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The Wired City

The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the PostNewspaper Age

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Wired City
    Book Description:

    In The Wired City, Dan Kennedy tells the story of the New Haven Independent, a nonprofit community website in Connecticut that is at the leading edge of reinventing local journalism. Through close attention to city government, schools, and neighborhoods, and through an ongoing conversation with its readers, the Independent’s small staff of journalists has created a promising model of how to provide members of the public with the information they need in a selfgoverning society. Although the Independent is the principal subject of The Wired City, Kennedy examines a number of other online news projects as well, including nonprofit organizations such as Voice of San Diego and the Connecticut Mirror and forprofit ventures such as the Batavian, Baristanet, and CT News Junkie. Where legacy media such as major city newspapers are cutting back on coverage, entrepreneurs are now moving in to fill at least some of the vacuum. The Wired City includes the perspectives of journalists, activists, and civic leaders who are actively reenvisioning how journalism can be meaningful in a hyperconnected age of abundant news sources. Kennedy provides deeper context by analyzing the decline of the newspaper industry in recent years and, in the case of those sites choosing such a path, the uneasy relationship between nonprofit status and the First Amendment. At a time of pessimism over the future of journalism, The Wired City offers hope. What Kennedy documents is not the death of journalism but rather the uncertain and sometimes painful early stages of rebirth.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-255-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. INTRODUCTION: Apocalypse or Something Like It
    (pp. 1-8)

    As the first decade of the twenty-first century drew to a close, it looked like the collapse of the newspaper business that media observers had been predicting for years was finally coming true. Three mighty forces came together in a wave that threatened to sweep away an industry whose pillars had long been rotting beneath it. Corporate debt and a profit-driven, bottom-line mentality led newspaper companies to lay off reporters, slash coverage, and alienate readers. The rise of the Internet cut deeply into advertising revenues, as retailers, restaurateurs, and other business owners discovered they no longer had to rely on...

  4. CHAPTER ONE Annie Le Is Missing
    (pp. 9-24)

    Paul Bass felt uneasy. It was a Friday—September 11, 2009. He was getting ready to leave the office for Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. And he was beginning to wonder if he had blown a big story.¹

    Two days before, Bass had received an e-mail from someone at Yale University telling him that a twenty-four-year-old graduate student named Annie Le was missing. Could Bass post something on his community website, theNew Haven Independent?Sure thing, Bass replied. So he wrote a one-sentence item with a link to aYale Daily Newsaccount.² As he recalled later, he didn’t think...

  5. CHAPTER TWO The Outsider
    (pp. 25-38)

    It was the afternoon of theNew Haven Independent’s fifth-anniversary party. Paul Bass was wondering how many people would show up. The celebration, on a Wednesday in September 2010, would be competing with parent-teacher conferences at the city’s middle schools that evening. There was also a major Jewish event taking place at Yale. City Democrats had scheduled something as well. The last, Bass mused, might at least pull in some political figures who would stop by on their way.¹

    I was put to work.Independentstaff reporter Allan Appel and freelancer Melinda Tuhus, along with Marcia Chambers, the editor of...

  6. CHAPTER THREE Rebooting the Register
    (pp. 39-53)

    Randall Beach walked into the coffee shop where I was waiting and stuck that day’sNew Haven Registerin front of my nose. A veteran reporter and columnist for theRegister, Beach had asked that we meet at a spot near New Haven Superior Court, where he spends much of his working day. Thin, white-haired, and tieless, Randy Beach looked like a reporter. It didn’t take long for us to find each other.

    What had Beach all worked up was page A3, an advertising-free sanctuary set aside for New Haven news. Or at least it had been ad-free. On this...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR A Hotbed of Experimentation
    (pp. 54-67)

    In a side room at the Mark Twain House in Hartford is a collection of artifacts related to Samuel Clemens’s involvement in the printing industry. The most unusual is a hulking mass of metal and wood from the 1880s called the Paige Compositor, which could set type 60 percent faster than the Linotype machines in use at the time. Clemens sunk a fortune into James Paige’s invention. But the Linotype already had a head start in the marketplace, and the Paige units proved too temperamental for heavy use. Paige died broke. And Clemens declared bankruptcy.¹

    I went to the Mark...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE Print Dollars and Digital Pennies
    (pp. 68-81)

    The idea that a nonprofit organization can be more financially viable than a for-profit business may seem counterintuitive. Yet as the experience ofCT News Junkieand theConnecticut Mirrorsuggests, technology—at least in these early years of online news—has turned the economics of journalism upside down. AtNews Junkie, Christine Stuart and Doug Hardy struggle to build a for-profit business. At theMirror, Jim Cutie is able to pay a relatively large staff of experienced reporters, provided he can continue to persuade foundations, corporate underwriters, and readers to give him money.

    The disparity came up the first...

  9. CHAPTER SIX From Here to Sustainability
    (pp. 82-96)

    William Ginsberg is a Very Important Person in New Haven journalism. In the old days, that might have meant he was in charge of buying newspaper advertising for a major department store or a venture capitalist backing media businesses that he hoped would bring a nice return for his investors. But Ginsberg is neither of those things. Rather, he is the president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which in 2010 awarded some $18 million to finance programs for the elderly, the poor, and the sick, as well as provide funds for scholarships, museums,...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN How to Win Readers and Influence Government
    (pp. 97-112)

    Paul Bass walked into his office atLa Vozon the afternoon of Thursday, March 3, 2011, called up theNew Haven Register’s website on his iMac, and, after a few moments of reading, matter-of-factly announced: “We got fucked.”¹ The reason for Bass’s displeasure was an article theRegisterhad posted about the findings of an internal investigation at the police department. The probe focused on officers who, during a raid at a downtown nightclub the previous fall, had illegally ordered partygoers to put away their cellphones so they couldn’t video-record actions by the police. There were a number of...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT The Care and Feeding of the “Former Audience”
    (pp. 113-128)

    About two hundred people filed into the auditorium at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School in downtown New Haven on the evening of Tuesday, November 30, 2010. They had come to hear Diane Ravitch, an author and expert on public education, talk about the city’s nationally recognized effort to reform its schools. As they soon learned, they were also there to take part in an experiment in civic engagement. Using every technological tool at their disposal, Paul Bass and theNew Haven Independentput together whatHartford Courantcolumnist Rick Green later called “a three-ring ‘education summit.’ ”¹


  12. CHAPTER NINE Race, Diversity, and a Bilingual Future
    (pp. 129-144)

    The kids were starting to arrive at the Brennan-Rogers School, which serves some of New Haven’s most challenging students from kindergarten through eighth grade. It was half past eight on an overcast, late-March morning. Karen Lott, the principal, was patrolling the corridors of the Katherine Brennan building, which houses grades three and up. Lott, forty-five years old and African American, projected a no-nonsense demeanor, wearing a gray business suit and carrying a walkie-talkie.

    A tall girl with long braids passed by. Lott joked with her about the earmuffs she was wearing, but at the same time made it clear she...

  13. EPILOGUE: The Shape of News to Come
    (pp. 145-152)

    One day in late May 2012, I was paging through Jim Romenesko’s media-news website when I came across a picture titled “Times-PicayunePhoto Says It All.”¹ The photograph had been taken at a meeting where employees of the New OrleansTimes-Picayunewere formally told that the print edition of their paper was being cut from seven days a week to three, that salaries were being slashed, and that a substantial number of jobs would be eliminated as well.² The photographer was Ted Jackson, who, along with the rest of theTimes-Picayunestaff, had been hailed nearly seven years earlier for...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 153-170)
    (pp. 171-174)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 175-180)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-184)