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A Pivot to Digital Shouldn't Spell the End of Local News

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/09/04/pivot-digital-shouldnt-spell-end-local-news

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The divide between digital and hard copy cannot be reduced to a divide between local and regional, private and public, or push and pull.

Local newspapers have long had a patina of unique local stories and classified ads along with a greater or smaller smattering of “hard news” items that were purchased or derived from larger services. For years the paper of record across the States was the NYT, and the only place I ever found that objected to strenuously was across the water in London, where the Times was the Times, with no need to specify the town, and upstarts were cheeky to apply the term to another paper. And they seemed to do better than American papers with regard to any place in the world except England or Ireland, for whatever all that might be worth.

But today, specificity and independence of reporting are not overwhelmingly tied to locality. There are local events, and it is natural that local agencies track and cover them. But for most information, locality no longer makes for the greater or more relevant distinctions.

What is important is that the sources be independent. And this is generally better fulfilled in digital media, where the natural forces of commodification are reduced because overhead is reduced.

First thing to do is dump trump.

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It may now be a quantitative problem, but it will remain a qualitative one as long as news media are more committed to serving power than exposing it.

a capitalist press is not a free press.

and local news is typically the very worst quality of news in the US. Studies over many years consistently point out that consumers of local media know the least about the most.

I’m not weeping for the end of local rags. It’s pretty much indy and consortium or bust now.

I support independent consortium sources that do real journalism. If that model can be replicated at local or regional levels, that would be fine.

Otherwise, I’m tired of reading about the worldview of the ruling class.

I actually have a few ideas and thoughts about the subject of journalism and the digital news-media.

It is my sense that the ink-on-paper form is going to die, sooner or later. We should try to make the best of this fact.

We know that a well-informed public is essential for a democracy, but it is also necessary for a well-functioning society, on just about all levels (including personal).

What might a ‘more ideal’ news-media look like?

I envision each ‘locality’ to ‘support’ a “news cell”, consisting of a team of reporters, editors, and tech-folk, working within a “worker’s cooperative” structure.

Those news-cells, in turn, are digitally connected to one another, and share information and ‘stories’.

Some “cells” specialize in particular topics (such as “Congress”, etc.)
The ‘media-network’ of cells could even eventually extend to planetary territory.

Funding. Both “commercial advertising” and “government support” are likely to be ‘corruptive’ to the process of gathering and disseminating news.

I sense that a “subscription” basis of support is the most bias-balanced form. But then folks don’t like to “subscribe” (pay) to (for) anything.

Answer: some form of government sponsored “voucher-system”.
If something like Bernie’s idea for a tax on Google and Facebook advertising came into being, there should be plenty of money to supply “vouchers” to any member of the public (say, for instance, $100). (I’m imagining the vouchers to come in $5 increments, with a code-number attached to each increment. A “subscriber” could then send as many of the $5 voucher-bits to as many or few media-outlets as they choose.)

Any of these ideas sound any good?

Can anything help local tv news? It’s always been awful. It’s nothing but accidents, crimes and court outcomes. It’s almost never about anything that affects the community. After you throw in weather and sports, the news consists of about 10 minutes of nothing worth watching.

yes, the voucher idea is worth considering, it provides funds, it guards against monopoly, but I’d be concerned that much of the voucher funds would go to supporting cause-based journalism (e.g. business, labor, conservative liberal, religious…) and there would still be an absence of a strong consensus voice that most could rely on.