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6 questions with Colin Fogarty

02/18/2010

This evening, Colin Fogarty will be the featured presenter at the Digital Journalism/SPJ social hour. Fogarty is the editor of the Northwest News Network,  a 7-year-old public radio news cooperative that allows regional stations to share work. Earlier this week Libby Tucker, who is a reporter at The Columbian and a board member at the Oregon/Southwest Washington Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, interviewed Fogarty.

Newsrooms don’t usually cooperate, how does that work for you?

Most of our stations don’t really compete against each other with the major exception of KPLU nad KUOW in Seattle. We fit into the areas where they don’t compete. For example both have a strong interest in covering Olympia but neither has interest in sending anyone down. Traffic is pretty heavy and it’s just way more cost effective for them to share one so they share Austin Jenkins.

So all the stations pool their money to pay for the reporters?

Exactly. The feeling of people on this issue of competition has really changed over time. Generally it’s better for public radio to stick together and compete against other media than it is to compete against each other. The listener identifies with certin stations but it’s all one network, it’s all NPR.

What’s your plan for N3?

We have a plan for three more reporters and one more editor. The first is a state house bureau in Boise. There’s also a strong desire to hire a bilingual Latino affairs reporter, there just isn’t money to do it so I’m trying to find grant money to do that. We also have a proposal for a second Oregon bureau. We plan to do that between now and 2014.

How might this work for other news organizations?

It does work for print and it’s called the Associated Press. We are public radio’s version of the Associated Press. We’re not a wire service, that’s the difference. We don’t have to be on top of every story. But it’s the same concept that you share resources and share in the benefits. It would work very well for an investigative arm because it’s extremely expensive. If lots of different news organizaitons pooled their money to share the cost of ivnestigattive jorunlaism they wouldn’t necessarily be competing against each other and would be doing the good work of journalism in the process.

There was talk during we make the media of OPB becoming a model for nonprofit news innovation – what’s your vision of how that would work?

I’m not really involved in those discussions but I do think that it can be analogous in that this network started with a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and it grew organically. It grew because a series of decisions that simply made sense. […] If you have some upfront money to build something with that eventually will go away, whoever’s using it will eventually pay for it. Our stations didn’t have the money to front this thing, but it happened because of the grant and it was clearly so useful and cost-effective that the stations using the service were willing to pay for it. And it wasn’t some pie in the sky idealistic Pollyanna thing, it was just very specific decisions that made sense to all the people involved at the time.

Advice for other news organization interested in trying it?

Any organization like this has to have a strong editorial ethic, you can’t do this and not be good, because otherwise the stations and organizations aren’t going to do it. There is a real temptation to say “it’s the Internet man”, but everybody needs an editor. And as much editors aren’t liked (or some form of accountability), they make the product better.

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One Comment
  1. 02/19/2010 12:16 am

    Though this entire effort is exciting (and it’s great to see there are plans for expansion), what excites me the most about this entire Q&A is the final passage. Fogarty’s insistence on a “strong editorial ethic” is refreshing. I agree, everybody needs an editor. Sometimes I’m somewhat resistant to it — as my own site probably attests — but I know how well I benefit from that extra eye (and accountability to others as well). More importantly, the public benefits from extra attention to clear, professional, insightful journalism. So here here to resisting the rush to put everything out on the internet and instead pause, even for a moment, for quality control.

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