I am, at my core, an optimist. Frankly, I’m probably more optimistic than situations dictate.
You have to be an optimist to quit a safe corporate media job and then start a local news startup. In 2016, I launched BoiseDev as a hobby. This January we will add our sixth and seventh employees.
While adding a few people won’t offset declines in journalism sector employment by Gannett or scores of others, I very much think it’s where our industry is going. Back to the future, to borrow a phrase. Instead of large-scale journalism providers based in far-off places with little connection to communities outside of the people they employ, the pivot toward independent news outlets has increased.
We operate a thriving set of two publications focused on a “reader first” model. Put simply, we endeavor to listen to our audience and provide journalism that they need. It can be a new store going up in their neighborhood, a dive into the increasing numbers of elderly citizens in homelessness, or answering a reader question on a pile of dirt. We think deeply about our audience and put listening at the front.
That listening gives us insight into what people want to see less of: Opinion content. Heavy, glitzy crime stories. National news.
I’ve joked to people that “Of course I’m an optimist; I started a new business in local news.” But every day, I see the potential. I see what can happen when you make a commitment to a community and put time and effort toward it.
No, journalism won’t be what it once was. The near-monopoly days pre-Internet, where newspapers and two to four TV stations controlled the information flow, were, I guess, great for those companies. But in this age, an entrepreneur can build a news outlet that serves audiences in new ways with new options. We cover stories — many, many stories — that weren’t getting covered before here. And while I can speak about my experience, I’m hardly alone. There are hundreds of small publishers across this country now, doing news for their local communities because they want to make an impact.
It will only get better. Different, but better. That’s what an optimist would say.
Don Day is the founder and publisher of Boise Dev.