Founder and editor of the late, lamented zine Punk Planet Dan Sinker has things to say about the future of journalism that are jolting, annoying, and probably necessary to hear.
"I think of the things I’ve donated to online," says Sinker, "and they’re totally things that I saw myself reflected in and had this real core belief in. [Daily] newspapersâby their definitionâdon’t try and do that. The Washington Post has great political coverage, but would you donate to them because you like politics? I wouldn’t, because I don’t see myself as a part of that. But if Talking Points Memo or the Daily Kosâwell, I’m probably more of a Talking Points Memo personâso if [owner Josh Marshall] puts up a message and is like, 'Hey, can you throw $10 my way so I can do some things?' which he’s done before, I’d do that.
"People want to belong, right? It’s human nature. So let them belongâcreate things they want to belong to. Some people identify as, 'I’m a RedEye person,' and why is thatâwell, because that publication has some personality... something [its readers] see themselves reflected in. And that is how you survive and compete online."
In the aftermath of February's Chicago Journalism Town Hall, freelance writer Leah Pietrusiak interviewed Sinker and several other journalists who'd been there -- including RedEye editor Tran Ha and Town Hall moderator Ken Davis -- to find out what they were now thinking. The intriguing responses have been just posted as "Media Streams of Thought" on the Web site of the Association for Women Journalists in Chicago, with photos by Karen Kring. Pietrusiak has made a significant contribution to a robust conversation.
Sinker goes on to say that "the argument that people are articulating...that there’s no way to make money online . . . is insane." He says, "It often feels like the argument is being made that we’ve tried everythingâyet they’ve really tried almost nothing." Sinker wonders, "On a Thursday or Friday, when I go to the Tribune, how come it’s not coated with weekend movie releases and things like that? Why is it that, on any given weekday at 11 AM, they know that I’m coming to their site from an IP address downtownâwhy isn’t their site just coated with lunch places?"
I suppose Sinker doesn't see himself as a part of the Tribune either, no matter how often he visits its site.