I started this conversation at the New Business Models for News Summit, back in October at CUNY. Thanks to Jeff Jarvis. Benoît Raphaël (editor-in-chief of Le Post) and I talked about how the content of a French local daily newspaper is written 70 to 80% by amateurs. They call them "correspondents". They have been contributing for more than 40 years. Their copy is corrected and checked by copy editors or "chef d'agences". The end result is: a hyper-local coverage. In fact, those "correspondents" are sort of "citizen journalists".
We gave this example just to show that imagining a media where the content is, for a big chunk, written by non-journalists is not a fantasy. It already exists and it has been working for years. Pro and "am" can live together and produce a quality medium.
On average, there are 10 correspondents for 1 journalist. Correspondents are paid by the newspaper based on what the newspaper publishes. But they are making far less money than the journalists.
So, to get back to the first step of our work, we are working around the following concept (I insist, it is work in progress, we are just starting):
1- Concentrate on the local coverage and on national and international issues that are affecting the communities that the newspaper covers.
2- A journalist is in charge of a community. This community can be either geographic or based on a major topic that is important for the communities.
3- The journalist and a copy editor manage a team of "correspondents". There are two types: people covering their local community, people covering a topic because they are experts (accountants, doctors, architects, engineers...). Some of them could already have their own blog. Then, there is the witness that happens to be at the right place at the right moment with the right tools to post content. The copy editor is in charge of fact checking the copy of the correspondents and the witnesses.
4- Each journalist and correspondent have a blog. Which means: the "spinal cord" of the medium is an aggregation of blogs. It does not mean that classic reporting is disappearing. At least at this stage of our thinking. But let's be open and forget about any a priori (tough!). About blogs as a center piece, you can read F. Fillioux's post: Blogging, a new journalist genre (editor for the Norwegian group Schibsted)
5- National (including non-local entertainment and non-local sport) and international content are reduced to the minimum and coming from other media like newspapers, magazines, TV channels from the country and other countries too. If you have a strong Greek community, why not translate, sometimes, the coverage of an international matter written by a Greek newspaper. Wire services... not sure they are necessary (TBD). We can still have some journalists whom the job is to explain and / or to give the local ramifications of a national or international news story.
So, once again, this is just the beginning of our work. It is going to change based on the feedback that we are going to receive from professional journalists and non-journalists. Please do not hesitate to react on the following main concepts:
- local correspondents
- blogs at the center of the local medium
- focus of the coverage on local matters
- What is the ratio, on average, of journalists to people? The ratio could be different based on the concentration of the population (e.g., urban center vs. rural areas).
Update 1: I am receiving answers from French journalists. I'll translate them later.
Update 2: According to the marketing guru, Seth Godin, it is time to start a local newspaper.
Update 3: How to build a media empire by Mitch Joel