John Temple Dismisses the Nonprofit Newspaper Model
John Temple is the former editor of the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver newspaper that ceased publication in 2009. Under his editorship, beginning in 1998, the paper won four Pulitzer Prizes and numerous other awards for journalistic excellence. He also held the titles of president and publisher.
Temple joined the Rocky in 1992 as metro editor. He was named managing editor in 1995. Before joining the paper, he was managing editor of The Albuquerque Tribune, another E.W. Scripps Co. newspaper. He has also worked at The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper.
Temple also served as VP/News for Scripps’ newspaper division since 2006. In that capacity, he acted as a sounding board for editors and publishers to help them explore and develop print and online initiatives. Temple has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. He is married to artist Judith Cohn and has three children.
Question: Can newspapers transition to non-profits
Temple: Well, you know, I look at the world and I look at what makes America so vital. And to me, from my perspective, what’s so great about the First Amendment and why it’s such a great country to… about the First Amendment is this… this explosion of speech and I look at the entrepreneurial culture, you know, and if you think about, like, let’s take Apple. Apple doesn’t say we’re going to try to do something non-profit, they say, we want to meet the needs of people and we’re going to anticipate the needs by… and we’ll make their lives better but they need to make money and there’s an energy to making money. What worries about the non-profit approach is it could either become frozen in time because it’s sort of a limited idea… I don’t think that you’ll see that as a great inventiveness, sort of the entrepreneurial energy on a non-profit side or its very agenda driven. Let’s say, I’m a liberal multi-billionaire and I want… or a conservative multi-billionaire and I want my agenda expressed, now, I’m just using a vehicle to get my point of view out there and I’m able to do that but I don’t see how that creates a model that has widespread applicability the way, sort of an invention of something that is supported because the customer, the reader, the user says, “I love this and I’m willing to pay for it,” it’s not to say… like NPR does a good job with its fun drives and everything but not everybody has the megaphone that NPR has built up. If I was a website and trying to raise money for non-profit purposes, how do I reach people like that? I don’t think it is and you know, it’s not to say that I don’t believe the non-profit arena has real value in place in what’s going to happen in the future but what I don’t want journalists to do is abandon and sort of say, “Well, the old model doesn’t work, the only future model is non-profit,” that’s one model and I think it really makes sense but are we going to have non-profit that’s going to cover sports? I don’t think so. I could see healthcare, environment, science. I find it hard to imagine non-profits covering government quite the way that I would expect it. So I would like to see lots of streams of solutions and not sort of like an alliance on, well, rich people or donations will bail us out – no. Can’t we produce something of such value that you are willing to pay for it.
John Temple Dismisses the Nonprofit Newspaper Model.
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