This week we found exactly the type of reporting that creates a value proposition for subscribers as the Kent County News, an excellent product, covers its beat as well as any small town paper we know about. Three times since its last edition the county commissioners transacted public business behind closed doors, the weekly reported. The journalism pros covering the local government beat took time to inform readers of the closure and mention with as much detail as possible the reasons for the executive sessions. It was also noted that written statements justifying the closure were distributed.
This routine news story is remarkable in several ways. First a closed door meeting in Kent will not go unnoticed for it will get ink in this community newspaper. To that we might add, unlike the Whig, we’ve never seen that paper write a piece justifying the closing of a meeting by officials. We suspect there is enough professional staff in local government to help out with that task, while the professional journalists look out for the broader public interest, helping to make sure elected officials adhere to a few basic state-mandated guidelines. (It’s hard to report on the people’s business when it is done behind closed doors.) Second, it is remarkable that officials on the Upper Shore County pass out a written explanation to the public. We suspect that occurs because of challenges the Kent County News routinely makes with the State Open Meeting Board.
That is exactly the type of copy that causes people to read the local content, while also helping maintain a balance. (It also creates a value proposition for advertisers as paper delivers the commodity called readers.) For us this type of coverage, the type that doesn’t mind challenging officials occasionally, is one of the reasons we subscribe to the online edition of a weekly in a neighboring county. The other reason is because it is largely filled with local material. As papers continue struggling with the current changes in technology, the economic downturn and competition from a wide array of outlets, the efficient ones will figure out that this is the type of reporting they need to do, as they also become late adapters to technology. It is also important that local governments know that what they do will be widely reported and sometimes challenged as happens in Kent County.