The Harrisburg Patriot-News offered to buy out many of its employees in October, and many heavyweights took the offer, as Jersey Mike reported. It’s hard to get the full story, as Dennis Owens of ABC-27 in Harrisburg found out:

“One story you won’t see in the Patriot-News is the inside story about what’s going on. One person who took the buyout said they had to sign a non-disparagement clause – meaning they can’t talk about the buyout or risk losing it. The person did say there are a lot of sad people.”

Harrisburg isn’t alone—jobs are being cut at Lancaster Newspapers as well, and in hundreds of other local papers in the United States. John Grapper, writing in the Financial Times, wonders if local papers will survive. At best, he suggests, they will survive, but not as we know them today.

Allow me to introduce you to problem #2 you can solve in 2009 for fun and profit:

No. 2: Journalism

Problem: Local newspapers are shriveling.
Assets: There is a growing sense of community (and desire for it), and more readers and resources are online than ever before.

Daniel Victor, a reporter at the Patriot-News who didn’t take the buyout, has turned his blog into a think-tank on this subject. There is a thriving conversation among the South-Central PA twitterati on this subject. This morning, for instance, Jeff McCloud of Elizabethtown asked Daniel Victor,

“Won’t something else step in to take a newspaper’s place? Esp. if it’s a large org, such as the Patriot-News?”

"The American Newspaper Industry is Hale and Hearty," a Lancaster Newspaper Company display on South Queen Street erroneously states.

You’ll find a good group of other locals participating in the conversation on Twitter, including Andréa Cecil, web editor for the Central Penn Business Journal; her colleague Jessica Bair, a reporter; Scott Detrow, reporter for WITF-FM; Janet Pickel, online editor for the Patriot-News; and Tom Murse of the Lancaster New Era. David DeKok of the Patriot-News has also blogged on the subject.

In other words, there is no shortage of ideas or enthusiasm. What are needed, though, is an entrepreneur who can assess the current cultural and economic situation and develop a breakthrough way to match the assets with the problem. Will that entrepreneur be you or someone you know?

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Read Part I – Construction
Read Part III – Continuing Ed
Read Part IV – Lending

6 thoughts on “11 Problems You Can Solve in 2009: Part II – Journalism

  1. I think we’re going to see an explosion of entrepreneurial journalism in 2009. The Knight News Challenge was overwhelmed with applications. My favorite to come out of last year’s challenge was, which is a fascinating concept, even if I’m skeptical that it’ll work on a large scale.

    But I do think you’re going to see more and more journalists leave news organizations to try to start up a new model on their own. I don’t think we’ll see it in central Pennsylvania just yet, but you’re right: Since newspapers have taken their sweet time, the future business model is there for the taking. No journalism experience necessary.

  2. TypePad is offering an interesting solution to the closing newspapers and it looks like they are getting a great response. The downside is journalists are still relying on advertisers, and it takes time to build up a readership.
    I would like to see regional journalists band together and create a central website to aggregate their feeds in one location. Something similar to All Top which would send readers out to each writers blog. This could give them the power of sharing readers and centralizing the ad revenue and in many ways shield them from angering advertisers.

  3. Daniel, this is an interesting time for all of journalism. From shrinking staffs at local newspapers to the same decrease in reporters at the national level. Have you noticed that news coverage now is about opinion and expertise compared to when I studied journalism, where we were taught to be unbiased, objective, get all of the facts and stay neutral. Certainly if the local papers face their demise, the entrepreneurial spirit of America will find alternate ways to share the news. It’s human nature to want to be in the know and we’re already finding ways to facilitate that through blogs and other technology. I’m just wondering how all of this affects the First Amendment. Kae

  4. News today of the Journal Register plans to shutter nine weeklies points to an interesting observation: Weeklies that die are generally operated by large media groups; family weeklies are doing just fine, even growing.
    Small weeklies can kill it if they are lean and mean. Reason being: the dailies are cutting back and axing suburban and small town coverage. So small weeklies covering school boards, athletics and city councils, cops, etc., are seeing increased circulation. The dailies are fading for obvious reasons: timeliness, ad competition, overhead costs.
    One other point about dailies: they are losing faith in their own product, and that is a fundamental problem.

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