Chronicle reportedly will embrace advocacy journalism

It sounds like the San Francisco Chronicle is about to embark on an interesting change of direction (I hesitate to call it an experiment, because it’s too overarching not be a make-or-break gambit): The Chron is going to take up the cause of its community.

Details are a little vague, but essentially the new slogan is: “Journalism of Action.” Call it the ChronicleWatch-ification of the Chron: Bronstein reportedly envisions a paper whose staff will not simply report, but seek to effect positive change in the community and drive public policy.

… tech writer Tom Abate, who attended the meeting, described Bronstein’s goal as taking the paper “back to the future,” bringing journalism back to it’s historic roots of being useful to people. The Internet, Abate says, would be central to this goal.

Compare this with the hue-and-cry over Murdoch’s acquisition of Dow Jones.

For many, Mr Murdoch is a threat to the whole American journalistic tradition. Jim Ottaway, a former vice-president of Dow Jones, argues that there is a sharp difference between the Anglo-Australian model of media ownership and the American one. Anglo-Australian bosses are in the habit of expressing their various biases through their newspapers and TV channels. The American journalistic tradition depends on a ’strict separation between political opinions expressed vigorously on editorial pages and news reported with as much factual objectivity as possible.’ Mr Murdoch is a barbarian at the gates indeed.

Will Murdoch’s critics in the industry be as upset with Mr. Bronstein’s advocacy journalism as they are with Fox News?

The Chron has been at the jagged edge of the crisis bearing down on the industry. The paper felt the first sock from Craigslist and its market has migrated to digital nativism much faster than the rest of country. It’s the canary in the coal mine. It’s in dire straits and is faced with tough decisions. Such situations can either breed change and innovation, or a bunker mentality retreat.

It sounds like Bronstein has decided that the Chron won’t go down without a fight.

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