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article imageOp-Ed: The McCormick Foundation - Developing the future of journalism

By Paul Wallis     Dec 25, 2008 in Business
The McCormick Foundation is an organization founded by the former publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The Foundation is funding what seems to be a comprehensive program of support, research and development for the journalism profession as a whole.
If you were looking for someone interested in evolving journalism, you’d have to start with these guys. Forbes Magazine wrote about grants from the Foundation, which was pretty mind-blowing of itself:
"The amount of competition is endless and the revenues just aren't there to support the traditional business model," says (Clark) Bell, journalism director at the McCormack (sic) Foundation, a philanthropy founded by the former Chicago Tribune editor and publisher.
We in new media are well aware of the improbability of the dinomedia’s survival, and this is one of the main reasons.
This is also where the mind gets blown, in a very pleasant way: The McCormick Foundation is giving grants to people to essentially reinvent journalism.
They’re not picking people whose credentials are exactly bunnylike, either:
One of the first grants--for $155,000--went to well known online provocateur Jeff Jarvis, (Wiki link, because there's so much info on the guy) an associate professor at the City University of New York's graduate school of journalism. "We've got to get down to the numbers. You've got to start fleshing out the models," says Jarvis, who got his McCormack money in September.
Jarvis isn’t hanging around either. He’s creating a Center for Journalistic Innovation, which is to work with another program of his called New Business Models for News.
The importance of these programs is hard to overstate. The entire business model since the glory days of newsprint and TV is now totally obsolete. It’s more than extinct, it’s a liability. It’s currently killing those media. The ongoing cremation by degrees of the LA Times is a rather sickening horror story in progress showing how useless those old structures are.
So McCormick is definitely hitting the right targets. This is impressive stuff, and the research alone will be invaluable.
A bit of further research into McCormick was even more surprising.
The McCormick Foundation is a clearly very highly motivated organization, working across a huge range of community interests in the US. The journalism blog page alone has arguably more actual information per paragraph than anything I’ve ever seen. They’re also providing some info about the work done other foundations. For those who don’t know, this is how these non profits are supposed to work, all helping in their sectors.
(For those interested, the main grants page has a lot of information about how the Foundation operates.)
This quote from the blog page is pretty indicative of how high the quality of the Foundation's work is:
Four online community news sites will expand their local reporting staffs and bring their communities more content with a combined $390,000 investment from the Miami-based Knight Foundation. "As the news industry cuts costs by reducing staff - including local reporters - citizens are receiving less of the news they need to lead informed lives and hold their governments accountable," said Gary Kebbel, Knight's journalism program director. "These young, online-only sites help fill the void and offer the information needed to make decisions."
You wouldn’t hear anything more to the point from the most determined advocates of new media. This is also the original American view of the news media as one of the guardians, not one of the clowns, of democracy. Pleased to see they haven’t forgotten, even if the mainstream itself has apparently reached Bozo’s Greatest Bloopers level.
There’s miles of this quality of information, even such unfashionable topics as ethnic media, and the interesting if nauseating fact that D.C.’s media corps contains a breathtaking 13% of “people of color”. Representative of something, obviously. Probably the 19th century, but it hasn’t been making headlines anywhere else.
If you’re a journalist, or someone who’s interested in what’s wrong with your news media, check out this material. You almost definitely won’t be seeing it anywhere until the dinosaurs read they’re extinct in the tabloids somewhere.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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