Cooperative can be a sustainable alternative of journalism
Nov 1, 2012
Cooperatives: A Sustainable Alternative to Mainstream Media's Decline, Addressing News Deserts and Promoting Independent Journalism.
The primary conundrum of journalism's digital transition is straightforward: large journalistic entities struggle to maintain their revenue levels in the digital realm as compared to print. This occurs due to unfamiliarity with new formats and the fact that digital advertising generates less revenue, albeit at a lower cost. Consequently, companies downsize, focusing only on sections and squares that generate significant audience and income, leading to what journalist Tom Stites refers to as "news deserts". The question arises: can we find alternatives to this dying mainstream media model? Stites proposes cooperativism.
For context, Stites is a journalist leading an American journalistic NGO, the Banyan Project. In a series of articles published on NiemanLab, he advocates for a model that can produce local news at a manageable cost, with the aim of eradicating "deserts". For instance, Haverhill, an American city of approximately 70,000 residents, has seen local newspapers close due to financial constraints, a clear case of market failure.
Stites' solution mirrors other sectors, where cooperatives fill gaps left by the market. This applies not only to local information provision but also to providing decently paid jobs for journalists in smaller markets.
This model works through shared responsibilities, duties, revenues, and debts among journalists, editors, and managers, replacing vertical hierarchies with interconnected structures. Content production becomes more diversified, incorporating elements like crowdsourcing and social media. Although establishing a cooperative is challenging, tools such as tax exemptions and crowdfunding can significantly support the concept. The model's main advantage is its reproducibility, without reliance on donors, large-scale investors, or a desperate audience chase that often compromises journalistic quality.
Creating and maintaining these media in smaller areas seldom make headlines. However, democracy is preserved by strengthening societies of all sizes, with independent journalism playing a crucial role. Today, even large cities like Brazil lack independent journalism, with media linked to groups with specific interests and political agendas. A differently funded journalism model may seem less glitzy and wealthy, but it certainly suggests a model more beneficial to society.