News Entrepreneurs vs. Traditional Journalism
J-Lab counts more than 1,200 entrepreneurial news start-ups around the country. Placeblogger counts 4,000-plus placeblogs. These sites often get bad raps from traditional media for being the equivalent of unlicensed drivers behind the wheels of quasi-journalistic enterprises, trafficking in rumors and opinion. Yet many are trying to do the right things, tip-toeing through pay-to-play pressures from advertisers, navigating the reporting of locals' minor infractions, sunsetting search-engine tidbits, and fielding partisan accusations from political candidates. A corps of entrepreneurs is developing new codes of rights and wrongs.
Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism (www.J-Lab.org), runs the nation’s most successful incubator for news entrepreneurs and is a leading thinker on the emerging new media landscape. A former Business Editor and a Pulitzer Prize winner for The Philadelphia Inquirer, she left daily journalism in 1994 to lead pioneering journalism initiatives in civic journalism, interactive and participatory journalism and citizen media ventures. She launched J-Lab in 2002 to help newsrooms use innovative computer technologies to engage people in important public issues. Currently, Schaffer serves as a speaker, trainer, author, consultant and Web publisher on the future of journalism.
Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA focused on social justice issues that combines reported stories with community media & diverse voices and training to bridge the digital divide. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & a former Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09, as well as a consultant to organizations including Salon.com & TechSoup Global, where she led the re-design of their portal. She is also a circuit rider for The Knight Community Information Challenge and a frequent facilitator for The Knight Digital Media Center at The Annenberg School of Journalism, USC. In 2008 she spent the summer 2008 at TechStars, incubating a company that died; that experience has super-fueled her energy.