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The Future of Journalism is Cooperative, Duh!

Bill Thompson on the BBC:

I had an interesting encounter with an editor from the environment division of a major newspaper at the Cleantech Summit last Monday. I'm taking advice on moving to Asia next year to freelance. But I'm having trouble with the visa bit-- most countries insist on a journalist must have a sponsor from a media organization. And so that's what I'm looking for: a freelance writer agency to sponsor me (by the way, if you know one, please drop me a line). The Editor didn't know one either but what he said next smacked of entrenched "old media."

He said something to the effect of, "Think about what you're asking. You're asking someone to sponsor you and you're going to turn around and freelance and write for other people at the same time. No one's going to sponsor you for that." In other words, in order to do what I want to do, I'll have to be hired as a reporter. Getting hired as a reporter now is impossible. From my understanding, very few newspapers and online-only media outlets are making money. And the ones that are, aren't hiring.

The quote above is from Bill Thompson, who wrote a recent post on BBC about the global internet commons, a public area in which he contends information should continue to be exchanged freely. This is a point the Editor seems to be missing. It's something I've seen work in practice: I'm covering Copenhagen for four online-only media outlets:,,, with a piece or two for I approached these .com's at the outset that I would be a shared resource. And guess what? Not a single one of them had a problem with it. All each asked was that I didn't re-sell the exact same story to another. In other words, they will all have exclusive rights to what I write, but not to me. Most news organizations today (the Guardian, HuffingtonPost, New York Times) are sourcing straight news from the AP and Reuters, seemingly the only two media organizations left with foreign bureaus.

I'm willing to bet that I'll be able to get to Asia, freelance, and get a sponsor who doesn't have a problem with it. And if I don't the reason will be something to do with insurance and liability and not reportage. The trick is finding a media outlet that doesn't think like this newspaper editor and understands the future of journalism is about cooperative, collaboration. That's what the internet has made.

Missed the bear Mr. Editor? I think so.

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