McGuire on Media

Joel Kramer is for real

Joel Kramer’s announcement in Minneapolis today didn’t surprise any Twin Cities media watchers. Rumors that Kramer would found MinnPost in October have been running through the Twin Cities journalistic and political communities for weeks.

Disclosure: I worked for Kramer for 15 years, admire him, am an early contributor to MinnPost and I am on his “National Board of Advisers’ for what that’s worth.

I’ve already had inquires about what I think of the effort. I was brief in answering those inquiries. I will expand on those comments here.

Kramer is for real. He’s an outstanding journalist with a notable hand in two Pulitzers. He is big-time smart and he never accepts the easy way. He always pushes for the forward-thinking answer and he loves a challenge. Joel is a lot tougher than his quiet, genteel demeanor might indicate. The Twin Cities dailies are going to find him a difficult competitor.

Perhaps his smartest move so far is hiring Roger Buoen as his managing editor. Buoen does not have a big national rep, but there are few better journalists. I am proud to say he did not leave the Star Tribune on my watch. He was beloved and respected by the staff there. He “gets” the web and understands how news journalism needs to change.

My enthusiasm for this project goes way beyond my personal respect for the players.

I have been arguing for months that we have to start experimenting with new business models for journalism. There have been other experiments, but this may be the best bankrolled, the best run and the most notable one in a really high profile market. And, there’s probably not a better market in which to experiment than one where the mainstream newspaper’s brand image has gotten kicked around like a tin can at recess. (I know the execs of both newspapers want to argue that fact, but I just spent a summer there and I know a few people myself.)

I think Kramer’s plan to solicit pledges is going to work because I ran into a lot of folks this summer who want to support good, aggressive journalism. Before Kramer even anoounced his plan, acquaintances of all stripes were telling me they were willing to pay for good journalism.

I have seen Kramer’s full proposal and this is not going to be a warmed over daily newspaper. on the web. Innovation oozes from the proposal, but so does responsible journalism. One innovation, mentioned in the announcement, is the plan to use blogs based on reporting. I know some will claim they do that, but a steady diet of such will be welcome and greeted well. I am certain Buoen and the journalists Kramer has assembled will aprreciate that experimentation must be the byword for this enterprise. The Knight Foundation did not pony up big money for this to be more of the same porridge. If Kramer expects to keep the contribution spigot open he is going to have to stay out on the front edge of journalistic innovation.

It is important to note that Kramer announced a non-profit enterprise, not a non-revenue one. He will be selling advertising, sponsorships and bringing the same sense of innovation to monetizing the web that he will bring to content. He will make cash. He will pump that cash back onto the operation rather than sending 30 percent to some corporate headquarters. What a concept!

I do not guarantee Kramer will achieve success. I do guarantee he will take responsible Twin Cities readers and the industry on a mighty important ride.

Categories: Media Criticism, Business of Journalism

Media Musings

Alan Mutter’s blog last week said “Contrary to the chipper spin” of newspaper publishers and CEO’s newspaper readership on the web has declinedc or been flat for several motns. That did surprise me and it counter to everything I thought I had gleaned, but that “chipper spin” phrase really got my attention.

This whistling past the place were all those bodies lie is amazing. Either newspapers executives are threatening to jump off 28-story buildings or they are spinning alternative scenearios like Ray Bradbury. I understand that Wall Street is listening too, but it just seems that straight talk combined with agressive action would be a better public stance. Straight talk is what we’re teaching students here at ASU’s Cronkite School, it would be nice to see more of it from industry leaders

Categories: Business of journalism