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As Newspapers Cut Back, Online Reporters Step In

Hard hit by declining readers and revenues, newspapers across the country are making cuts or shutting down altogether. Experts examine how new online sources of local news and reporting are gaining popularity as newspapers cut back.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally tonight, looking for new ways to read all about it. Jeffrey Brown has our Media Unit report.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    "Newspapers in Trouble." It's a headline for our times as papers across the nation are hit by declining readers and revenues and cut back on staff, pages and coverage, or shut down all together.

    But there are at least the beginnings of another side to this story, as journalists and, in some cases, investors set up independent online news sites. We look at several local news efforts now with Joel Kramer, former editor and publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He's now CEO and editor of MinnPost.com, a nonprofit online news and analysis Web site covering Minnesota.

    Esther Thorson, associate dean at the University of Missouri's School of Journalism.

    And Jon Brod, CEO and founder of Patch.com, a for-profit company that aims to present online news and information to towns of up to 50,000.

    Well, Joel Kramer, I'll start with you. Explain the idea behind MinnPost and to what extent it fills a void or need that you see?

  • JOEL KRAMER, MinnPost.com:

    The idea behind MinnPost is to provide high-quality journalism at the metro and state level and to do so on the Internet, news, analysis, to be sophisticated to aim for the serious news audience.

    And the need for it is that there is a great decline of that kind of journalism because of the shrinkage of staff resulting from the deterioration of the for-profit model.

    Historically, for-profit operations provided a great deal of resource for journalism. And as you can see in the headlines every day, that's going away. We're trying to see if a nonprofit model will succeed in replacing at least some of the resources that are being lost at the local and state level.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And you started this, I gather, with foundation money. But the aim is to be — is to get by or sustain yourself through local revenues? What's the model? What's the business model?

  • JOEL KRAMER:

    Yes. Right now, we do have some foundation support and we also got a lot of start-up major donors, six-figure donors.

    But our long-term model is to sustain ourselves with what I would call more operating revenues. That includes advertising, sponsorship, membership, fundraising events, perhaps syndication, the kinds of things that we should be able to keep bringing in every year without relying on foundations.

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