Why journalism in your own community deserves your attention, perhaps more than national media.
Anne Rogers; Newz Group
While at a sports media conference in February, I attended a session headed by Buster Olney, one of the Major League Baseball beat reporters at ESPN. In this session, he talked about advanced beat reporting and the tools and resources he uses as he attempts to navigate all 30 MLB teams and the hundreds of story lines that could be written.
The very first thing Olney talked about was his reliance on local sports reporters for information, stories and statistics. He says he gets many of his story ideas from them, he pays attention to their breaking news and he credits them in every way for making his job a lot easier.
For example, the St. Louis Cardinals received a punishment from the MLB in regard to the hacking scandal from a few years ago. Derrick Goold, the Cardinals beat reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, wrote a story that outlined everything happening as it progressed. Olney referred to this story in all of his later stories on the scandal. Goold did an excellent job of relaying the complicated information and making it readable to his audience, Olney said.
This dynamic relationship between national and local journalists got me thinking.
The idea of relying on local media for important information can be broadened to the entire scope of journalism.
Community knowledge is transmitted through the local newspaper, TV station, radio channel or magazine. National media would not have nearly as much information to base stories around if local media did not do its part to break news and get the real story first.
Although somewhat dated, this Poynter article has great commentary about why local media matters. All the main points are hit â€“ local media is able to revisit a big story multiple times, whereas national media swoops in for a few minutes and then is on to the next big thing (AKA parachute journalism). Local media helps members of the community get to know each other better; local media follows a story until its end, and much, much more.
One of my favorite points, though, was: â€œLocal media drives conversations, serves as public record and covers the news happening in your own backyard.â€
Local media does drive conversation. It keeps the community informed about even the littlest of things. A small story today could be one of the biggest stories tomorrow â€“ and local media is there to cover it before any one else.
Keeping media local means the entire community can be involved, and the entire community can be heard. There is no national medium that listens to its readers like a small-town newspaper does. Without local media, we lose so much of what is going on in our â€œown backyard.â€
Small papers and broadcasting outlets can have community forums that delve into the issues that really matter to the community. How many national outlets do that? It is not even possible. But local media tailors to you. It wants to know what you care about, and it wants to investigate that. You cannot find a national outlet that cares about its audience as much as local media. As soon as the story sputters out, national media is on to the next big thing. Local journalists are there until the end.
Another one of my favorites: â€œLocal community media is produced by the people who live in the community and it introduces people to creating media.â€
Those that produce local media are in your community. They are stakeholders. They know what is going on â€“ and they are affected by it, just like you are. Local journalists have assets in the stories they write and the news they uncover. And they often provide insightful analysis, because not only are they experts, but they know how you feel. They are community members, too.
What might be the greatest blessing of local journalists is their ability to take a national-level problem (healthcare, poverty, incarceration, etc.) and relate it to their community, their audiences and their lives. National media has the massive job of relaying the news to everyone in the nation, and then analyzing that news to best enhance the average audience.
Some communities might not be â€œaverage,â€ though. There are poorer communities, and there are wealthier communities. There are diverse communities, and there are places where diversity is not the norm. It differs with every city and town â€“ even within neighborhoods.
Hereâ€™s where local media steps in.
Our community journalists can hear what the national news is and apply it to the specific city, town or neighborhood they serve.
â€œHow does the news affect that audience?â€
â€œWhat can that audience do about it?â€
â€œWhen can the audience expect a change?â€
All of these are questions that local journalists, after learning of national news, try to answer to tailor stories to their audiences.
Local media can also put faces to that national news. This is something the national media struggles with; stories should connect with the nation, but how do you find someone who relates to 318.9 million people?
It is a whole lot easier to go local. Local journalists can find a member of the community, perhaps someone that many people know, and share their story and how that story is impacted by the news of the day.
Local news enlightens audiences to an entirely different degree. When you can physically see, or visualize through words or audio, how a national problem affects someone in your own community, you start to care much more. And you start to think about things you can do about it.
I am in no means saying national media does not provide us with insightful journalism. Iâ€™m grateful for national media when it comes to covering the big idea themes and for things going on in our nation as a whole. I deeply respect the hard work they put into providing us with news about the federal government and things impacting our nation.
Without national outlets that really focus on holding the government and big corporations accountable, we would be in a much worse and less uninformed place.
But when it comes to my community, Iâ€™m reading local. You should too. It matters.