Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

11th hour move saves the Oakland Tribune

Oct. 30, 2011, midnight, Posted by Eric Newton

MediaNews_OaklandTribune

As I blogged, the nation's second-largest newspaper group, MediaNews, was set on Nov. 2 to kill the Tribune.

I didn't get it. MediaNews got big through "clustering"

  1. Buy papers next to each other;
  2. Retain their names and flavor; 
  3. Merge 'em liked crazy behind the scenes. 

Yet the company suddenly said it wanted to merge all its titles into two regional names. Like Frankenstein, the pieces of the Oakland Tribune would be sewn up with others into something called the East Bay Tribune.  The citizens of Oakland didn't buy it. They want their own newspaper. As long as newspapers are still around, a thin paper that's yours is better than a fat paper that's someone else's. So they complained.

To have hope, traditional newspapers need to create cultures of continous change. They need to embrace journalism in all forms and technologies. They need to engage their communities, to quickly admit mistakes and change course. I hope these are the trends behind the change of heart that in the 11th hour saved the 137-year-old Oakland Tribune.

At that moment, the management of MediaNews changed. Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has been gobbling up newspapers in recent years, took control of the Journal Register Co. A new company, Digital First Media, was formed to manage both the Journal Register and MediaNews (Alden owns a reported 40 percent of MediaNews.) Digital First's new CEO, John Paton, thinks newspapers can transform into their digital age selves, but only if they are strong in local news.

Next thing you know, backers of the old plan are announcing a new one -- as of last Thursday, The Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times and other papers will retain their names. Executives said they had received "feedback" from the community on the plan and a "request" from new CEO Paton to review it.

What's hopeful about all this is that the newly saved Trib will open two community media laboratories in Oakland. Those will be run by former Tribune editor Martin Reynolds in his new job with the Bay Area News Group as senior editor for community engagement. Reynolds brought national notice back to the Trib by countering staff reductions with creative citizen journalism and collaborative journalism projects. Reynolds calls the media labs "open newsrooms," offering wifi, blogging stations, community meetings, classes, open editorial meetings. The Trib also plans to expand its network of bloggers, perhaps partnering with newcomers like Oakland Local.

 

 

Knight's 2011 Election Meeting: Storifyed

Oct. 28, 2011, 5:19 p.m., Posted by Elise Hu

Today, Knight Foundation is gathering a group of media thought leaders for a discussion about new ways for people to participate in elections through digital tools and content. Follow the conversation via #knightelect.

The creator of the contexual social media storytelling tool, Storify, took part in today's Knight Elections summit, so we thought it would be fitting to use Storify to capture our day. 

Cheezburger’s Ben Huh on improving political coverage in today’s polarized climate

Oct. 28, 2011, 2:48 p.m., Posted by Elise Hu

Today, Knight Foundation is gathering a group of media thought leaders for a discussion about new ways for people to participate in elections through digital tools and content. Follow the conversation via #knightelect.

The man behind LOL Cats, FAILBlog and probably a few Internet memes you haven’t even heard of yet knows a thing or two about building strong online communities. And he says today’s political media are falling short when it comes to engaging voters.