By Marisa Demarco
The Virtual Newspaper
A new breed of news distribution has come to New Mexico. There are no offices. There are no advertisements. It doesn't put out a paper edition.
The New Mexico Independent isn't "hostage to the demands of what appears to be a failing business model in terms of print newspapers," says David Alire Garcia, newmexicoindependent.com's managing editor. He's talking about the daily grind, papers that sell ads and print editions on the stands. Garcia, who hails from the Santa Fe Reporter, notes that the alternative newsweekly approach may be a happy exception to the downward print media trend.
The game plan: It's a virtual operation. Nine part-time contributors work from home, their local coffee shop or on location at events around the state. They take their own pictures and film videos to be posted on the site, which is updated several times a day. They are paid with grants and donations, netted by the Center for Independent Media, based in Washington, D.C. The center has built five other sites: the Colorado Confidential, the Iowa Independent, the Michigan Messenger, the Minnesota Monitor and the Washington Independent.
Garcia and News Editor Trip Jennings are the site's only full-time employees right now. Many of the bylines will be familiar to readers around the state: Heath Haussamen, Marjorie Childress, Joel Gay and Gwyneth Doland, among others.
So what will the Independent add to the state's coverage? "We're going to provide another set of eyes and ears to build upon the good journalism that the Alibi does, that the Journal does on occasion, that the AP does," Garcia says. A lot of the Independent's attention this year will be focused on the 2008 election season, environmental issues, the future of the labs, poverty, and immigration and border issues, he adds.
The New Mexico Independent is shooting to bridge the gap between the blogosphere and old-school journalism by incorporating both, Garcia says. The blogosphere is vibrant, he says, but can veer in all sorts of directions and is often dismissed by mainstream outlets. He defines traditional journalism as that which digs and investigates, providing useful information on subjects that matter.
There will be a commentary section, says Garcia, but news stories and news blogging are intended to be serious, fair journalism without political bias or an ax to grind.
The first editorial welcoming readers to the site hit the cyberstands Tuesday, April 15, and in its second sentence mentions the void left by the Albuquerque Tribune. "Two months after the newsroom keyboards grew quiet ... " Garcia wrote.
He says the Independent seems like an answer to the gloom and doom that’s in the industry these days with layoffs and hiring freezes. "The goal is to rejuvenate journalism by embracing the Internet as an alternative medium during a day and time when a lot of print media outlets are either scaling back or going under."
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