I have seen the future of American journalism, and it looks something like this.
Here is why:
THE TEXAS TRIBUNE, in all its online, non-profit glory, has managed to get up and running in just three months -- and has done it with a staff of 16, with some outside-contractor help. I know of newspapers with staffs well into three figures that haven't been able to mount websites half as useful or easy to navigate after trying for years.
Are the folks at The Texas Tribune that much smarter than everybody else in American journalism? No. But they're proving themselves a lot more nimble . . . and creative.
The Tribune staff is thinking like a guerrilla army -- it's always thinking of how to do a lot with a little, and quickly. American newspaperdom is thinking like the American commanders in Afghanistan . . .and the Soviet commanders who used to be in Afghanistan.
American newspaperdom is trying to shore up a dying empire with a decimated army. Print journalism's losing the "hearts and minds" of the people.
More and more "hearts and minds" -- or at least eyeballs -- will be lost as the dead-tree media, in their desperation, start charging more and more for the printed page. And as online content (the bastard fruit of the Daily Blab's proverbial womb, birthed as an afterthought) starts to disappear behind "pay firewalls."
LET ME ASK you a question. If newspapers begin charging left and right for online content you used to get for free, and if you still can get really quality journalism on the Web for no charge from sites like National Public Radio (for your national news) and The Texas Tribune (for matters closer to home), where will you get your news -- especially when money is tight?
The Texas Tribune, I'm guessing, has a better idea. There will be other better ideas coming along presently.
Welcome to the future.