Among the blizzard of online publishing platforms sharing ideas and points of view on all sorts of topics is a website called Medium.
Wikipedia describes it as “an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers”. It was developed by Evan Williams as a way to publish writings and documents longer than Twitter’s 140-character maximum.
Today, among its many gems, Medium has published an article by American journalist Matt DeRienzo, who makes a powerful case for the local press. Here are some of the key points from his article…
What’s a supporter of local journalism to do?
You care about the health of our democracy. You care about your community. You believe vigilant, quality local journalism is essential to both. But your local newspaper is owned by someone who doesn’t share any of those concerns, at least in the way they operate the business, and it’s definitely having an impact. Here are a few things you can do to help:
Support individual journalists. “Journalism companies are dead. Long live journalists.” Take time to tell your local reporters and editors that you appreciate what they’re doing. Odds are they’re probably not loving working for that hedge fund, on top of all of the normal stress that comes with being a journalist these days. Help them report their stories. Be constructive in your criticism. Instead of “how could you have missed this story, or ignored this community voice,” say, “can I introduce you to this new source who might be able help you?” And as a subscriber, demand that the company treat them well.
Support independent local news sites. Independent online news organisations have emerged all over the country to fill the gaps in local journalism left by the decline of newspapers and to give voice to communities who were never well-served by legacy media in the first place. In some cases, they’re general interest news sites doing all or most of what a traditional newspaper used to do for their community. Others are covering niche topics within a local area in greater depth than newspapers were ever able to provide, and are complementing, more than competing with, the work that’s being done by what’s left of the local daily.
Start your own independent local news effort. It will be up to individual communities to take responsibility for their local information and journalism needs. That’s us, especially those of us with backgrounds in or understanding of journalism. It’s not an easy endeavor. An understanding and commitment to the revenue side of the journalism business is required. But such efforts will be essential to the local news ecosystem regardless of what happens to the newspapers whose owners we love to hate.