Last night I went to a little fundraising party at The Royale for The St. Louis Beacon, a new, locally owned and operated, non-profit news publication.
If you visit the site, you'll find that The Beacon follows the typical format of a traditional newspaper website. Only, without the newspaper. The Beacon is entirely online; there is no dead tree version. But many of the Beacon staff writers and editors are traditional journalists with a long history writing for various print publications.
It's an interesting old-meets-new sort of project: Traditional journalists, frustrated by what they see as a general deterioration in quality of a traditional print media struggling in the face of an ever-more-challenging, financially strapped market, turning to the internet in an attempt to provide their audience with the kind of in-depth, locally focused news coverage of a sort that they feel is no longer being offered by the traditional outlets that used to publish their work.
Ever since it launched, I've been curious about how The Beacon plans to interact with local bloggers and social media. I asked a few questions at the party, and I was pleased with the responses I got from Beacon staff.
I had an engaging chat with The Beacon's Presentation Editor, Brent Jones, who mentioned that he makes a point of manually inputting Beacon headlines into the Beacon Twitter account instead of using a program to update automatically, because he wants followers to know there's a real person behind the account.
We talked about the how the old media tradition of broadcasting information is giving way to a much more interactive news model, and we discussed the often conflicted relations between bloggers and traditional journalists, and the intellecual property dust-ups and territorial fights that have caused resentment on both sides.
Overall, The Beacon's staff seemed receptive to the idea of working with area bloggers to form a postive, mutually respectful relationship, which I think is very good news.
I hope The Beacon's effort to create a viable news publication succeeds. Most St. Louisans I know agree that decades without any serious competition has left our one major newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, far less than the vigorous source of thoughtful, investigative journalism it once was. St. Louis could certainly use a second major source of printed news. Even if it's only printed on a screen.