Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Media Should "Go Intensely Local"

I just heard James Lileks, writer and newspaperman, tell Hugh Hewitt what I've been pushing since I started this blog. I've always focused intensely on local issues, because I don't think it's being done by the local media. I have my own reasons for doing this; to effectively fill a niche you must stay within the niche, and I can't claim any real expertise in any area not in my backyard. James went on with some other helpful advice, but the part pertinent to my point is here.

"HH: All right, James, number one, I want to hear your three big fixes for newspapers which are bleeding out.

JL: Number one is to go intensely local, and I’ve said this before and before again. When I want to know what’s going on in the world, for example, in the Middle East, I’m going to go read the Michaels…I’m going to read Michael Yon, I’m going to read Michael Ledeen, I’m going to read Michael Totten. And if you go to our editorial page in our paper, you know, we’ve got Garrison Keillor talking about how much he hates the current occupant. A little more heat than light, exactly.

HH: Yup.

JL: So I would just stop trying to be a lesser edited down version of the New York Times, and assume that canny news consumers know where to get it. And frankly, if you’re going to lose a certain portion of the demographic that does know how to get news on the web, you’re just going to have to cut them loose. And you’re going to get far more people to stick with the paper if you go intensely local. In the old days, and I hate to hold up the 30’s as a model for anything, but in the 1930’s, the Minneapolis Star was a tabloid, and it was hard hitting, and it had big, huge, screaming headlines, and it was a joy to read. What they did was they just simply blanketed the city. They sent a lot of people out, and guys came back with a couple of stories every day, and banged them out. They weren’t worried about journalism as art. They weren’t worried about the first draft of history. They were worried about telling the story of the town, of the people who lived there. And there’s no real other media organization that has that ability. A television can’t do it. Television is sensational, and they don’t have the time. Bloggers can do it, but they have too diffuse an audience. We’ve got newspapers, people who can write, people who know how to put stories together, and photographers and vehicles, and all the infrastructure to disseminate this story of the city. So why try to be the New York Times and tell us exactly what’s going on elsewhere? Put a little page of national and world briefs if you like, but flip the A and the B section, and make the front part of the paper the front part of the town. That’s the first thing."