March 16, 2004

Fixing News

Jeff Jarvis, in response to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's excellent report on the dismal state of the news business, offers some on-the-mark advice on how to fix things, including this: "News organizations need to be able to concentrate instead of what makes them uniquely valuable to their audiences."

To me, this point underlies all others when considering how to engage newspaper readers and has been expressed by me and others many times. What a newspaper is not selling is news. It is selling an experience. It is selling an interaction with readers.

A newspaper must be a reflection of its community as well as be a vehicle for a conversation with its community. This means local news, local columnists, local participation by its readers.

Macro-news is not unique. Micro-news, community news, is. And, although there is much talk in the newspaper industry about "chicken dinner" news and local soccer scores, local news is not unimportant news. Instead, it is arguably the most important news. It is also about children's education, the local environment, money for libraries, museums and local theater. It is about the quality of our day-to-day lives.

When newspapers make those issues their top priority, and do so in a way that invites citizens to participate in -- and at times lead -- the process of journalism, each of them will be unique. And that's something readers will pay for.

[ Read: Expectations and Citizen Journalism, Local News: The Public's Journalism, News from the Readership Wars. ]

Posted by Tim Porter at March 16, 2004 06:26 AM