BINJ Joins Forces with Open Media Boston

OMB Founder: “Onwards …”

By Jason Pramas

Adapted from the original editorial by Jason Pramas

After some preliminary discussions with the new Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, I am pleased to announce that I will be joining its leadership team as Network Director effective immediately.

In practical terms, this means the merger of Open Media Boston and BINJ. OMB proper will be archived for the time being, and the OMB social media presence will now become part of the BINJ one. I encourage OMB supporters to follow me over to BINJ where my byline and project work will now have a new home.

A number of recent developments made my decision to join BINJ an easy one.

First, over the last year I was an assistant professor of communications at Lesley University. One of the reasons I accepted the post was that the administration of their undergraduate college was very interested in my proposal to start a media institute there that would assist community news outlets in the Boston area. However, I started helping the (ultimately successful) core faculty union organizing drive with SEIU Local 509 at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester. Because a university with no tenure and an all-contract faculty clearly needed a union. By spring, teaching and labor organizing had me so busy I had no time to keep OMB going. So, I put the publication on hiatus in early April — shortly after its seventh anniversary. I planned to relaunch OMB in the fall, but wasn't sure how I was going to do that.

Photo by Sarah Betancourt | Open Media Boston

Second, I believe the Lesley administration refused to renew my one year contract on June 30 due to my union activities — a matter that I’m now fighting at the National Labor Relations Board. The end of my contract meant the end of the hope that my media institute would be operationalized at that school. It also meant I was out of a job. Which has a wonderful way of throwing the realities of existence in 21st century America into bold relief. True, I am already a professor again at the new Global Center for Advanced Studies slated to come online this fall. But they’ll probably only recruit enough students to get me a course per semester at first. Not enough to live on for quite some time I expect.

Third, a key reason that I had put OMB on hold in April was that over the last couple of years I began to have questions about the efficacy of focusing on publishing a single news media outlet as opposed to focusing on producing news content and distributing it as widely as possible. Increasingly, people are not loyal to particular publications. Many still get news from traditional news media, but a growing percentage of the overall audience gets its news via social media. This new fickle audience sees something that interests them, checks it out, and doesn't really care which outlet provided them information as long as it’s good journalism. Some, mostly large, news outlets still attract significant numbers of people to return for more information on a regular basis, and retain or gain consistent brand recognition, but small news outlets like OMB often don’t. So I began thinking that a new OMB would have to focus on better packaging our original content for syndication to other publications, and vastly expanding our distribution via social media. Thus, OMB the outlet would become less important than the news we produced, and the way we monetized its production and distribution for our staff.

For these and a number of related reasons, when Chris Faraone contacted me to tell me about his idea for a nonprofit incubator that would help teams of journalists produce news articles for distribution to publications all over the Boston area, I immediately realized that the best thing to do was join forces with him. He has a similar political outlook to mine, and an impressive track record as a socially engaged journalist. Many things he is proposing to do with BINJ were things that I had wanted to do with my media institute and a revamped OMB. And it would be silly to have two nearly identical operations running in the same city anyway.

So I have joined the staff of BINJ, and now get to experience the thrills and chills of starting up a news operation once again. An operation that’s an order of magnitude larger than any of the outlets I've bootstrapped into existence before. And I couldn't be more thrilled.

There’s much more to say, but I’ll have plenty of time to talk about the birth of BINJ in the weeks and months to come.

For now, I’ll add just one word. Onwards.

The Original Release on Open Media Boston …

For More Info on Jason …

Friend the New BINJ Page on Facebook

Follow the New @BINJnetwork handle on Twitter