Sep 10

The meaning of local

Martin Moore reflects on what “local” means when we’re talking about news media, concluding that if new start-ups replace the news organisations of the past they will have be grown from ground-level communities. Carving out a piece of territory, sending news to it and then hoping that you create a community as a result doesn’t work.

Everything in that post makes sense and I’d just add this perspective. Present-day local news media may look like businesses aiming at slices of physical territory or at selected “demographics”. But that isn’t how most local news began life. A community already existed and wanted to improve its common life: knowing things quicker, knowing where to shop for stuff, the tide tables or the football team’s score.

In the 19th century, the great growth era of local papers, cities were forging new identities and creating new bonds with new civic institutions whose doings made material for editors and publishers whose ambitions went beyond the parish. Cities in the 21st century, for dozens of reasons, aren’t the same places as they were then. The era when papers could be the romantic chroniclers of new urban life has gone. (For a taste of this in an American context see this Q&A with the writer Richard Rodriguez about San Francisco).

Town and cities made economic sense as well. Any city of 100,000 inhabitants or more could sustain an evening paper and usually did so for more than a century. Not any longer. Classified ads for houses, jobs and cars – once the bread and butter income for regional papers – moved faster than any advertising to the internet.

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Jul 10

Weekend miscellany: Wales, bogus trends, death knocks and Google skewering the FTC

What follows belows is a collection of links worth reading which I’ve rounded up as the weekend approaches.

  • The well-worn rhetoric of the “crisis” in journalism tends to focus on national newspapers, distorting perspective a little. The most serious financial position of all is in the regional papers; television news outside London isn’t in good shape either. That’s the significance of the argument that has been pinging back and forth this week about Wales. Thankfully, I can put it all in one link to Martin Moore’s blog because he’s very kindly summarised it in a single post.
  • More Jack Shafer skewering bogus trends.
  • Journalist Chris Wheal has blogged this week and appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on the ethics and practice of interviewing the bereaved. He suddenly found himself on the other side of the fence, handling reporters on behalf of close relatives. His fierce distinction between the behaviour of the local and national media echoes the Cumbrian MPs who made the same distinction after the recent Lake District shootings. Some reflection and more links on this conversation from Dominic Ponsford.
  • There’s been an American debate running about possible government subsidy for printed news media mostly around a discussion document favouring this produced by the Federal Trade Commission. Google has now replied, reading – to judge by the Buzzmachine post – the FTC a lesson in both economics and history.

Jun 10

Read and enjoyed: Naughton, Moore and two rig-disaster reconstructions

A miscellany of links. This is a clear and knowledgeable piece of sense about the internet and the future by John Naughton, which gives wider currency to his celebrated image of the imaginary opinion pollster in Mainz 18 years after the invention of printing. And he extends the image underlining how uncertain the future is to St Petersburg in 1917. Literate futurology with a hinterland.

Martin Moore  has been at a Knight Foundation conference in the US and summarises what he learnt about the latest local news initiatives there.

The first long-form investigative reconstructions of the rig disaster are starting to appear. Two of the best have been in magazines and not newspapers. This is from GQ and this from Rolling Stone. The latter (“The Spill, the Scandal and the President”) is notably more critical of Obama than most other media, blaming him for the failure to clean up the oil regulators.


Jun 10

Moore of MST: this sounds about right

This piece by Martin Moore of the Media Standards Trust in London cropped up in my Delicious clips (which appear just to the right of this post in “what I’m reading“), but it’s so judicious that it deserves more prominence.

What I like here is the rigorous separation of the fate of journalism from that of individual journalists, the stress on the experimental mixture of things which are going to have to be tried to rebuild and sustain journalism on a useful scale and the mention of Roman Gallo’s Nase Adresa initiative in the Czech Republic (background from this blog here). Above all what’s appealing is the lack of dogmatism and admission of uncertainty.


Apr 10

Journalisted (or transparency 1)

I like the idea of the Media Standards Trust‘s Journalisted, an index of journalists with references and links to what they’ve written. Transparency for journalists is occasionally painful but tends, over the average and the long run, to promote that useful currency, trust. MST don’t have much money behind Journalisted, so in practice it’s been a bit underdeveloped. But they’ve nevertheless now revamped it and the new features are explained in this post by MST’s Martin Moore.