Commentary: Changing face of the news business

For most of my 25 years in journalism, I have been covering the swings in the economy and the effects of those ups and downs on the lives and fortunes of Californians and other Americans. Now I am seeing the impact of the latest gyration up close and personal, in the layoffs, buyouts and restructuring that are changing the face of the news business.

It can be depressing to see friends leave or lose jobs they love, and unnerving to wonder about the viability of your own employer. But Monday, I got a glimpse of some light at the end of the tunnel, a picture of the bright side of the "creative destruction" that is reshaping the way we gather, distribute and consume information about politics and public policy.

Cutbacks in coverage of civic institutions – and dissatisfaction with the coverage that remains – is creating opportunity for a new entrepreneurial culture. For-profit companies, scrappy individual operators and nonprofit foundations are looking for a chance to step in where they see openings and a potential audience.

A conference here Monday showcased several of these efforts. The gathering focused on health care reform and was convened by people concerned about what they saw as inadequate coverage of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed 2007 reform proposal. But the examples went beyond health care.

Marc Cooper, a senior editor at HuffingtonPost.com, approvingly described the recent turn of events as a "revolution" allowing anyone with a computer and an Internet connection to work as a journalist. The computer, he said, has "broken the monopoly" that newspapers and television networks once had on the distribution of information.

To read the complete column, visit The Sacramento Bee.