Jeff Jarvis does an excellent job today of deconstructing the newspaper. With the swing of his internet scythe, Jarvis whacks out huge chunks of dead tree nonsense. Stock tables? Crashed. Critics? Panned. TV and movie listings? Canceled. Sports columinists? Out of here. Comics? Don’t make me laugh. Did your ox get gored? Good.
What would Jarvis keep? The obvious:
Welcome to the marrow. Local news is what should matter most to a newspaper (with only a few exceptions). And newspapers need to find new ways to gather more local news. I”ll cover that in a subsequent post. But it”s apparent that if you reduce what you”re spending – read: wasting – on some of the areas above, then you can afford to spend more on the news that matters in your market, the news only you can provide, the one kind of news that makes you indispensible in any medium.
But not all local news is worth the effort. I have long argued, without much company, that one of the greatest wastes of newspapering is editing for prize committees. Writing overlong, show-off series that are aimed at winning Pulitzers and lesser awards is often done for institutional ego over actual service. Tracking meth across the globe sounds cool on a prize application but I”ll bet you that most readers don”t give a damn. If, instead, you took those resources to get rid of a crooked mayor or reform property taxes, you”d be performing a far greater journalistic service. It may not get you awards, but it will get you readers.
And I”d look hard at your local columnists and ask whether they are as informative and entertaining as local bloggers. They used to provide some humanity and voice in otherwise gray, dull papers. Maybe your readers can help do that now…
How much local news have you read in Section A of the Pee Dee lately?