Raleigh Public Record posits new journalism model
The Raleigh Public Record is a new website dedicated to “nonprofit, independent news for the Raleigh community.” They recently held a fundraiser at the 101 Lounge, and between the speaker’s remarks and my conversations, I learned some quite disheartening news: The News and Observer is conducting yet another round of cuts/buyouts that include a core group of reporters and editors, whose removal more than any others yet announced, signals the beginning of the end for our fine local newspaper.
The Raleigh Public Record is preparing to step into that emerging gap with a new model of journalism that includes cutting edge presentation of public records, in-depth treatment of local topics, and a business model that provides maximum editorial freedom. Charles Pardo, founding editor, is looking for some high ground between the old and fast-eroding bastions of print news and the proliferation of admirable but highly uneven and unpredictable local blogs. The largest of these is prone to slipping into pop culture and advertiser-driven topics – nothing wrong with that, but it’s not quite community service journalism. And the most beloved local blog makes no pretense of presenting anything other than exactly what they feel like – or have photographed the night before! The Raleigh Public Record wants to use the blog forum to develop a juried and professional venue for high quality news. Their fundraiser attracted a strong showing of journalists and intelligentsia, well described at yet another new local blog. The site has changed significantly over its short life and will continue to evolve as it develops tools and sources for a new paradigm in local news.
Back to NandO, which has served this community so well for so long. The list of reporters leaving this week – Wade Rawlins, Ned Barnett, Joe Miller, Jon Peder Zane, and others – represents not trimming fat, nor even amputating trapped limbs, but cutting out heart muscle. Or, as a speaker at the RPR fund-raiser put it: ” The News and Observer has attempted to maintain height in a sinking plane by tossing out the engine – a strategy that will work for just a few seconds.” Doubtless the publishers will say that their younger (i.e. less expensive) reporters will pick up the slack, and they will say that their migration to an online model is going well. We must also remember that NandO is a fairly healthy paper – it is the financial woes of McClatchy, its parent company, that is creating most of the stress. But it seems clear that, in the end, McClatchy will suck the life out or our local newspaper and then sell it off to die a slow death.
In the wake of that tragedy, we will need new models for how to share and come together as a community about the issues of the day. The Raleigh Public Record is a good start, and it is a fascinating experiment in new models of journalism. It deserves our support – check it out!
And as a final disclaimer in this highly personal blog setting, I am thrilled to be part of the Raleigh Public Record with a column called The Natural View.
John Dancy-Jones is beginning an occasional column on Raleigh nature and the environment.