Jun 9, 2011

The FCC discovers local journalism is (f)ailing

A report commissioned by the FCC finds what everyone in the journalism business already knows: There is a dearth of good, in-depth local reporting. AOL-Huffington-Patch is not going to reverse the trend, either (though AOL-Huffington-Patch disagrees). From a Poynter summary of the report:
The FCC report says that newspapers and TV news networks have half the staff that they had in the 1980s and that newsrooms now stand at pre-Watergate employment levels. As a result, local news coverage is in trouble. Courts, schools, legal affairs, environment, state government and education once were priority beats. Now they lack reporters to cover them. The number of newspapers with bureaus in Washington has declined. Local news coverage of religion “is all but gone[.]”
While NPR gets good marks, local radio news coverage is following the trend of having too few people following the reports of other outlets. Again, from Poynter:
Despite the abundance of local media outlets, Waldman said, there is “a shortage of media reporting.” In Baltimore, for example, there are 53 news outlets, but a Pew study  said most of the content came from one TV station and The Baltimore Sun. “So far the news media is not filling this key need” to report news and not just repeat what others have reported, Waldman said. About 15,000 reporters have left newsrooms in the last decade in America, he said.


Anonymous said...

Shocking. Next we need a report that fish need water to survive. Wonder how much that report cost and who was the genius that needed the hidden answer?

Anonymous said...

It's all going to H E double double with cheese, Justin Beiber.

Anonymous said...

The Patch model is just as flawed as the LANG operation. It wants to report news on the cheap. Patch has 1,000 professional journalists in more than 800 communities, but most are editors.

The backbone of their operation is the unpaid 6,000 bloggers that do the heavy lifting in community reporting. As Patch puts it, the “bloggers include mayors, state senators, congressmen, councilmen, trustees, county commissioners, activists, and other local influentials, in addition to any citizens who want to share their perspectives on issues and topics of interest in their towns.”

I hardly call any of these folks objective trained journalists. One paid reporter also works as the calendar editor for Patch websites throughout SoCal. That’s quite a job in addition to reporting.

A couple of weeks ago a Patch editor emailed me asking to blog for the Loma Linda Patch. Aside from the fact that I live 5,600 miles away, I can’t imagine writing blog entries for free on the same website as the mayor or local gadfly. And if it turned into a paid gig, I don’t see how the community can receive good coverage when I would be asked to time-consuming scut work, like writing calendar items for a dozen other Patch websites.

Patch may work well in the future, but for now it doesn’t come close to filling the gaps created by gutted newspapers like the Daily Bulletin and the Sun. As long as they believe that unpaid bloggers are the answer to community reporting, then we will never return to the days of fully staffed newsrooms. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Daily Bulletin had more than 100 editorial employees. Just how will Patch fill that gap?

Anonymous said...

It won't fill the gap and the audience who use to read is dead or on the way there. Just a fact of life. The habits of the younger computer generation are vastly different today that yesteryear. Most under 30 could care less about a daily newspaper or local print coverage. Can't argue about the journalism quality going south, but, give people what they want to consume and you will have a good model.

Anonymous said...

you guys are missing a crucial nugget from the report, which is that all these local news outlets just repeat each other in an endless echo chamber of the same old crap. no one is doing serious local journalism because all their resources are tied up writing the same stories as everyone else.

Anonymous said...

10:35 makes a good point. Adding to that, if you produce a crap product, no one is going to a) pay for it, especially with the economy the way it is, or b) spend any time at all reading it. Then as your readership declines, so does your advertising and it's a big ole downward spiral.

The Hostile Negress said...

I give Patch about one more year. Hyperlocal is oversold - people don't care as much about missing cats and errant trash collection as AOL wants to think. Niche and national - that's where I believe focus needs to shift across the board.

Twitter is like, 25 percent black. Spanish-language pubs are through the roof. Minorities are clearly present online and want to read about themselves; they're also massive consumers - and I say this as a former AP diversity reporter and a black woman. I know of what I speak. Target the whites with the endless variety of specialized reporting - from hyper saving junk to gadgets. Again - niche, niche, niche. That's where the coins are, I say.

Meanwhile, local news at some point became bullshit news. The locals are too busy writing up the "daily crap" as I call it - light weight, shallow "feel good" stories targeting rocking chair jockeys. We won't even talk about the alleged "writing."

A. Mess.

The Hostile Negress said...

BTW AOL is a digital company. The entirety of their media knowledge, such as it isn't, comes from Arianna Huffington.

That doesn't bode well.

They're touting all of these hires. Ok. Well I predict in three quarters, we'll be talking about all of the layoffs.