Back to the future: hyperlocal journalism

If you want to know why I do what I do, read this article by Danny Westneat. I was once that local reporter, too. I believe what local reporters do is important, every bit as important as any inside-the-beltway scribbler.

Though I think Westneat sets up a false dichotomy here:

That kind of small-town newspapering is considered boring today. Unhip. Supposedly we’re all too globalized or tuned into Web video clips to want such provincial news.

So-called serious journalists turned their noses up at hyperlocal newspapering long before the web. It was never considered glamorous enough or at all important. If you want to know why newspapers are struggling, you can’t blame it all on publishers and bean counters. A good deal of the fault lies with reporters and editors who declined to take local news seriously, unless it involved scandal and malfeasance, or consisted merely of dull recitations of city council meetings.

I was guilty, at times, too.

Next graph:

My own view is the opposite. I think intensely local, professionally gathered news is due for a comeback. It’s the one thing you can’t get anywhere else. The story of the death of the Valley Daily News is that it blew it when it combined with its partner, the Bellevue Journal-American, into one amorphous, suburban blob.

The problem was: The paper was no longer local enough.

And here, I think, Westneat is saying essentially the same thing. Local papers lost their way, not just because of a craven lust for profits, but because the newsroom lost its focus. You can blame smaller staffs, if you want, but you also have to ask how well these smaller newsrooms have used the resources they have.

My fellow journalists: The ball is in our court now. The web is ours to take. Are we going to just try to reproduce the same irrelevant and boring journalism that helped kill print, or create a new model of journalism for a new medium that is both engaging and relevant?

Via Romenesko.

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