The local news has been a victim of many villains in the 21st century. First, it was Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and killer of local newspapers' classified advertising revenue. Then, it was Evan Williams, co-founder of Blogger and gatekeeper to the era of seamless self-publishing. Next, came Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook and progenitor of an age in which we can better understand what's happening around us by skimming a newsfeed from our friends. Jack Dorsey dealt the next blow with Twitter, a faster feed of now-news that steered eyeballs towards mobile phones--Evan Williams helped.
A new study ordered by the Federal Communications Commission claims that local reporting is in danger. "In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting," writes former journalist and author of the study Steven Waldman. "The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism--going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy--is in some cases at risk at the local level."
Decline or Transformation?
Among the study's many observations and recommendations, the irony of a reporting shortage in the face of "breathtaking media abundance" can't be missed. The study blames the market, noting how cutbacks in newsroom budgets mean fewer reporters which inevitably leaves stories unreported. The "ripple effects" of less information reverberate on a national scale as local television reporters and national news outlets often rely on local reporting as a source. Social media evangelists would be quick to argue that the original reporting is there, hiding in Facebook feeds and buried on Twitter. In the era of abundance somebody is surely saying something about the goings on at town hall or the corrupt local business man. The media just needs better curators, someone to filter the noise and aggregate the useful information. There's not an absence of local reporting, they may argue, there's an evolution in method that the local news industry just needs to figure out.