Monday, February 22, 2010

Place and Media

As traditional media declines in the face of economic catastrophe, conglomeration, and the internet, new forms and models are springing up. Only time will ferret out the viability of these forms, but several, I believe, offer promise. Of interest is the model of non-profit journalism, or journalism funded partially or wholly by philanthropy. Journalism, like politics, is plagued by conflict of interest issues; private news organizations are held accountable to shareholders and advertisers. While the philanthropic model does not necessarily negate these impacts, it may change the dynamic and offer a new approach and possibly, hope.

One of these new models is Issue Media Group, which publishes a suite of vibrant locally-based, online editions in several Michigan cities, and has expanded across the Rust Belt to include editions for Toronto, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and yes, Detroit's competitor in dereliction, Cleveland.

Issue Media's business model combines local underwriting with local and Google-based advertising. Readers can subscribe to a free weekly e-newsletter. If growth is any indication, this model seems to be working; Issue Media group has expanded during the recession, opening new publications while others are folding.

The mission of the Model D publications is to report on local growth- economic and cultural. You will find business coverage of tiny companies, news in arts and culture, features on local communities, neighborhoods, restaurants, and profiles of entrepreneurs. The positive spin is certainly not consistent with traditional journalism, but it's not strictly PR, either. Taken as a piece of the information flood, Issue Media fills an important gap and reports on items that would never be covered by mainstream media yet are vital to understanding and promoting place.

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