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?”
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?