dollars in donations every year. If the Free Press is serious about surviving they should take a look beyond “traditional” media and see what others have figured out a while ago.