USC shuts down Online Journalism Review(*updated)

Updated: Yep, it was the money. See below.

What the …? If you’re an L.A. media geek, this might come as something of a shock:

Apparently USC has decided to shut down the generally excellent Online Journalism Review indefinitely after 10 years of operation.

masthead.gifOJR editor Robert Niles gives the news in a farewell post.

Unfortunately, Niles is short on explanation as to why USC would kill such a well-respected, broadly read, and – arguably – vital publication about the rapidly-mutating face of online newsgathering. (Full disclosure – I’ve written a thing or two for OJR).

I’ll try to find out a bit more about what happened, but in the meantime, here’s Niles’ final post:

After a decade, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication has suspended publication of OJR.

One of OJR’s goals over the years has been to help mid-career journalists make a successful transition from other media to online reporting and production. I’m pleased to say that USC Annenberg will continue to provide support in that area, through the Knight Digital Media Center. I encourage OJR readers to click over to the KDMC website and its blogs, if you are not already a regular reader there.

The decision to suspend OJR for now means that I have left the University of Southern California. But I am not going offline. I will continue to write, daily, about new media and journalism at my new website, SensibleTalk.com. I hope that many of you will click over and visit me there.

Finally, on behalf of OJR, I want to thank you. Thank you for your readership, tips, corrections, kind words and support. And I want to wish you success as you work to build engaging, informative and sustainable websites, to better serve your audiences.

So… in that spirit, I suppose that I will borrow a classic sign-off from the world of journalism, one that’s been borrowed by another recently:

Good night, and good luck.

I wrote to Geoffrey Baum, Acting Assoc. Dean for External Relations at the Annenberg School, for comment:

Hello, Dean Baum:

I was surprised to learn today that the Annenberg School has shut down the Online Journalism Review.

I posted the news here at L.A. Metblogs – http://la.metblogs.com/2008/06/16/usc-shuts-down-online-journalism-review/ – and I’d like to learn a bit more information about the decision. I hope you can reply:

– OJR seemed quite successful and was generally very well-respected, and covered a medium that is getting scant coverage elsewhere in the same vein. For what specific reason(s) did Annenberg shut it down?
– What was the funding source and the annual operational cost of OJR? Did budget play into the decision at all?
– Is this a permanent decision, or is it possible OJR will be revived any time in the next year or two?
– Who made the decision, and when?
– Will the OJR’s archives remain online?

I do look forward to hearing from you, whether by a reply to this email, by IM, or by phone at the number below.

Yours,

m

He replied:

Hi Mack:

Thanks for your note. This summer, OJR is taking a hiatus from publication as the School conducts a strategic assessment of the best role for OJR in the conversation about the digital future of news and information. After a period of review and planning, we hope to relaunch OJR later this year.

Your instinct is right about the budget. OJR is funded directly from the Annenberg School’s operating budget. Beyond the Google adwords, we have been unsuccessful in identifying a direct, dedicated source of revenue to support OJR, which had an annual budget of more than $150,000. (I don’t have the exact figures at this time).

As you can imagine, this was a very painful decision to make. The School’s fiscal year ends on June 30, which prompted the timing about last week’s decision to place OJR on hiatus and say farewell to a good colleague.

We appreciate what a terrific resource OJR has become over the years and do intend to keep all the OJR resources online.

Please know that we are deeply grateful for the leadership and insight shared by Robert Niles during his time as OJR editor and look forward to consulting with him in the future and reading his thoughtful analysis on sensibletalk.com

Hope this helps,

Geoff Baum

So – budget-driven hiatus.

For his part, Niles is declining to comment much, deferring instead to Baum. But he said via email:

My wife and I make decent money on ThemeParkInsider.com and Violinist.com, so we’ll be okay. Especially as I take this extra time to improve those sites, and to add SensibleTalk.com. Plus, I love making websites. So I’m cool.

2 Replies to “USC shuts down Online Journalism Review(*updated)”

  1. It sounds like Niles was pretty much single-handedly running OJR and now that he’s leaving USC he won’t have the time and/or resources.

    A few years back — many years back, actually — Emmanuelle Richard interviewed me for a couple of features she wrote for OJR. The quality of their journalism was top-notch.

    ‘Tis a pity …

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