A real need for local news, “hyper” or not
Scott Karp wrote a kind of case study about what we all want from local news online, based on his quest for information about a big storm in his home area near Washington, D.C.
This is very instructive: What he wanted to know, and how hard it was to find.
His concern about power outages resonated with me, because we get some very bad storms in north-central Florida, and when all the lights on my street go out, I would really like to know what’s happening. Lacking a good local TV station and — like most of the United States — lacking any real radio news coverage, I would like to find updates online. But alas, local online news is practically nonexistent for my area.
You might think Scott would have better luck, being in a more developed, urban, sophisticated part of the country than I am. But the fact is, around Washington, all the journalists are obsessed with national and international stories. Local news is too mundane for their snooty tastes. I think this is reflected in The Wall Street Journal’s assessment of LoudounExtra.com — a local site without any local buy-in. This was always true of The Washington Post’s weekly (so-called local news) sections back in the early 1990s: Stories written by miserable young reporters stationed out in the burbs, stuck in shoddy offices far away from the action, covering pumpkin-patch parties in October and Easter-egg hunts in the spring.
Most of the time, there is no information I urgently need to know about my home area. This is true for most people in most places, I think.
But when there is something — a big storm, a forest fire, or something like a deadly chemical spill on the railroad, for example — where am I going to get up-to-date information?
I guess we’ll always have the crawler on some local TV station (e.g., “Tornado alert until 9 p.m. tonight”), but that’s very sparse compared to what would be possible online.