A conversation with New Haven Independent Founder Paul Bass

Photo (cc) 2015 by Anna Hanks

Today my class had the chance to hear from Paul Bass, a man at the forefront of the race to rethink the journalism model. 

Bass is the founder of both the New Haven Independent and the affiliated WNHH Radio, both of which are run out of New Haven, Conn. The Independent is a non-profit, online-only newspaper that relies on donors and grants for funding, an interesting model in an era where both subscription and ad revenue are shrinking around the country. WNHH is described on the Independent website as broadcasting “original New Haven news and arts programs with dozens of local hosts.”

As a hyper-local site, the Independent has had a demonstrated impact on the New Haven area. Bass told how the paper covered the potentially unconstitutional arrests by local police of two people who were filming the officers. The coverage led to legislation at the state level to protect citizen’s recording rights.

As a member of the small organization, he has to wear many hats, from radio host to reporter.“I have to make sure not to get burnt out,” he said.

In fact, the company as a whole seems to live at the intersection of several genres of media.

“Are we a radio station or a news site? Our answer is yes,” he said.

Bass highlighted the diversity of his reporters and radio hosts. For example, the WHNN host staff is 40 percent African-American, 40 percent white and 20 percent Latino.

He believes it’s good for people to know journalist’s bias. To remain fair, he suggested reporters acknowledge their own bias and “try twice as hard to get people you don’t agree with [as sources].”

His main piece of advice to my class? Find a good newsroom, and focus on interesting people over prestige in the search. “The opportunities will follow,” he said.


Journalists respond to Rory’s failed career on “Gilmore Girls”

Alexis Bledel (Rory Gilmore). Photo (cc) 2008 by Jason McELweenie

Netflix’s new series, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life,” has brought journalism and entertainment together, something that certainly peaks my interests and makes it perfect for this blog. The four episode program, a continuation of the WB/CW series that ran from 2000-2007, follows young and often comedic mother Lorelei Gilmore and her friendship with her daughter, Rory. Throughout the original run, Rory dreams of being a journalist, and given her intelligence and admission to Yale’s journalism program, it looks like she’ll be successful.

It therefore came as somewhat of a kick in the gut, at least to me, that the 32-year-old Rory in “A Year in a Life” is a fairly unsuccessful freelancer whose limited career implodes over the course of the year, ending with her jobless and living with her mother. 

Perhaps the most meta and entertaining response to the reveal came in the form of an online piece by The Atlantic. In an episode of “A Year in a Life,” Rory tells her mother that the publication bumped one of her stories. Even though the decision was fictional, The Atlantic still wrote a rebuttal, titled “Turns Out, Rory Gilmore is Not a Good Journalist.” 

The posts goes on to outline not one or two but 21 journalistic missteps Rory makes during the four episodes, from taking David Carr’s image in vein to sleeping with a source. The article, by Megan Garber, doesn’t cut the younger Gilmore much slack:

Amy Sherman-Palladino, Gilmore Girls’s creator, writer, and executive producer, once expressed her annoyance that so many of the show’s fans seem to care more about Rory’s romantic fate (Dean? Jess? Logan?) than about her professional one. “It’s just such a small part of who Rory is,” Sherman-Palladino told Time, of her character’s romantic life. “I don’t see people debating ‘Did she win a Pulitzer yet?’”

Spoiler: She didn’t. And the show has now provided a pretty good explanation of why.

Mashable published a similar article, “Rory Gilmore is not a good journalist,” by Los Angeles-based reporter Saba Hamedy. Armed with the knowledge of Rory’s career failure, she takes a retrospective look at the signs in the original run that Rory’s career wasn’t going places, including her not knowing about her high school’s newspaper and being bad a networking.

Luckily for everyone, Rory ends the new season with the decision to refocus and write a book. Perhaps it will suit her better.