Thursday, October 22, 2009

Local is the new word in journalism

This is my first post that is here mostly to offer links to sources on a particular topic. (See previous post for more info).

Although I consider myself a creative writer, I have an ongoing interest in newspapers because I used to (and probably subconsciously still) think of them a backup plan: if I suddenly had to make some money, I could dust off my clips and walk them around to newspaper offices, offering to freelance. You tell me to write about something and I can usually deliver, no matter how little I know about the topic beforehand. It worked twice, in two different states in the 1980s, but I should know better than to think it will work now.

Or maybe there is still work in newspapers—just unpaid or poorly paid, compared to years past. Some recent articles I've run into have discussed the trend toward local news and local blogging.

• Maybe I'm a little behind on this trend, but the first article I saw about the local trend in a major publication (not just as a blogger's fantasy) was the article (Newsweek, Oct. 12, 2009), which discusses how citizen journalists/bloggers are stepping in to cover outburb communities abandoned by big-city newspapers. Some of the ventures have been launched by news companies themselves, like the New York Times. The article uses terms like "hyper-local journalism" and "journo-bloggers"—I'm not sure these are new terms of art, or were just made up by the writer.

• Then a few day's later, on Oct. 19th, the Washington Post rolled out a total redesign, along with a print "Redesign Owner's Manual." Two of the manual's eight pages are devoted to the Post's new Local emphasis: one page is about the Post's new "Local Living" section (which rolls in its former, separate Home and county weekly sections, saving paper and print) and the other about "A new local home page." The new Local web page can be set up to be the user's entry way into the rest of the Post, with zip code set-up for weather and a way to format the page to display headlines from your chosen area and areas of interest (e.g., The District, Maryland, Schools, Crime, Obituaries, Religion).

[The irony here is that I looked at the web page, but then had to go back to the print manual in order to figure out how to format the page. It was a lot easier to figure out using the print write-up vs. the bald site itself.]

• The next day, NPR's Diane Rehm Show discussed New Business Models for Journalism. Forty-one minutes into the show, Rehm asks Arianna Huffington what the Huffington Post is doing to "address the local issues." Huffington says that the H. Post has launched Denver, New York, Chicago sections, to offer aggregate local news by making partnerships with local newspapers (linking to their news sites), and by using local bloggers and citizen journalists. (Sounds like unpaid or low paid work to me.)

BTW, the Huffington Post has been looking at the topic of the evolution/death of newspapers for awhile, but can't seem to make up their minds what to call the trend. They offer these categories (some with only one article each):

- The Reconstruction of American Journalism

- Death of Print

- Death of Newspapers

- Newspaper Decline


Dare I say it? The H. Post needs to hire a librarian to firm up the categories and make the site more searchable. Perhaps that is where my next I'm-really-desperate-for-money news job is.

1 comment:

Beth Blevins said...

Shortly after posting this today, I received an email from the Washington Post, inviting me to visit the new Local site. It was signed by
"Jonathan Krim, Local Innovations Editor." Is this something they're going to be teaching in J-school now?