The success of their endeavor—and in all these experiments in nonprofit journalism—really resides in that: rebuilding for today, not for yesterday. If they’re not already, the CNC needs to start talking to the smart programmers, data journos, and social media kids around town. Because it’s great to know that they’re thinking of a website, but that’s the bare minimum nowadays — the “you must be this tall to ride” sign of modern news. Where are they on mobile phones? What’s their social media strategy? How do they leverage user-generated content? How do they work with the larger web ecosystem here in Chicago and beyond? What content will be available via an API and how can I mash it up? Where do they stand on Creative Commons licenses? The questions go on and on and on. And sure, they’re a pain in the ass to answer—it’s a lot easier to rebuild the newsroom you worked in for 40 years—but they’re the questions, and they’d better be able to answer every one — because if they can, they win. And so do we.
Dan Sinker’s good advice in 2009 to the honest folks then opening up the Chicago News Cooperative, the non-profit journalism outfit launched that year with donor funding and a contract to supply the New York Times with Chicago coverage. It’s due to close this week. Follow the link for why, an instructive tale for online publishers who fail to pay equal respect to the technical challenges along with the journalistic ones.