The Banyan Project expects that people from all walks of life will read the journalism produced by its affiliated news co-ops, but Banyan’s distinctive approach to community journalism will focus coverage on the needs of America’s everyday citizens. This Banyan Public is the half of the population who are neither affluent nor poverty-stricken, people who tend to live in households with incomes of $30,000 to $75,000 and are the bread and butter of American life. They play a major role in the civic, political and economic vitality of their communities.
This huge public has largely been abandoned by crumbling newspapers that cut costs by eliminating coverage that doesn’t serve the distinctive needs of people who can afford to patronize upscale advertisers.
Newspapers now aim at an audience heavy with professionals and executives, but members of the Banyan Public are likelier to be hourly wage earners or solo contractors and others who are self-employed, people who do much of their shopping at discounters that rarely advertise. They fall roughly within the third to seventh deciles of the household income distribution; not many have much money to invest and the bulk of Americans without health insurance are in this group.
Clay Shirky, a leading voice in the future-of-journalism discourse, emphasizes the question of how future journalism will serve average people.
“People like me are never going to be ill served in an information rich environment,” Shirky told an interviewer. The real question in a democracy, he said, is whether citizens will have accountability journalism—“journalism that keeps their town, their region, their state operating in relatively efficient, relatively responsive, and relatively non-corrupt ways.” He added, “What happens to the elite class of info-vores, although it gets a lot of obsessive attention, is never going to be a problem.”