Today is the official guest post exchange day in the 2010 WordCount Blogathon, a day when everyone switches places to write on someone else’s blog. You’ll find me over at Lascher at Large, independent journalist Bill Lascher’s online home, discussing what the blogathon has taught me about writers and community. Meanwhile, Lascher’s taken over WordCount for a different take on the subject. Here he’ll be discussing the Oregon News Incubator, a co-working space for independent writers and a model for what other collaborative journalism efforts could look like.
You can take the journalist out of the newsroom, but can you take the newsroom out of the journalist?
Perhaps not. As anyone who’s worked at a newspaper or other media organization realizes, there’s a certain energy found in professional newsrooms. When journalists strike out on their own as freelancers, though, replicating that energy in home offices, clamoring coffee shops and public libraries can be difficult. Do you ask your dog to help you track down that hard to find source? Can you get a barista to help you write a Freedom of Information Act request? Will the librarian crack jokes about the ridiculous press releases you keep getting?
These are the sort of questions driving the Oregon News Incubator. Our mission: advance entrepreneurial journalism by providing support structures, tools and collaborative space for independent and emerging media producers.
Last November, journalists from across Oregon gathered at the We Make the Media conference to hash out a future for our profession. The at-times contentious event was focused on developing a non-profit news source for Portland.
But a scrappy bunch of independent journalists at the event saw things differently. As we got to know one another, we realized journalism’s future lay not in one new institution, but in multiple endeavors, some overlapping, some independent efforts. Entrepreneurial journalism done by hardworking individuals and small groups will continue to thrive. But it will best be able to do so if it is nurtured. As new journalism efforts get off the ground, we wondered: where will reporters work? Was there a way for journalists working on their own to tap into the community and social connections, as well as professional support, found in a newsroom?
In the simplest terms, the Oregon News Incubator provides co-working space for journalists. We plan to offer four basic services for freelancers and independent journalists:
- A physical space
- An equipment and resource library
- A skill-swap system
Our goal isn’t to produce the next Pulitzer prize winning investigation, recreate a web-centric, Portland-based version of the New York Times or even to be a vigilant watchdog for the state, though all of those things could happen within the umbrella of the ONI. We are trying to create the space in which any of these efforts – and so many more – could take root and thrive.
This isn’t just an idealistic goal. Since early March ONI has had a home at the Portland Sentinel, the news service focused on North and Northeast Portland. In exchange for a space for us to do reporting, share tips and maintain a resource library, we provide content to the Sentinel.
Still, producing independent work is our primary goal, and the space gives us an opportunity to continue working as independent entrepreneurial journalists. You can learn about some of the freelance projects we’ve already done at newsincubator.wordpress.com (a new, permanent site is coming soon).
Our arrangement with the Sentinel lasts until Aug. 1. We’re putting the pieces together now for a long-term home and are welcoming offers and ideas for creative collaborations. That space might be a similar partnership with local companies and institutions that want to support the next wave of local journalism while tapping the energy, expertise, skills and maybe the cash of a diverse and growing network of writers, editors, photographers and programmers. Or it might be a low-cost space of our own.
Meanwhile, perhaps you’re one of those skilled, energetic, expert writers, editors, photographers or programmers. We’re always looking for new members and participants. Anyone interested in finding out how to work with us should visit our Web site and get in touch. We are excited to work independently on the projects we’re each passionate about, while we enjoy the chance to maintain connections to the community, support and entertainment found in a newsroom environment.
In addition to our Web site, you can find ONI on twitter at @newsincubator, follow the hashtag #oni, or follow me at @billlascher, as I often tweet about ONI projects and ways to get involved with the group.