My journalism idea: Small town news that doesn’t suck

Let’s take a look at my home county’s online version of the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune. Here’s today’s top story about the upcoming (actually, it happened last Friday) opening of Wal-Mart. I didn’t even have to dig for this glorious sample of apathetic journalism. It’s the number one story.

In all honesty, this pisses me off. It pisses me off as a journalist, it pisses me off as a consumer of media and it pisses me off as a representation to the world of my home stomping grounds.

Getting past the clunky, ad-whore Web site, we’re presented three identical photos (2 with the same caption) to accompany a 400-word press release about a major corporation opening in the community. It comes off as so ridiculous that it almost seems as though this is actually a result of effort rather than laziness. It’s not easy to post 3 giant copies of the same awkward photo on one small page.

But, moving on, there’s an opportunity in this wreck.

The real mission of journalism has always been to inform and connect, and I think there’s a lot of potential in going local and narrow. I can’t speak on the readership of the Sentinel-Tribune, but being the only real source of media for the area, I’d imagine the audience is theirs to lose.

Looking over the S-T’s Web site, it feels as though covering the local happenings has become a chore for them.

From this, one thing is clear: People crave community news. So much so that even sloppy outlets like the S-T – at least for the moment – are economically sustainable.

The solution? Well, I can’t afford nor do I have the time to establish a media source in the traditional sense.

But with the advent of modern media, there’s hope.

In short, I’d like to start a blog-based site focused on the county – the content of which would largely come from people within the community.

In other words, the content sources would typically be people that traditional media would (or should) commonly seek anyways. Think mayors, city council members, business leaders, school officials, area students, interesting folks…

I’ll break this down over the next couple posts into these categories:

  1. The mission of the project
  2. Subject ideas, content sources and getting the community buy-in
  3. Thoughts on the layout and presentation
  4. Other applications for this idea

As always, thoughts and comments are encouraged (yes, including you, S-T). I’m especially interested in examples of local news sources – both those that get it right as well as those that don’t.

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2 Comments

Filed under Journalism

2 responses to “My journalism idea: Small town news that doesn’t suck

  1. Pingback: Idea for small town media, Part 1 of 4: The mission « The Rally Flag

  2. jimthomsen

    Don’t mistake my hard questions elsewhere for scorn for your idea. It’s a great one, and I appreciate your focus on what is correct and necessary. And, as an old-school newspaper journalist who is likely to see his job and career disappear in the next few years, I’m interested to hear more.

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