A new Internet startup poised to transform local news, in Hawaii and beyond, is now on the hunt for an editor to lead the team. Renowned entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and philanthropist, announced the search today.
We are creating a Honolulu-based local news service that will produce original, in-depth reporting and analysis of local issues in Hawaii… Although we haven’t fully defined our coverage areas yet, we know the focus will be public affairs and civic matters that impact communities across Hawaii. We’re still very early in the process of building this new organization. In fact, we don’t even have a name for it yet. However, we’re ready to hire an Editor — someone who shares our passion for the mission and can lead the team.
Although Hawaii will be the starting point for Peer News Inc., the larger vision for Omidyar’s new company is clear. The news industry is in upheaval, and the media landscape is being radically transformed. While the value of journalism is clear, the business model is collapsing, and meanwhile, everyday people are becoming part of the global news nervous system.
I’ve long been a believer in the potential of “citizen journalism” (or “participatory journalism” or “crowdsourced news” or whichever term you prefer). I nabbed HawaiiNews.com years ago with the dream of turning it into an independent, community-driven news hub. But, like many, I haven’t cracked the code of building online news into a sustainable business. In his announcement today, Omidyar seems confident that it can be done.
“We believe that a strong democracy requires an engaged society supported by effective news reporting and analysis,” he wrote. “And, we believe that this can be done in a profitable, sustainable way.”
One message is for the local newspapers: Watch out… Maybe Pierre and his team have cracked part of the code for sustainable digital journalism. Maybe not. But the fact that they’re going to try, with some serious resources behind the effort, is great news.
One of Omidyar’s advisors is Howard Weaver, former vice president of news at McClatchy. Weaver now blogs regularly on the changing news media landscape, and today he shared his thoughts on the Peer News vision:
I’m interested for a lot of reasons, but I’d sum it up this way: the new venture intends to demonstrate that a digitally native, technologically fluent web organization can profitably serve targeted readers who want sophisticated journalism focused on local civic affairs… I applaud any effort to create the journalism democracy needs — profit, non-profit, hybrid or otherwise — but my heart and my guts both tell me that journalism that meets real needs can pay its own way — and should.
I actually got to meet with Peer News co-founder Randy Ching last summer, when the first seeds of this project were being planted, and even then I thought they were onto something. Today, Omidyar says he hopes to launch in early 2010, which is right around the corner. But with a strong vision and an agile, passionate team, I have no doubt great things will happen. Ultimately, this grand experiment can only be a good thing for Hawaii, and hopefully for journalism in general.
Interested in applying for the job of editor? Fill out a form (and submit your resume as a PDF) here.