The Chicago Journalism Town Hall in February was intended to begin a conversation on the future of news, and that conversation is moving along. The next advance is the Chicago Media Future Conference on Saturday, June 13, at Columbia College, and it’s a response to the strongest criticism of the Town Hall — which is that the panel of experts, as wise as they were (or not), by and large were a bunch of old farts steeped in old media.
“These aren’t the same old voices,” I’m assured by Scott Smith, a playboy.com senior editor who’s an organizer of the Chicago Media Future Conference. He adds, “We hope to excite our audience so much that they feel compelled to start their own discussions, and help us create future Chicago Media Future events.”
The conference will consist of two panels. The first will ask, “How do people consume the news, and what do they do with it?” and the panelists will include Rich Gordon, director of digital technology in education at Medill; Andrew Huff, editor and publisher of Gapers Block; Amanda Maurer, social media producer for the Tribune; and Daniel X. O’Neil of everyblock.com; it’ll be moderated by Dan Sinker, founder of the late Punk Planet.
Panel two poses a $64 question: “How do you make money selling the news and who is willing to pay for it?” The panelists are Eric Easter, vice president for digital and entertainment at the Johnson Publishing Company; Brad Flora, founder and publisher of the Windy Citizen; Tom Lynch, director of client satisfaction at IMP!; Steve Rhodes, founder of the Beachwood Reporter; and Patrick Spain, CEO of Newser. The moderator’s Barbara Iverson, a professor of journalism at Columbia College and copublisher of chicagotalks.org.
Iverson’s recently been a fellow at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism thinking hard about digital media. On her blog, currentbuzz.org, she says she’s working on “an explication of how we can never afford to pay for the kind of news, hard news, that our democracy needs. However, we can produce this news, distribute it, but we have to think outside the norms of money and the economics of scarcity and the Industrial Age.” Does that have a doleful ring?
In addition to Smith, who until recently was web editor for Time Out Chicago, the organizers of the Chicago Media Future Conference are Mike Fourcher, founder of Purely Political Consulting, and Iverson.
The Chicago Media Future Conference begins at 1:30 PM at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema (1104 S. Wabash) and runs to 4:45 PM, with a 15-minute break between panels. It’s free and public, but there’s limited seating, and half of it is already taken. Register here to attend.
MEANWHILE… A very important conference on the future of journalism that was not public, and was in fact highly secret, was held Thursday out by O’Hare — or so reports James Warren, a former managing editor of the Tribune. Warren, writing at theatlantic.com, says the subject was “Models to Monetize Content,” which sounds like one of the topics mentioned above, “How do you make money selling the news and who is willing to pay for it?” as taken up by old farts trying to hold off the insurgents.
Warren writes, “There’s no mention on its website but the Newspaper Association of America, the industry trade group, has assembled top executives of the New York Times, Gannett, E. W. Scripps, Advance Publications, McClatchy, Hearst Newspapers, MediaNews Group, the Associated Press, Philadelphia Media Holdings, Lee Enterprises and Freedom Communication Inc., among more than two dozen in all.”
That would be the “If the news wants to be free it’s time to yank its chain” bunch in full force. Warren comments, “It’s now safe to wager that most attendees, who were scheduled to include Michael Golden of the New York Times, Gary Pruitt of McClatchy and Tom Curley of the Associated Press, will be dragged into charging for at least some online content.”
Dragged? Charge was sounded in April, with a declaration by William Singleton, chairman of the AP, that “we can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories. We are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it any more.”
Said Singleton, “We believe all of your newspapers will join our battle to protect our content and receive appropriate compensation for it. AP and its member newspapers and broadcast associate members are the source of most of the news content being created in the world today. We must be paid fully and fairly.”
But no newspaper would dare become the only paper to charge for content. It’s all or nobody at all, and I suppose antitrust law is a bridge they’ll try to cross when they come to it.