February 17, 2009

Flint Journal sister paper to hire Local News Service to supplement Coverage

A sister newspaper of The Flint Journal -- Star-Ledger in New Jersey -- will hire a local news agency - founded by a bought-out journalist - to cover news once covered by staff journalists. Here's a link to 'Star-Ledger' to Use Local News Service to Supplement Coverage in trade magazine Editor & Publisher.

Kind of eerie to come home to this in my rss reader as one of the 5:30 a.m. today conversations with my daughter today was getting serious about formalizing my business plans.

One of the proposals we talked about today on the ride to her chemo treatment (2nd of next set of 12, or 6th of 16 total) was Rent-A-Journalist.

My theory is that with severe cutbacks, the flu or a natural disaster - heck, maybe even vacations and 'big' events like election night - could leave a newsroom aching for a way to hire temp journalists. The journalists would be the bought-out or retired ones with some fire in their bellies. Rent-A-Journalist would be the go-between, charging newspapers for developing and covering beats.

I think it would work. It was just surprising to read this tonight:

Just months after losing more than 150 newsroom staffers in a hard-hitting buyout, The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. is poised to replace some of the departed by contracting with a new outside news service.

Former Star-Ledger Managing Editor Rick Everett is hiring about 30 reporters, and some college students, for an outside news service that is to provide local and municipal coverage of New Jersey to the paper.

The New Jersey paper hires a similar firm to cover some sports so there is a history.

And, as others in the Advance Publication company know - if it plays in New Jersey there's a chance you'll see it play in Michigan, Oregon, Alabama, etc.

I'm mulling over some other ideas as I am not sure I want to jump back in the news world. But this hiring piece is worth followi g. E&P article - link above - has more.


  1. I think it's a great idea and I'd like to hear more about it when you get it more formulated.

    My only concern is that the quality of the writers would have to be seriously vetted before consideration as a journalist-for-rent.

  2. Could this be the rebirth of the wire services?

  3. are you kidding me? you want to see good-paying, family-raising journalism jobs replaced with outsourced scab labor? shame on you. stringing is one thing, to take care of the here and there that beat reporters can't get to. but to think that you would support the destruction of full-time reporting jobs is disgusting. wash your blog out with soap.

  4. Stacy:
    I agree about the vetting because when a disaster hits there would be no time for checking or training. The time factor is why I think Rent-A-Journalist could succeed. Editors know journalists they could call on/in but when a disaster strikes time is short.

    It might be. Could a wire service survive if only a few outlets are interested in the output at a time?

    No, I don't want to put more folks on the road to poverty.

    I see the business giving editors a way to call in subs when the flu, or cancer or an accident affects a staff member. It is a temporary assignment that disappears when the employee returns.

    I see the business acknowledging that some news is cyclical. Just like retail shops need more clerks right before Christmas newspapers need more writers, editors, photographers and other journalists when it is time to elect the mayor or legislators, or when the school year starts or local companies hold their annual meetings. I see blips when a huge staff gathering information and reporting on what they learn enriches the community. I don't need a reporter in every classroom all year, but I would like to know about the new teachers before school starts.

    I also see the business acknowleging stuff happens unexpectedly - a tornado strikes or a major company goes bankrupt or a city lands the SuperBowl.

    What I am not interested in for Rent-A-Journalist is setting up is a long-term arrangement of ongoing coverage for one news organization. There needs to be a start date and an end date for each assignment.

    I am still wrestling with pay, and other issues.

    I appreciate the help in trying to decide if this is a viable option - a way to occassionally practice journalism for retirees, or exjournalists pursuing other means of making money or ....

    So many questions

  5. Have you check out Helium.com? or AssociatedContent.com? They are both pay to publish articles sites and share revenue with the writer. Have you consider WikiNews.com? No money but you can write and interact with other (most likely amateur) journalist. Some of the small local newspapers (like Swartz Creek Times) that pop up for a short time around here could have used a Rent-A-Journalist/wire service for the area plus a deal with a nation service to pass articles on to them might help. I set up a Yahoo! Group for the Swartz Creek Area to get out information about events and news.

  6. Thanks Steve. I'm not really looking for a place to write, more concerned about communities being covered in times of disaster or big news-events.

  7. What you will not find on Editor & Publisher: The Star-Ledger's use of the "Local News Service" is nothing more than a Newhouse ploy to union bust. "Local News Service" is housed in a Advance-owned building, was incorporated by a Advance attorney, and the only clients for "Local News Service" are Advance-owned.