How important is local news to you?

    by Mark Glaser
    March 7, 2008

    My local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, has lately been pushing local news onto the home page more than ever before. Today’s front page is filled with local and regional news with nary a national story. Is it time for local newspapers — even large metro papers like the Chronicle — to focus much more on local news and less on national and international news? If you’re a newspaper reader, would that upset you? If you’re more of an online newspaper reader, how much do you count on your local newspaper site for local vs. national or international news? And what sources do you use most for local news: local TV, alternative weeklies, blogs, local newspapers, email lists? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    • Focusing on local news is the only way for smaller papers to compete and differentiate themselves from the larger papers like the NY Times.

    • tmb

      focus focus, look at the continued success of local business journals, 5th year in a row that print subscriptions, print advertising have meaningful growth and web business is exploding. Focus, quality and community key ingredients for success.

    • Increasingly the only uniqueness and relevancy that traditional media can offer is the local stuff. This is more obvious perhaps in the Heartland than in Metropolois. In a town of 6K I observe a thriving – relatively – local published twice weekly – but flagging subscriptions to the dailies from the cities to north and south for whom the small towns are largely nonexistent. Increasingly the big dailies have little to offer not more easily available on the web. Other than the physical comfort of reading a paper (the Gulledge factor) and occasional childbirth, they are fast becoming irrelevant to many, compounded by the growing aliteracy of the consumerate.

    • At the News & Record in Greensboro, we have been emphasizing local news for three or four years. The result is that most of the time the Middle East bombings, the presidential horse race, the war, Washington manuevering and the like gets pushed inside. We did it for the reasons everyone else is doing it — to provide readers with the one thing we can do that no one else can do.

      Some readers notice and complain: they think the most important news of the world should be on the front page, the way it was back in the 60s and 70s. And, at first, it felt strange to this 55-year-old editor not to fall back to that traditional view. But now I cannot imagine being comfortable with a front page that was not dominated by local content. I, like so many other people, have discovered I don’t or want a front page with news that I’ve seen on television the night before or read online elsewhere.

      Whether local will save newspapers….now that’s a different question.

    • It has been clear for a long time that local news is getting more and more prime real estate at any media site, and that the demand for local news is increasing. I read an IDC report last year that spoke about the rise of the local news throught the media sphere.

      Personally I think we are moving towards a more localized perspective of any news story. Local news with the proper supporting context is the future. We are moving more towards the mosaic-like presentation where the reader gets all the different angles, twists of the story. The time for the single news story is out and the time has come for the engaging multidiverse news stories. Here I feel many UGC sites still lacks the proper execution. We do not give the UGC accounts the proper real estate at the sites and/or the proper supporting material – perspectives, facts or presentations.

      Interesting enough, many people forget that all news is local until media makes it global. News is more or less exclusively local until we as a community makes the local news (event) global by raising the dialogue to a national, regional or global level. Therefore it has always surprised me that we tend to forget the localized perspective of the news stories. Over localizing news such as many UGC sites are currently doing actually makes the news loose the context and becomes uninteresting for most people.

      The second interesting fact about local news is that they should be told by the locals, the people who experience the news. We want the real accounts. We need real people to share their views about what they experience locally. That is where this should go like. I know this was spoken about earlier this year here at the Mediashift blog. The cellphone component is here of tremendous importance.

      Before I come into too many angles of the subject I think we will see a development where the news transforms into the localized, national, regional and global perspective, yet showing the connection between these different levels guiding the reader what the news really is. In there lies the engagement level ofn the reader and opens up for a whole new set of digestion and participation of news.

    • coomaraswamee

      This seems true of most things…take school libraries, they really aren’t going to trump the Internet at what it does best, but working with the local curriculum and knowledge can make something like this even better than it was BEFORE many things were so easily accessed.

    • Greg

      Here’s an article I spotted a while ago with a different spin on how local news gets reported.


      Calif. Web Site Outsources Reporting
      By JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writer

      Thursday, May 10, 2007

      (05-10) 21:08 PDT Pasadena, Calif. (AP) —

      The job posting was a head-scratcher: “We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA.”

      A reporter half a world away covering local street-light contracts and sewer repairs? A reporter who has never gotten closer to Pasadena than the telecast of the Rose Bowl parade?

      Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes the next frontier: local journalism.

      full article:

    • What news organizations need to do is realize that they have to be more immediate and local. It is not enough to post stories a day later. Coverage has to be as immediate as possible and then remain available. A city council meeting can be streamed live and the journalist can help to highlight the key portions. There are no more broadcast journalists and print journalists, there are only digital journalists who know their area of expertise and their community.

    • With the AP wires ubiquitous on the Internet, focusing on local news is the only way for most papers to stay relevant — anyone with a computer has already read what the AP has to say about, for example, the woes of the housing market or Eliot Spitzer.

      The grand assumption behind this is that everyone’s reading their news on the Internet. Certainly MediaShift readers are. But not everyone is, and here’s where it gets hairy. The Internet-connected community, while getting larger, still excludes large swaths of the population based both on age and socio-economic status. If local papers skimp on national news because “everyone’s getting it online,” they’re forgetting that not everyone is online, not even in the net-savvy San Francisco Bay Area, the readership for the example you cite.

      This is just one of many challenges facing newspapers today — with something as wide-ranging and disruptive as the Internet available to some, but not all, of your readership, how do you serve everyone? The answer is not clear to me — if it were, I’d go become a consultant and save all the newspapers that are in trouble. The problem is real, and it’s hard.

    • Doug Johnson

      In our Daily Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, SD, I would love to see more shorter national and international news stories and less of the lengthy local stories, re: the USA Today format.

    • Charles Roberts

      Newspapers formerly referred to the blanks between advertisements as the “news hole.” The real problem is that the “news hole” keeps getting smaller and smaller. There is increasingly less local news and less international news in newspapers. Both newspapers and television networks employ fewer and fewer persons to report on the news, and, except for garbage about celebrities, the nation has become less and less informed about everything. Then there is the tendency to put more “air” (space) between lines to make it more “readable” (or to make it look like it is more substantive than it really is). As for international news, when was that last time that you heard or read anything about, for example, the dispute between Russia and The Ukraine? Our nation is not well-served by any of the typical “news” sources. Certainly local news is important, national news is important, and international news is important. Why should one have to choose?

    • karen howell

      I would love to see more local news but I’m old enough that I don’t want to go dig the national and international stuff off the web. So give me local news and put the wider coverage in there too–or tell me the link where I can get it.

      I’ve lived in 3 big company towns–LA, Washington DC and Minneapolis. In LA the ‘company’ is the entertainment industry and that was covered in much more depth than just People Magazine.

      In DC national and international IS the Local news but there is small-l local news too.

      In Minneapolis it was 3M and Dayton’s (now Macy’s, Target, etc). The previous writer is correct all news is local news to someone.

      But it is important to have the national and international depth of coverage so we can educate ourselves and have a better understanding of what’s going on in the world. If the newspapers don’t send journalists where will the info come from? DC spin doctors?

      And outsourcing “local news” to India?????? The smell of the roses in January must have gone to their heads.

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