Winter 2007

Is Local News the Answer?

“Unique local content” is by now a familiar phrase as print competes with digital media for readers’ attention. With constantly updated international and national news reporting and commentary just a click away, hometown readers need different reasons to go to their local newspaper, in print or online. In this issue of Nieman Reports, we will explore what local news reporting can look like and what a hometown focus can mean for journalists, newspapers, Web sites, and those who consume this news and information. – Melissa Ludtke, Editor

Is Local News the Answer?
Introduction
By Melissa Ludtke, Editor
Newspapers' Niche: 'Dig Deeply Into Local Matters'
‘… the purpose of local reporting is to cover what others can’t, won’t or haven't.’
By Brett J. Blackledge
Investigative Reporting Stays Local
‘The local stories are the toughest. They matter more to readers ….’
By Ken Armstrong
Blending Voice and Reporting
‘… stories conveyed a definite point of view, and the voice we used shared our perspective throughout their telling.’
By John Doherty and Tim Logan
Going to China to Report Local Stories
‘… I returned to Charleston convinced that we do a disservice to our readers when we think local reporting only happens when we stay close to home.’
By Tony Bartelme
Showing China—With a Local Thread
An Essay in Words and Photographs
By Alan Hawes
Global Issues Viewed Through Local Eyes
New media—and new ‘newsroom’ arrangements—combine to make local coverage of environmental issues compelling and personal.
By Perry Beeman
Going Far to Explore a Local Story
‘The currency common to these assignments was the thread of local connections stretching from Indiana to overseas and back in news stories we broadcast.’
By Kevin Finch
Local Voices—Once Quiet—Are Heard
On the zoned local editorial pages of The Dallas Morning News, people from the community ‘think locally … tell us something we don’t know’ and are ‘persuasive.’
By Michael Landauer
A Front Page Dominated By Local News
Changes in how the Times Union’s newsroom functions drive the paper’s push of breaking local news to the Web, with more analysis on its printed pages.
By Rex Smith
Forgetting Why Reporters Choose the Work They Do
Will journalists ‘cover local news for life, with no chance of parole?’
By Will Bunch
Matching Ambition With Assignment (1 comment)
A newspaper editor reassesses how to tell stories and who will tell them as pressures to go local intensify.
By Carole Tarrant
The Decline of Newspapers: The Local Story (1 comment)
‘Judging from our three studies, the future of America’s local newspapers is dim.’
By Thomas E. Patterson
The ‘Local-Local’ Strategy: Sense and Nonsense
‘There is broad logic behind it, but also a host of devilish details that could drag the effort down and once-vital newspapers along with it.’
By Rick Edmonds
Stories About Me
‘Being local these days is not just being a one-way flow of information.’
By Bill Ostendorf
Cutting Staff Results in Less Local Coverage
By Bill Ostendorf
What Readers Mean When They Say They Want Local News
‘Some journalists run toward these challenges; others react with resistance, fear and anger.’
An interview with Mary Nesbitt
Readership Institute’s Newspaper Studies
By Dean Miller
Local Characters: How to Tell the Stories You Have to Tell
Lane DeGregory offers tips and describes some of the stories she’s written to reporters who work at community newspapers.
Excerpted from a presentation by Lane DeGregory
Strategically Reorganizing the Newsroom (1 comment)
‘Two new content departments—News & Information and Enterprise—focus on producing unique local content for print and online.’
By Shawn McIntosh
Changing Reporters’ Beats—With a Focus on Local
‘… we need to demonstrate in our pages and on our Web site that local journalism does not mean insular, shallow content.’
By Rene Sanchez
Childhood Memories Kindle Hyperlocal Strategies
‘Trust me, this ain’t new. If anything, it’s old school local journalism.’
By Rob Curley
Going Hyperlocal at the Chicago Tribune (2 comments)
TribLocal.com is ‘designed to give readers the depth and breadth of news and information that their local newspapers don’t deliver.’
By Kyle Leonard
When Community Residents Commit ‘Random Acts of Journalism’
‘In communities with little news coverage, people are using the Web to restore a sense of place.’
By Jan Schaffer
Tips About Starting a Hyperlocal Web Site
By Jan Schaffer
Picking Up Where Newspapers Leave Off
A former investigative journalist launched an online local news Web site in Chicago.
By Geoff Dougherty
Going Local: Knowing Readers Is Essential (1 comment)
‘… hyperlocal news sites like ours are bringing the personality of a community to the news by letting residents have a much more active role in dictating what is news.’
By Liz George
Journalism: Its Intersection With Hyperlocal Web Sites
These sites ‘provide a depth of coverage of microscopic issues and events that thinly stretched traditional newsrooms simply can’t get to.’
By Mark Potts
VillageSoup: A Community Host Model At Work (1 comment)
‘Finding a sustainable business model for interactive distribution of news and information is essential.’
By Richard M. Anderson
Journalists Navigate New Waters
‘When high-tech’s central institutions blew up, people asked many of the same questions I hear asked by journalists today.’
By Lisa Williams
Words & Reflections
Network News’s Perfect Storm
‘Productivity, a central and venerable tenet of corporate culture, began to occupy the world of news in a way it previously had not.’
By Marc Kusnetz
‘Photo Vero’—A Modest Proposal
A photographer, worried about digital manipulation of images, suggests a way to protect the veracity of what the camera captures.
By Frank Van Riper
News From Iraq: From Spinning to Reporting
After working as Central Command’s spokesman for the war in Iraq, Josh Rushing became a reporter for Al Jazeera and writes about his transformative journey.
By Edward A. Gargan
Collective Power—Photographs From the War in Iraq
In two books by photojournalists, words and images explore various dimensions of the experience of being a witness to war.
By Molly Bingham
Disgraced By a Story That Consumed Them
‘I began to understand why some mistrust the news media.…’
By Mary C. Curtis
Optimism in a Time of Chaos and Change
‘I have faith that new models of journalism are going to fly out of this whirlpool of change and be successful.’
By Robert J. Rosenthal
Why a Critical Eye Is Needed
In exploring why journalism matters, it is not enough to look at what works well; examine, too, why sometimes it fails.
By David Randall
The Humanity of Journalism
‘As journalists, we make moral and subjective choices all of the time, just like the people we cover.’
By Brent Walth
Hidden Codes and Competitive Trickery
In a coffee-table book, Associated Press correspondents and photographers describe what they and their colleagues did to be first with the news.
By Robert H. Phelps
Curator's Corner
Examining Journalistic Change in the Digital Era
A new Nieman Web site will ‘aggregate important information about best practices in preserving and advancing journalism that adheres to its fundamental principles.’
By Bob Giles
Nieman Notes
Confronting ‘The Health Care World of Want’
A trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo results in a journalist’s determination to find ways to report on the devastation she now knows exists.
By Susan Dentzer
The People and Spirit of McClellan Street
Two brothers photographed life in a working-class neighborhood and found ‘kinship and camaraderie.’
By David Turnley and Peter Turnley