Today Paul Bass’s New Haven Independent is featured in a New York Times article about journalism change. Leonard Witt did the following video interview recently with Bass for his Future of Journalism of series. Bass says, “The future of journalism I think is the flowering of independent news websites as well as the morphing of old style news rooms that were just print, or just TV, or just radio into multi-media news sites.” Watch the video interview and see the full transcript below. Sign up for Future of Journalism alerts on the Center for Sustainable Journalism home page.
Leonard Witt: Hi, I’m Len Witt and I’m here with Paul Bass, and he is publisher, editor?
Paul Bass: I’m the editor of the New Haven Independent, an online daily.
Witt: Quick question I’ve been asking several people here. What do you see as sort of the future of journalism?
Bass: I think we’re in the future of journalism. I think there’s experimentation going on all the time now, where reporters in a previous era were siloed, there were print reporters, radio reporters, TV reporters, now they’re multi-media reporters with the ability to cover more kinds of stories then they ever did before and have their readers more engaged. The future of journalism I think is the flowering of independent news websites as well as the morphing of old style news rooms that were just print, or just tv, or just radio into multi-media news sites. I hope that answers it.
Witt: It does, and you had said in the room there about …. You run a sort of community newspaper but you still defended professional journalists, could you talk a little bit more about that?
Bass: I think that we’ve actually gone back to the beginning of what journalism was, where you actually get out of your chair and you’re no longer seeing yourself as the fourth branch of government, and you’re just going out and watching things happen, talking to people getting information, thinking about it, presenting it in a way that people can understand, and giving them the platform to do with the information what they want to as actors in a democratic, civic society.
Witt: Ok, but I think….
Bass: I think those tools of being skilled and being paid to find out information and present it intelligently, analyze it that journalists have always had, are still essential to starting that process. You’ve got to start that conversation by doing shoe leather reporting, fair reporting, in depth reporting that then gives people tools with which to decide how to act.
Witt: So it’s a sort of pro-am model that you really like?
Witt: Ok. Are you optimistic about the future?
Bass: I’m completely optimistic, because what we’re living in now is more fun than any journalism that I’ve been exposed to in 30 years.
Witt: Tell me two, one sentence … couple sentence description of what your paper is.
Bass: We are a five day a week online daily news site. We do stories throughout the day about the city of New Haven. We have editions in some other communities too. And we have a very vibrant readership of people who get involved in our stories, comment on them, send contributions; but we are a professional news organization. We produce about 100 stories a week, news in our community.
Witt: You say you pay five journalists.
Bass: Six journalists full time, six half-time, and a bunch of other contributors.
Witt: Thanks a lot.
Second Reporter Takes Over questioning:
Second Reporter: Just one quick question we were talking as we walked over here. I used the example of the music industry. This a great time to be a musician if you want to make music but not if you’re interested in schmoozing in that industry kind of stuff. You seem to be living that example as a journalist, is this a great time to be a journalist? Maybe if you’re interested in getting out there?
Bass: Right if you are interested in doing the reporting and if you’re interested in making the music, and if you’re independent. It’s interesting to watch the marketing that is used by independent musicians through the internet. That’s bypassing the promotion companies and the large record companies you used to have to rely on to get your music out. Now if you go to a club now you’ll often see a touring band that has its website or MySpace page. Fans will find out about their music by having downloaded their music for free and they’ll make the money by having them come to the shows.
I was at a show recently in San Francisco. I was at a journalism conference in San Francisco last month and I went to a club called The Independent. There was a band there and I had listened to the woman’s music on their MySpace page before I went. While she was there she told everybody to take their cell phone, if they dialed the number she gave them then they would then have a song sent to their email address. They would have an exclusive download of a piece of her music sent to their email address. That was the way she was distributing her music and getting herself out. In ways that you used to have to schmooze with the industry representatives and the gate keepers of large corporations in order to do that.
Second Reporter: So how do you see that crossing over to news media?
Bass: News Media is exactly what were doing; we’re bypassing gate keepers as independent journalist. Who with a much smaller scale without having to pay for delivery trucks, having to pay for marketing budgets, or newsprint or presses, we’re going out and just reporting it. Having the barest entry so much lower now with the cost. You can just get your news out there and build the audience from the bottom up.
Witt: Great Thanks.