August 27, 2010

Community Journalism Synchronicity

This morning I was preparing for class discussion in my reporting capstone class, in which we're going to be working on community-level coverage of school finance issues. I was working on definitions of community and community journalism, and looking at how community newspapers are doing compared to the newspaper business as a whole.

As I was doing this, an e-mail came in from my friend Howard, who works as a city planner in a suburb north of Atlanta. He writes:

We have several 'neighborhood news' type newspapers that publish around the county and region. Recently, we've had inquiries from some of them wanting to bid out the opportunity to be our legal ad provider. Actual competition to be our "newspaper of general circulation!"
I find it interesting that these little mom & pop deals are cropping up all over, and seemingly expanding in the case of the Sandy Springs Neighbor, when it would seem print news in general is dying on the vine, or has been dying lately, anyway.

I don't know that I would agree with his "dying on the vine" comment, but I certainly understand Howard's point of view.

But Howard's note reminds of a couple of key issues we all need to think about:
  • First, it is not particularly useful to talk about the "newspaper industry" as a whole, as though the New York Times, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Phoenix New Times, and New Prague Times were all the same kind of thing. They are all very different in terms of what their goals are, how they operate, and how much money is involved.
  • Second, I find it fascinating that my friend and I, each in different positions with different concerns, were both thinking about the role of community newspapers in the 21st century.

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