Do Journalists Conference Too Much about Journalism?

[New Haven Advocate]

It’s shaping up to be a busy (and alt-weekly-ish) day around here. In this week’s New Haven Advocate, I’ve got a short piece that previews this weekend’s big journalism conference at Yale. (Full program here [.pdf].) The conference lineup looks great, but it also looks a lot like the one that presided at Harvard just two weeks ago, and in my preview I speculate on whether we’ve reached some kind of metamedia tipping point.

I realize there’s an easy irony here, what with me only adding to the oversaturation, but there’s also a larger context I couldn’t really get to in the paper. Yale’s conference is being funded by the school’s Knight Law and Media program, which is itself funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. One of the conference’s speakers is Paul Bass, who edits the hyperlocal New Haven Independent. Bass’s site now has six full-time and six part-time reporters, and together they break more stories than the New Haven Register. Bass keeps innovating, too: in June he launched a second spinoff, the Valley-Independent Sentinel, with a $500,000 grant from none other than the Knight Foundation.

Here are two more numbers to consider: $570,000 and $315,000. Those are the salaries, respectively, for Pro Publica editor Paul Steiger and Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith, and both organizations have received large grants from the Knight Foundation. Now, one more number: $60,000. That’s what the Chi-Town Daily News, a hyperlocal site similar to Bass’s, needed to raise in order to make it to the end of 2009, when several of its grants would have renewed. The Daily News didn’t make it, even though its previous funding sources included . . . the Knight Foundation.

My point here isn’t to highlight the pervasive generosity of the Knight Foundation (though that’s certainly a worthwhile point). Instead, it’s simply that, right now, at least, the pool of nonprofit news money remains a small one, and paying for one good thing means not paying for another.


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