Friday, February 27, 2009

The Packers Model: another solution to save newspapers

AS the financial climate forces many local newspapers to cut jobs or shut down, news teams search for a rescue solution. Many publications are debating the non-profit model and the micropayment model to sustain newspapers. One of the latest ideas to save the newspaper is community ownership or the so-called Packers model, named for the Green Bay Packers, the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States.
The Packers model idea and the metaphor were proposed in January by Jonathan Golob in an article of the Stranger as a solution to save the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after Hearst Corporation announced plans to sell the publication. Golob stresses that he does not think a city government should own a paper, just as the city of Green Bay does not own the Packers, but rather have many shareholders, each only owning a few shares of the paper.
According to Eli Sanders of the Stranger, the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild held a meeting yesterday for P-I employees to discuss a possible online news site to replace the P-I if necessary. As employees who do not yet know whether Hearst plans to launch an online-only edition itself, this meeting was "just the crafting of a contingency plan." Most likely, says Sanders, Hearst will introduce the web edition, and since this will require a much smaller staff than the current P-I, "tonight's contingency plan could quickly morph into tomorrow's plan for a competitor." One model under consideration for the possible employee project is the Packers Model, which would involve asking community members to purchase shares in a publicly owned P-I.
Whether or not the Packers Model actually progresses for the Post-Intelligencer, Kirk Lapointe contends on Media Manager that community ownership could be a viable solution for newspapers. Lapointe takes the metaphor even further, pointing out that the Packers belong to a league, the NFL, that performs important functions for it, allowing the team to function commonly across franchises so there are no market advantages, and the Packers can win as much as a big-market team. Lapointe says, "I'm not sure the community ownership is the saving grace as much as the collective league and player agreement in controlling costs and ensuring competitiveness."
Blogger Howard Weaver says that he doubts "sufficient community support could be found for a second paper in a two newspaper town," but that if a city lost its only daily paper the community might be more willing to cooperate. Since it is in the public interest to maintain printed newspapers that provide a public service, Lapointe might be right in asserting that the Packers Model is "a concept worth exploring."

Source: The Stranger, The Media Manager, Etaion Shrdlu

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