Going Local

There are two great floods in the news today, one in New Orleans and the other a deluge of media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Pardon me for saying this is not an innovation, only saturation. Decades ago people would have sat glued to the radio. Today they’re glued to the computer screen. True, new media offers new ways to help the survivors. But the more important, and perhaps unexploited power of new media is to enable us to get more information about what is happening in our backyards and on topics of interest to us, and not in being innundated by events a continent away.

Thanks to an Anonymous poster for putting this thought in my head, and for pointing me to a lovely article on local coverage in Online Journalism Review. Today’s posting must be briefer than usual. I’ve backed myself into a corner and have to rush out. So let me summarize as quickly as possible how OJR writer David LaFontaine put together some great ideas on how local coverage may be the unexploited niche in publishing — and urge you to go there for details.

He started with a focus on the Point Reyes Light, the plucky little Northern California publication that won a 1979 Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of Synanon. Faced in 2004 with a financial crisis, the Light asked readers for help and they said: we’ll pay more. Wow! But why should that surprise us. I can get more than I cared to know today about Katrina but if there was a flood down the block, where would I go to learn more?

The OJR piece connects this print example to some of the online efforts that seek similarly to drill down into communities, quoting former mainstream media executive Bob Cauthorn and newsman-turned-entrepreneur Mark Potts, a co-founder of Backfence.com. “National news? Piece of cake. Anywhere, everywhere. I can get Pope coverage pretty much anywhere,” Potts told OJR, which goes on to write: “Potts and his investors are betting that … a site that tells you how to find a good local plumber, what the Little League schedule is, and what the City Council is doing to try to solve the traffic problem could be a real force.”

Exactly what I’ve been thinking of late, and with one addition that I hope to add in future posts — how does a person go-local with some hope of earning at least supplementary income if not creating a replacement job.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media