Yesterday’s post was about the future. Specifically about the media formats that are dying because of technological advancement. My argument was that there will always be quality material out there and there will be money for those people who are skilled to earn a living at their craft. But there is one area that I am afraid will be lost to technology and, at least at this time, I do not see a replacement for it.
So what is this one thing that I worry will be truly destroyed by technology? Local news by actual journalists. As I see it, there will always be outlets of national and world news that are profitable enough to continue on with real journalists. Those things will have a bias, but that is okay. Newspapers and magazines today are biased as are all people. At least when you read Huffington Post or the Drudge Report you know what you are getting when you read. As I see it, this as a push.
However for local news I envision a very
hard road. It is no secret that newspapers are struggling now and many of them are shutting down. Soon we will be hearing the same stories about network affiliates. When this happens, there will really be no source for local news.
I happen to believe that local news is more significant to my life than national news, and I know that whoever is my mayor will have a greater effect on my life than the president. So I believe that local news is quite important. I care what goes on at my city council and I want to know how high school football turns out.
I live in a mid-sized city. It’s huge compared to my home town but tiny compared to New York or Houston. In greater Fayetteville NC there are about 300,000 people. Unless things change seriously, even a city this size will have a difficult time employing reporters with only ad revenues from a website.
As things stand currently, the Fayetteville Observer is a respectable paper and I get headlines via RSS. I click on ads occasionally because I want them to get the revenues. But I simply have no interest in having the paper delivered.
Imagine that I was back in my hometown, roughly one tenth the size of Fayetteville. I would still care about the city council and the mayor, there would be only a few less stories for them to cover. There would be fewer local schools to follow and fewer crimes to report, but still a similar low-end cost. (And I don't think the local paper even offers headlines by RSS now. )
What are the options I see?
First, an [online] subscription model. I know this is what the papers plan to do. It makes sense right? People paid for the delivered version, they will pay for the online version. The only problem is that it’s nearly to make people see something that was free as having value. And as far as I know, except for the Wall-Street Journal, this model seems to have failed for every newspaper that has tried it.
Another option is user contributed local news. The problem with that is reliability. My concern is with good local news I guess there could be a digg-like system for rating stories or authors by veracity, but that seems like a bit of a stretch.
There is my irrational fear of technology. Feel free to call me stupid in the comments and tell me how you get your local news.