The time is now to make a painful but necessary shift: Abandon most for-profit local newspapers, whose business model no longer works, and move as fast as possible to a national network of nimble new online newsrooms. That way, we can rescue the only thing worth saving about America’s gutted, largely mismanaged local newspaper companies — the journalists.
“We need to accept that what local news is today is already dying,” said Ms. Green, 35.
She had that realization 12 years ago when she was a local education reporter. Her newspaper, The New York Sun, went under, and she created a new nonprofit organization to stay on the beat she loved. Now, her vision has expanded. She has co-founded the American Journalism Project, which aims to create a huge network of nonprofit outlets, some organized around subjects like education or criminal justice, others focused on covering a town, a city or a state. She wants to replace the hundreds of local newspapers now owned by hedge funds that are slowly being bled dry.
“We need to keep the values, keep the people, keep the lessons learned — and get rid of the shareholders and get a better business model,” she said.
Ms. Green has been working to expand one obviously needed coverage area, public health, to all 50 states, working with the nonprofit news service Kaiser Health News.
And on the local level, she and John Thornton, the other founder of the American Journalism Project, are working on a new project: backing a nonprofit outlet in West Virginia. It will be led by Greg Moore, a former Charleston Gazette-Mail executive editor, and Ken Ward, a reporter at the paper who won a MacArthur “Genius” grant for his coverage of damage done by the coal and gas industries to people’s lives. The not-yet-named new outlet (candidates include “Mountain State Muckraker”) will begin with a staff of about 10, seven of them journalists, a news team on the same scale as the diminished local paper.