Web-based news organizations on the rise


Could it be a matter of time before Rhode Island becomes home to a solely Web-based news organization that carries on the mission of print newspapers?

Blogs such as RI's Future and Anchor Rising (and your humble blogger) cover some of this territory. These blogs certainly break news, develop research, offer viewpoints, and the first two of these sites benefit from their use of a group of animated contributors. (How RI's Future will be affected by the stepping back of its founder/prime mover remains to be seen, but other contributors -- particularly the peripatetic Mr. Crowley -- have been on something of a recent roll.)

RI's Future and Anchor Rising are defined, first and foremost, however, by their respective and unabashed left and right orientations. In this respect, they are different from the crop of Web-based news orgs springing up around the country, a story given front-page treatment yesterday in the NYT.

Here it is, offering a brand of serious, original reporting by professional journalists — the province of the traditional media, but at a much lower cost of doing business. Since it began in 2005, similar operations have cropped up in New Haven, the Twin Cities, Seattle, St. Louis and Chicago. More are on the way.

Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.

The fledgling movement has reached a sufficient critical mass, its founders think, so they plan to form an association, angling for national advertising and foundation grants that they could not compete for singly. And hardly a week goes by without a call from journalists around the country seeking advice about starting their own online news outlets.

Rhode Island's relatively weak economic infrastructure could pose an obstacle to the local emergence of a similar entity. Then again, the concept has been chattered about a bit by local newsies, with a sense of "will it happen?" and with a wistful look skyward for a glimpse of an angel investor with deep pockets. 

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