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Desert Companion

Culture: The future of journalism? Cue Laughter

The future of journalism is snarky, nimble, funny, restless — and its epicenter just might be an apartment in downtown Las Vegas. From there, writer Paul Carr recently launched the Not Safe For Work Corporation, which aims to be a new media powerhouse on the national scene — or maybe just a droll node on the web where the topics of the day are given a good snarking. Even Carr himself isn’t sure yet. What the author and journalist is sure about: The traditional model of free journalism on the Internet is unsustainable in its current form. His proposed alternative: Not Safe For Work (nsfwcorp.com), a paywall-protected mosh pit of dispatches, features and commentary that launched July 4. The selling point: not the information, but the attitude.

“News has become a commodity,” says Carr, the organization’s editor in chief. “If we were just delivering facts, which you could find elsewhere, there’d be no reason to pay. Even if we wrote those facts in a reliable, trustworthy way, most people don’t value those things as much as journalists do. Otherwise, Fox News wouldn’t exist.” Not Safe For Work aims to set itself apart by its voice and sensibility. “It’s more about being part of a club than reading a thing,” he says. “Not Safe For Work is this kind of strange group of people you kind of want to hang out with.” Sure, you can get the latest election-season news blips at the New York Times, but you won’t get a cheerfully truculent deconstruction of the historical anecdotes dropped by Mitt Romney at a recent campaign stop.

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[HEAR MORE: Paul Carr discusses living as a nomad on the Strip on "KNPR's State of Nevada."]

Why Vegas? “It’s cheap here to start a company,” Carr says. It also happens to be where one of his main investors, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, lives. (Others who bankrolled him to the tune of “mid-six figures” are CrunchFund and tech investor Judith Clegg.)

Not Safe For Work’s 17 writers are dotted around the U.S. (with a few in London), currently filing pieces on everything from the Olympics to the Aurora shooting. Though his far-flung freelancers are just Google Hangout away, Carr is keen on the old-fashioned value of herding smart people in one room. In addition to recently flying in the writing crew for a launch party, he hopes many of his writers eventually relocate to Vegas.

“We were talking about creating something like the Manson compound. That’s the ultimate goal,” says NSFW contributor Mark Ames, an investigative reporter who’s written for Playboy and The Nation. With a mix of quick riffs, long features, podcasts, e-books and even live events, Carr hopes to grow NSFW into a new media stalwart. He has no sacred cows, save one — the importance of paying talented writers for good work. Thus the $3 monthly subscription. The price is right: So far, with only word-of-web, he says they’ve scored 3,000 subscriptions.

“Now, we just have to convince people to like our voice,” he says, “and be part of our weird world.”

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