For those of you that do not live in the Northeastern United States you may be unaware of the aftermath of the ‘unnamed’ hurricane that occurred over this past mid-March weekend. Hurricanes by definition have sustained winds over 75 MPH and there were several reports of winds in excess of that. Whether they were sustained or not is not the point. What is important is that millions of people were impacted – some tragically and 2 ½ days after the storm thousands of people remain underwater and without power.
It’s obvious that national newspapers would not cover local events, (to any specific or significant degree) like the impact of a storm in the suburbs of New York City. But our local paper (the Norwalk Hour) is there precisely for that reason. When I opened my paper on Monday to read articles about the impact of the storm locally there was exactly one article on the storm. No data. No rainfall or wind amounts. The website had little more to offer and did nothing to help people without power who could not access the internet anyway. Although I did not intend to pick on the Hour, I’ve been monitoring both their printed and web coverage of local events for several years.
Why do we even get a local paper? For me (and many people) it’s to cover local events. News, weather, sports, local politics and issues related to schools and services in our immediate communities. I realize that some people may only get one newspaper and the local paper may be it. But many people receive either national newspapers like the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal or read them online. But those papers will not cover local events such as high school and youth sports. Nor would they offer detailed local weather records or stories from people in the community. I suspect that most people are not looking for in depth reporting of national and international events in the local paper.
Their website can take on much of those added functionalities and offering full website access to subscribers would be added value. Contextual advertising could be created to serve up ads during weather events that would offer services such as snowplowing, services for helping after a flood, tree removal and generators. You get the idea.
There are some local newspapers that are marrying web and local content very well even now. But far too many are miles behind the curve. If they don’t change their approach I fear that they will be extinct sooner than later. That would be not only a loss of employment for those that work on the staff of local newspapers; it will be a huge loss for the local communities.
I’m not naïve. It’s terribly difficult these days in the newspaper business. People want access to information for little or nothing. But if local papers are not going to cover local events in a timely fashion their audience will disappear completely. It’s happening every day. By the way today’s paper did have three articles on the aftermath of the storm. A day late.
Agree or disagree?