NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

The Future of Newspapers

David Griner, The Union's Interim Managing Editor, has an interesting column on the future of newspapers in the 29 January issue. This is reminiscent of a discussion I carried on with Rich Somerville, the former Editor before he went seeking a less stressful life.

I shared some thoughts with David on his column and an idea how the paper could entice more readers online, thus increasing ads revenue for web site. After some additional thought, I have edited my original e-mail to David, removing some text and adding ideas, so I can share with you and get your feedback.

Last year, while doing some research for a book, I read the Salmon Idaho Recorder-Herald, from 1947 to 1987 on microfilm. I subscribe to the Recorder-Herald today, and it is nothing like what it was in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Today it is boring lifeless glop, with out any sole. Up until the mid 70s, the paper had “coming and goings” columns, written by locals in the communities surrounding Salmon, and by citizen reporters in community organizations. It was about school events, helping neighbors, out of town visitors, household accidents, and anything news worthy that happened in the neighborhood. These columns were about people, by neighbors, for the whiole community to enjoy. It was about building community.

None of those columns exist in the Recorder -Herald today. It is a boring newspaper. We all love to hear about what our neighbors are doing, it is human nature. That is why the corporate coffee pot is so popular, why we hang our in the local coffee shops, and gossip on the telephone. It is also it is why we find some of the blogs interesting, it is people sharing their views, troubles and successes.

The Union has an opportunity to entice more online viewers to The Union web site, by starting some neighborhood blogs, linking them to their main page. They should seek out some citizens journalists to moderate these neighborhood sites. In the process they would be creating the 21st century version of the neighborhood “coming and going” columns. We have some columnist from the neighborhoods, but they are more broadcast than conversational.

As blogs grow in popularity, more citizens “journalist” will become the trusted sources of the news. Fear is spreading among the old guard at the major newspapers, and they are attacking the bloggers. I think local papers have an opportunity to embrace the blog trend and create a more interesting newspaper.

Tell me what you think

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