John Temple reveals the secrets of Peer News/Civil Beat

By Daniel Ikaika Ito

If News Morphosis 2.0 was a concert then Peer News (see Civil Beat) Editor John Temple was the headlining act. This conference on the state of Hawai‘i’s media industry was also Honolulu’s first public introduction to Temple, who had been editor and publisher of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News when it shut down last year.

News Morphosis 2.0 was his first public appearance as editor of Peer News since moving from Colorado. Temple is the former editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News.

Temple’s keynote speech was highly anticipated by the 200 people in attendance at the Plaza Club and the hundreds of others watching the live webcast. They were eager to hear about E-Bay founder Pierre Omidyar’s latest business Peer News.

Temple said Peer News would emphasize quality content and community.

“Peer News is going to differ in a couple of major ways,” said Temple when comparing traditional media organizations to Omidyar’s newest online business.

“Peer News is about content and about community,” he said. “The mission statement of Peer News is to create the new civic square. It’s to create a place where people can learn, debate and come to an understanding.”

According to Temple, Peer News will be an exclusively digital news service. Topic pages, not individual stories, will be the fundamental elements of the service, said Temple.

Not only does Peer News aim to change the way it delivers news, it also hopes to change the way reporters interact with their audience.

“I think journalists need to change by taking down the wall between them and the community,” he said. “One of the ways that this kind of journalism can improve communities is because it can give people a place to learn together and talk together.”

Temple and Peer News are putting a lot of weight into transparency and openness in their approach to media. Like other media organizations, it will allow its readership to openly comment on stories, but will require them to use their real identities to encourage a “civil” discourse.

“One of the things that’s happened in our society is that people are only talking to people whom they agree with,” said Temple. “We need to start talking to people with whom we disagree in a civil way so we can find common ground and solutions.”

Peer News will facilitate polite debates on issues and deliver hard news online and will also be aiming to be a profitable business, said Temple. When the question and answer portion of Temple’s speech started, it seemed that money was on the mind of many people in the Plaza Club.

After fielding several questions about the Peer News business model there are two conclusions people could draw from Temple’s roundabout responses. The first is that Peer News will charge its readers a fee to participate in the “new civic square.” The second conclusion is that Temple and Peer News will not divulge the amount of this fee until it launches later this spring.

[Writer Daniel Ikaika Ito was a short-term intern at Peer News.]