Thursday, November 4, 2010

Funding journalism: An experimental science

I came across a glossy advert the other day for the Wall Street Journal wine buying club. That might have had something to do with my choice to cover New Funding Models for Journalism (and, okay, it was one of the few unclaimed sessions). Is this how the WSJ is meeting payroll these days, by peddling red wine?

With more than 100 newspapers shuttered last year alone, I wonder and worry about the funding for our profession, but I'm usually writing about things like microbes, plants, Alaska, global change, and any aspect of life science--even the genetic roots of red wine. I'm a long-time NASW member, though this is my first stand-alone science writers conference thanks to the Travel Fellowship. I've been a magazine writer (Science, Science News), a book/report editor (Columbia University Press, Smithsonian Institution Press, the late lamented U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment), a writing instructor/coach, a Knight Science Journalism Fellow, and an occasional newspaper reporter. Two of the four dailies I've freelanced for have gone the way of the dodo.

If readers and advertising will no longer pay for journalism, who or what should? Government? Philanthropy? A sideline of merchandise? With the rise of the wild wild web as the source of all information, it's become almost a scientific question, with many experiments in progress. Stay tuned to hear about three of them on Saturday afternoon.

Image: Vitis vinifera, Florida Center for Instructional Technology

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