I don’t write much about solutions to our local daily newspaper crises, mostly because I haven’t seen a silver bullet … or even sparkly buckshot.
But the Star Tribune’s newsroom Newspaper Guild is slowly moving into the fore; they’ve been researching alternative business models for months, though they’ve been relatively quiet about it so far. (Bankruptcy complicates matters since the creditor-friendly New York judges are always looking for signs a union isn’t bargaining in good faith.)
But now, a sympathetic outsider hopes to ramp up the conversation. Bruce Benidt — a communications pro who last reported for the Strib two decades ago — wants to be the hub for your ideas about how to preserve “deep and broad daily journalism.”
Here’s a bit of what he wrote:
The 300 journalists who gather, analyze and present the news every day at the Star Tribune are inviting the community to help develop a new business and ownership model that will keep daily journalism working for Minnesota. The goal is to find new local ownership and a new business model that can keep the Star Tribune delivering news and entertainment in whatever format consumers choose.
So far, nobody in the country has solved the problem of how a newspaper can stay viable when so much of its content has been available free online. We think Minnesotans can find a solution. Minnesota has long been a center of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and is a community that values citizen involvement, education and an informed public.
So, together, let’s figure out how to keep a great news resource. We think you may have the answers. … It’s time to be creative and find solutions nobody’s thought of yet.
“I’m trying to be a catalyst for the community,” Benidt told me. “A lot of people are talking about this — yeah, but we need to do something.”
And for new-media absolutists, Benidt has an important message: “This is not just about a newsprint newspaper. This is about good strong daily journalism.”
(It’s also not just about the Star Tribune, since the Pioneer Press faces the same threats.)
Like me, he admits he doesn’t have a solution, but he’s willing to be an organizer, talking up the initiative to colleges, the Citizen’s League, and techie groups such as Minnov8. “We need two or three groups dedicated to solutions. It could be a not-for-profit, the Green Bay Packers kind of public ownership, but it has to be something.”
If you give a damn, why not give Benidt a call (612-861-3943) or an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I know the odds may seem long, but if you really care, why not take a shot?
By the way, another site awaiting full-fledged mobilization is Save the Star Tribune on Facebook. So far, it’s mostly about solidarity and commiserating, but it’s a 1,000-person tool that’s there to be picked up.