October 5, 2009

A JAWS weekend – illuminating, challenging, rewarding

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rita_hibbardwebI spent the weekend at the Journalism and Women Symposium at Snowbird, Utah, and it was a tremendous experience. I was on a panel speaking on entrepreneurial journalism Saturday, along with Susan White, senior editor of ProPublica, Marcia Parker, launch manager for California Watch at the Center for Investigative Reporting, Linda Jue, director and executive editor of the G. W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism, and Mary Darcy, editor of alloveralbany.com.  Cindy Richards, freelance journalist and operator of travelingmom.com, moderated the discussion. What a talented group of women, who are coming at the issue of creating sustainable journalism from a huge range of experiences, including a hyper-local community news site (a0a) to a national and international deep-dive investigative site  largely funded by one deep-pockets supporter (ProPublica) to the Williams Center, which supports investigative reporting by journalists of color, women and youth, to  InvestigateWest – a nonprofit newbie with some funding but looking to become sustainable with support from individual donors, foundations and content sales. What we had in common — the desire to do good journalism and a recognition of how tough it is in this new ecosystem.

Other workshops focused on the hands-on — doing multimedia (I snagged a new flip video camera at cost!) and lots of talk about freelancing. Interesting and provocative talk from freelancer Jodi Enda, whose day job is to plan seminars for the Knight Center at the University of Maryland, who refuses to blog for free. She turned down the Huffington Post, saying when they tried to twist her arm by arguing that it’s a way for her to get her name out, she believes that writing for free “creates a problem for everyone else trying to make living.”

That sentiment was echoed by Melinda Henneberger, the editor-in-chief of AOL’s online magazine politicsdaily.com. Henneberger said her site pays all its writers, some as full-time staffers and some as contributors. Its goal is to pay  more writers, and pay them all a living wage, she said. The site is new, up since April, but landed on its feet thanks to a huge built-in readership from AOL subscribers. The nastiness of some site commenters, Henneberger said, is one of her biggest headaches.

Thanks to longtime journalist and “fellow” Knight Digital Media Center fellow Pamela Moreland for helping me share in the JAWS experience. I know I’ll be back!

— Rita Hibbard

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