I do think that this - along with the almost total absence of thinking about the key issues that the left needs to address - could provide a fantastic opportunity. There is a huge space open for a journal that could tap into the collective wisdom of the blogosphere and its various sisters.
Here's how I'd do it:
- Commission articles in the way they always have been done (but commission fewer and pay for them at decent NUJ rates)
- Post them early-ish on a well-marketed weblog
- Urge registered users to comment – but specifically to add value to the article (not to ‘comment / sneer’ in the traditional weblog form). If you don't know how to do this, ask Mick Fealty of Slugger O'Toole who does it fantastically well.
- Find a way to acknowledge genuine improvements - good comments
- Formally publish the finished articles in a monthly / bi-monthly journal.
After all, as Chris says, opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one, and I don’t want to hear any of them. Authors could be encouraged to only permit content to survive undeleted.
So, the paper copy of Tribune should then publish the ‘improved’ articles in a printed from for wider coffee-table circulation and this only needs to happen once a month or every two months
Tribune’s existing subscriber base aren’t paying for the value of a weekly newspaper, so expect that enough of them can be retained at the current rate (or more?) to make it work in this way. I think that they would pay as much for very good quality monthly / bi-monthly – they’d lose very few existing subscribers and should be able to add on loads of new ones by promising quality and not quantity.
At the moment, Tribune is partly a job-creation scheme for printers and paper mills. It’s biggest costs could be quartered (or even divided by eight) if it were to go for quality and influence instead of publishing a weekly that doesn’t pay its authors in many cases.
In my model, you'd get fewer, better-written articles (because the authors would have been paid) that have been very effectively peer-reviewed and enhanced. They would be widely disseminated at the end-point, and would be worth reading. None of this should be read as a criticism of Tribune's current copy standards - but the burden of a regular deadline placed against a tiny editorial budget is a strain that - in these difficult times - few editors would handle as well as Chris McLaughlin has done.