Kypost.com: Dead meat or baby phoenix?
When people talk about the print-to-digital transformation, they usually do not use the phrase as literally as it applies to the Kentucky Post/Kypost.com situation. The last ink-and-pulp edition rolled off the presses on New Year’s Eve morning, and in its place former readers will find kypost.com.
To call the staff “skeletal” would be an insult to the strong and complex undergirdings of the human body. According to the AP (in a story accessed through Yahoo News), Kypost.com has a managing editor and one reporter. Plus freelancers, wire copy and news content from sister TV station WCPO. The work of a team of “citizen journalists” will also be featured. [No illegal alien journalists allowed, I guess].
As the author of a blog entry titled, “First Thing We Do, Is Kill All the Newspapers,” I am in no position to mourn the passing of a daily newspaper (though I hope its staff members find jobs. Idea: Learn CSS, XHTML, Ajax and Flash and you’ll double your newspaper salary overnight).
But I do wish that the overlords at E.W. Scripps and Co., who prudently pulled the plug after a joint publishing agreement with Gannett was not renewed, would invest in a few real journalist positions–at least (say) two reporters and one editor for each of the three counties the site intends to cover.
I’d like to believe that it’s possible to structure a legitimate, even occasionally powerful, local news operation around a Web-only product, funded entirely by advertising and some shadowy forms of monetization that lurk in the corners of the digital realm. But testing the commercial viability of digital-only journalism with a team as puny as the one kypost.com puts on the field isn’t fair.
Assuming the effort disintegrates into trivia or simply closes down in a year or so, the news retrogrades and midcentury sentimentalists will point to the episode as disproof-of-concept for digital-only journalism. They’ll be wrong. It will disprove only that a sadly underfunded digital-only news effort can’t make it in today’s media environment.
I will be rooting for the kypost.com’s staff of two. I’d love to see them do some important work, engage the community, make some civic-minded trouble and generate enough revenue to add a few staffers. I’d love to see them draw an appreciative and energized audience. I hope they can pay their mortgages.
But just in case, I hope they have time to pick up some CSS, XHTML, Ajax and Flash along the way.