Gore: In search of a business model for sustaining journalism

Al Gore


Back in November, former Vice President Al Gore gave an interview to to All Things Digital maestro and Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walter Mossberg.  The details never showed up in print, but the video is online and today we expert a portion in which Gore — who began his career as a newspaper reporter — talks about the need for a business model for investigative journalism.

As posted in video Nov. 18, 2011 at the AllThingsDigital.com website And excerpted from an October 2011, interview in Hong Kong with Walter Mossberg:


GORE:  “Before I went to the House of Representatives in the mid-.70s, I was a journalist for five years, two years before that in the Army . . . I have watched the evolution of this business as a former practitioner.

“The most important part of the problem your getting at with your question is, in the transition to digital journalism and internet-based journalism, the medium is inherently so centrifugal — with billions of web pages — that you don.t get enough centripetal, critical mass to support business models that throw off enough revenue to adequately compensate large numbers of good investigative journalists. And the crowdsourcing fills the gap somewhat but there is really no substitute that I know for well trainee, excellent, investigative journalists who can make a decent living for themselves and their families by doing what they do best.

“And the rating of advertising — that has put a lot of newspapers in trouble around the world, has led to layoffs of these journalists and the
opportunities for journalists in the news space, they are there, but as I say the business models are still being defined. And I see Walt on television now and on the Internet TV and of course the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, some other papers are edging into this space and doing an excellent job.

“But where will it go? It’s literally impossible to predict because it is by definition an emergent process. We.ll probably have some mobile, smart-phone journalistic model that really works. I consume a lot of news on my iPhone 4S and the iPad, but most of the high-quality stuff is still derived from newspapers and magazines and it is an urgent challenge to find new models to support high-quality journalism on the Internet. There are a lot of great examples of it, but it needs to be in every city, in every community and there needs to be a new standard business model that can be easily replicated to support journalism.”

MOSSBERG: You don’t have that model, you just think somebody needs to figure it out?

GORE:  “Well I think that some people are hitting around it and CurrentTV is I think doing an outstanding job of it. We have one every journalistic award available in television. The Peabody Award, the DuPont Award, twice for the best journalist in America under the age of 35, two Emmies. I’m really proud of the quality. Our Vanguard series has been just been praised to the skies, rightly  in my opinion, of course I.m biased. These men and women do a fantastic job. But its rare to see, you  know you have 60 Minutes, you have some other great outlets, but increasingly programs that used to be focused on news will do polling of their own and blur the line between news and entertainment and drive toward a lowest-common-denominator because they are seen as profit centers and if they are not contributing enough to the bottom line then the orders come down, OK, find out what.s going to glue more eyeballs
to the screen. And so a program in the morning that used to provide news, I.ll turn it on in the morning it will be a feature about some kid who has been hiccupping for 30 days. And I have  to say it.s very interesting.”

MOSSBERG: But you’re rather be hearing about something substantive.

A: “Yea!”

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