News of a $3.8-million annual loss at the Poynter Foundation — which runs the venerable journalism-training outfit the Poynter Institute — was bad news indeed for those vested in providing continuing education for journalists.
And coming as it did on the heels of the demise of the once-storied American Press Institute — which fired its staff and closed its offices last March while touting an alleged “merger” with the National Newspaper Association — it felt like more of the chronic vertigo brought on by the death spiral of old media.
And maybe it is. API — which when I was coming up in the ’70s and ’80s was regarded as the gold standard of mid-career training for journalists — was largely dependent on the hefty course fees paid by news organizations on behalf of reporters and editors whose work was deemed worthy of investing in or rewarding. At the Poynter Foundation, the old-media dependency is even more direct: It relies not only on tuition fees, grants and fund-raisers, but on regular support from the newspaper it owns, the Tampa Bay Times.
Apparently, 2011 was no better for the Tampa Bay Times than it was for most mid-market papers. According to saintpetersblog.com, the newspaper provided no funding to the foundation during that year, the last for which records are available. Thus, at least in part, the loss.
And bear in mind that all of this has occurred at a time when the impact of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) — which bids to disrupt education as dramatically as digital has disrupted old media — has only barely begun to be felt.
But, as the emergence of thousands of small news startups shows, one sector’s crisis is another’s opportunity. Could the crisis that killed API and wounded Poynter prove a boon for a lean startup, unencumbered by legacy costs or institutional infrastructure, providing mid-career training for journalists?
Or could the same circumstances afford an opportunity for a graduate school of journalism — independent of legacy-media funding and able to leverage an existing educational infrastructure — to move into the void?