(Apologies for the headline, but I’m a fan of terrible puns.)
In the best case scenario, the journalism profession is undergoing a serious, radical (and maybe long-overdue) makeover. In the worst, as has oft been lamented the last few years, it’s dying off. In either case, it’s fair to say that the traditional gate-keepers of the profession — who are largely white, male, hetero and disproportionately from well-off backgrounds — are increasingly finding themselves out of touch with their readers, technology, the market and the direction this whole enterprise appears to be going.
At Raw Story, we spend a great deal of time thinking about the future of journalism (and, of course, our site and its place in that future). And one thing we’re sure of: the old way of doing things — from trying to force people to read what we think they ought to by failing to publish the alternatives, to looking at the news through only one supposedly-objective lens (which just happens to be white, male, hetero and well-heeled, of course), to blaming disinterested readers rather than uninteresting copy for public apathy — is on its way out.
Which is one reason why (as Andrew Beaujon noted) I put some of my money where my fingers have clicked and backed the Tomorrow Magazine Kickstarter yesterday. Tomorrow is a “a one-shot magazine about creative destruction” helmed by the 8 staffers who were either fired by or quit GOOD in its early June editorial massacre, including former American Prospect deputy editor Ann Friedman.
ThinkProgress’ Alyssa Rosenberg pointed out in a column this morning that both Tomorrow and The American Prospect recently (successfully) went directly to readers to fund operating and production costs, which helped her (and others) ballpark what it takes to produce a magazine. She said:
But I do think that in our conversations about media consumption and supportable business models, it’s really useful to know what the minimum costs of putting out a magazine like the Prospect or Tomorrow, or a television show like Louie, or a great-sounding album are. The more targets we have, the more we can think creatively about sustainable business models that will help us consistently reach them. It’s one thing to want media to be cheaper. It’s another to suss out how cheap it can actually get, and to make peace with that.
Now, obviously, a Kickstarter that is intended to fund production and distribution costs but not pay the writers and editors who produce content for the magazine (though the Tomorrow-ians say they plan to split excess funds among the contributors) isn’t the only answer to how to fund journalism, or even necessarily a sustainable answer any more than emergency fund drives can work every time there’s a shortfall. But it is, before the magazine even puts out a piece, starting conversations about how to fund interesting journalism in the absence of advertisers. And, for once, those conversations are being started and led by people other than the traditional journalism gatekeepers.
The editorial team behind Tomorrow‘s concept isn’t your typical pale, male and stale group of guys creating new media in the old media’s image. Instead, the folks who want to bring you a magazine about the future of things looks like what we suspect the rest of the media will eventually have to look like if they don’t want an all-male, all-white readership: not all-male, all-white or all-rich.
Not a bad start to the future.