An informed reader of Someone Noticed and the New York Times pointed out an article on the Internet about how the growth of citizen journalism is returning us to a time when we have more coverage of local news. “We’re returning to an era when we get news from more than one source again, human beings, rather than one monopoly newspaper sending out as few people as possible so it can make as much money as possible. It’s a new golden age,” was the quote from the national newspaper.
We agree. It is interesting how we’ve started to come full circle with much more local news coverage becoming available from multiple sources. (By-the-way, in case the publishers and executives aren’t aware of it, that’s the product that causes thousands of people to read a paper so they’ll see ads that create shareholder value.) Once competition faded from the Cecil County marketplace, the corporation with its monopoly on news was safe in pulling back from investing in valued content and they’ve certainly done that over the years. When local government had three or four news-people covering meetings, each journalist had to rush council businesses into print or get scooped. Moreover, they couldn’t stay silent on items for the others would run with it. That rivalry created competition in the marketplace and it was good for readers, local government and the industry.
But once it dwindled down to the point where there was only one publisher, the corporation had complete gatekeeper power and executives stopped investing in what made the product strong, original news and features. This is one of the reasons the industry is in its current condition. Either through failure to invest in their product (content), simple neglect, or fear of stirring things up, they decided what got covered. In Cecil County that gatekeeper function was more significant because for large parts of our area, there was no other place to turn as alternatives didn’t exist.
We think most readers would agree. If someone will report, they’ll decide. The problem is when news is filtered for subscribers, they don’t have information to evaluate, question and consider. But if it doesn’t get any ink, how are we going to independently evaluate articles and conclusions.
By-the-way, what got us started on this subject this stormy Saturday morning in March, as high winds rocks Cecil and heavy rain pours down is the fresh arrival of a site providing original local content on the World Wide Web called “Cecil County Spending: Taxed Enough Already!” We’ve read through it and found informative information that provides us with insight to consider on the Cecil County budget. We hope to see much more from this local content provider, since we want more information.
Anyone trying to cover local government knows how challenging it can be to pull together informed stories. There are a number of reasons for that, ranging from officials ducking behind closed doors to conduct public business on one end to merely the complexity of local issues, where officials have access to lots of professional staff attorneys, engineers, lobbyist, marketing specialist, writers and much more to help them.