Belmont Club

The market for facts

The NYT describes a nonprofit called the Voice of San Diego whose main output is original facts — the core product of traditional journalism. “Here it is, offering a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists — the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way. Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.”

There are a number of experiments trying to develop new economic models for newsgathering. Some approaches rely on volunteers while others rely on donations and foundation funding. In my own view, the key challenge to creating an alternative newsgathering model is to create a market for challengeable and verifiable facts where contributors can be remunerated with a minimum of friction.

This is one of the key areas of the information industry. If the only viable alternative or supplement to traditional newsgathering is foundation funding the market for original facts will continue to be dominated by ideological groups.