Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The 20 Year Decline In Local News!

Many dramatic changes have occurred during my time in Durham as head of the community’s marketing agency, e.g., Internet, Cell Phone/PDA Technology, Laptop Computers, Wireless Technology, Flat screen technology, Paperless Office, Websites, Green Technologies, 24/7 News, Global Information Systems, Desktop Graphics and Printer Prep, Smart Bombs, Social Media to name just a dozen.

But nothing has been more dramatic than the nationwide decline in the number of daily newspapers. The number of dailies reached a zenith around 1950, but declined by only 200 over the next forty years, mostly with the elimination of afternoon papers.

But another 200 dailies nationwide have been eliminated just since 1990.

This has occurred during the same period that television and radio news moved away from local news by expanding content to huge, largely unrelated coverage areas, I suspect to optimize ad revenues and sustainability. To me, the majority of so-called “local news” on local television stations hasn’t really been local for many “moons.”

So, losing local newspapers is leaving a vacuum in many places. Being “local” isn’t only about who owns it. It’s about the nature of its coverage. It’s about coverage by reporters and editors who live in and breathe the community. It’s about local community agenda. It’s about community reflection. It’s about community perspective.

And no, the newspaper in another community next door or across the state or nation, no matter how well intended, isn’t the same as a daily newspaper that focuses on a community without distraction.

But I’m one who believes as John Nesbitt wrote in Global Paradox that the more things go global, the more they will intensify at the local level.

And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the paradigm for local newspapers reverse in the near future.

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