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    The Turning Tide for Online News

    by Geoff Dougherty
    July 16, 2008

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been interviewing candidates for an associate editor’s position at the Daily News.

    Several things about that process convinced me that the tide has turned, both for our organization and for online news:

    • I’ve been explicit with our candidates about the risks involved. We’re a start-up, and it’s possible that our grant funding will go away within a year. More than one candidate has told me that, given the state of our industry, he considers working for us LESS risky than taking a job with a daily newspaper.
    • More than half of the applicants for this position were journalists of color. This absolutely stunned me, but I suppose it makes sense. Given our business model, and the massive network of citizen journalists that we’re building, it’s clear that we’re a different kind of news organization that’s open to new stories and new voices.
    • We’re attracting applicants that are shockingly qualified. Yesterday, I had the somewhat embarrassing task of running a former New York Times editor through a tryout on our desk. Frankly, I’d consider myself lucky to take dictation for some of these candidates, let alone supervise them.

    The fact that we’re attracting this caliber of applicant is great for us, but should be concerning to editors at newspapers. As papers shed jobs and stumble forward with little in the way of mission or business plan, the brightest talent will migrate to the online competition.

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    Tagged: diversity economics hiring online news
    • Geoff, I’m at UNITY here in Chicago and was intriqued by your note that said many of your recent applicants were journalists of color. How diverse were they in terms of different ethnic backgrounds, i.e. black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American? I ask because there was a discussion this morning in which some suggested that not all of these groups were moving into the digital space at the same pace.

    • Geoff, I alert you to citizen journalist Charles Williams of http://www.shopsouthchicago.com who is bridging the digital divide in the Black American neighborhoods of the South Side of Chicago. See, for example, his profile of David Ellison-Bey http://www.servicesbywilliams.com/a/8/more/parnell-s-6726_ellison.html who I introduced him to. Great work! Peace.

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