A Blog Around The Clock

The future of newspapers is bleak, but there are three saving strategies: 1) hyperlocal papers will beat the big city, state, national and international papers, 2) telling the truth instead of false equivalence will foster reader loyalty, and 3) the print-to-web mode of thinking will be replaced by web-to-print, community-driven model.

Carrboro Citizen is an examplar of all three strategies. If you know that Carrboro is tiny, you already see how hyperlocal it is. If you have read it for a while, you know that they do not do the dreaded he-said-she-said tired, old schtick – they tell is at it is, and if you find that the truth hurts, you need to re-examine your own beliefs or loyalties.

But you may not be aware of their web-to-print strategy. The Citizen is really small – a couple of employees, a couple of interns and that’s it. But they are also next to UNC and its amazing Journalism program. Jock Lauterer teaches a class there and each year his students go out to Carrboro and surrounding areas and find interesting things to write about. Their articles then get published online first, on Carrboro Commons, where Kirk Ross and the staff of The Citizen read them and, if they like something, edit the article and publish it in The Citizen. The students learn their trade, the community gets to chime-in in the comments (on both sites), and Carrboro Citizen get to publish good articles written by fresh voices. Everyone wins.

You may remember last week when I told you about an article (which I like for obvious reasons – I am in it) about Carrboro Creative Coworking, and about telecommuting and coworking in general – Creative Coworking offers a new dynamic.

Just a few days later, and from what I can see minimal editing, the article is now on news-stands (as well as online – commenting allowed again) in Carrboro Citizen.

I am willing to bet that in ten years, when New York Times is either dead or changed beyond all recognition, Carrboro Citizen will still be going strong.

And here is more about Carrboro Creative Coworking:

Comments

  1. #1 llewelly
    October 12, 2008

    1) hyperlocal papers will beat the big city, state, national and international papers,

    So far, with a few exceptions, local papers are doing worse than the big nationals. These aren’t the same as ‘hyperlocal’ papers, but I’m skeptical that hyperlocal papers will do better.

    2) telling the truth instead of false equivalence will foster reader loyalty

    Speaking of which, I can’t imagine a period in the last 60 years when the false equivalence, and rampant dishonesty most of the big national newspapers have displayed in the last 10 years could have been more damaging. Only a few days ago, I was listening to an interview with newsweek (and former NYT) reporter, who out of one side of her mouth was blaming false equivalence on the failure of science-interested folk to ‘vote with their subscriptions’ , and out of the other side of her mouth, blaming poor science reporting on the limited resources caused by, er, falling subscriptions. Maybe, just maybe, these things are related? Perhaps?

  2. #2 llewelly
    October 12, 2008

    My apologies. I accidentally posted the wrong draft of my comment. Here is what I intended to post:

    2) telling the truth instead of false equivalence will foster reader loyalty

    Speaking of which, I can’t imagine a period in the last 60 years when the false equivalence, and rampant dishonesty most of the big national newspapers have displayed in the last 10 years could have been more damaging. Only a week ago, I was listening to an interview with otherwise intelligent newsweek (and former NYT) reporter Sharon Begley (skepticast 9/24, I seem to recall), who out of one side of her mouth was blaming false equivalence on the failure of science-interested folk to ‘vote with their subscriptions’ , and out of the other side of her mouth, blaming poor science reporting on the limited resources caused by, er, falling subscriptions. Maybe, just maybe, these things are related? Perhaps? At least Begley was honest enough to admit the press could not be counted on to be skeptical. But on the whole the interview was full of lame excuses, pretending most reporters where genuinely interested in doing a good job, and pretending the press’s love affair with delusion was somehow not related to their collapsing financial fortunes. She even brought up the old argument that traditional news needed to report crap because it was an entertainment business. Do they not realize that (a) they can’t hope to compete with the dedicated celebrity-watching mags, rags, and bloggers, and (b) they can’t hope to compete with the pure fantasy reporters like Weekly World News either?

    Unfortunately – outside of peer-reviewed journals and press releases (what a combination?) I have to wonder where alternative news sources will get news as the traditional press collapses? Begley, despite all the nonsensical beliefs in her interview, at least realizes that many people rely on traditional news sources without realizing it. Maybe rags with dedicated political agendas, like Mother Jones and The Nation will expand to fill the role the traditional news did? I don’t see hyperlocal papers fulfilling it; most of what bloggers and others rely on traditional news for is not local news.

    But maybe traditional news is waking up. Several traditional news outlets have figured out that their decade-long love-affair with McCain was a bad, bad thing, and they’ve ended it, although they’ve not yet admitted the grotesque favoritism they showered on him for so long.

  3. #3 yogi-one
    October 13, 2008

    Newspapers got co-opted by the “Republicans-are-good-for-business” meme. Thus, no matter how good the Democratic candidate is, no matter how many screw ups, funny-money misadventures, and favors-for-legislation scandals the GOP candidate suffers from the newspapers will always recommend a GOP ticket at election time.

    I saw this with my hometown paper the in 2006. Anyone living here in 2006 new the mood of the town was that people were very disappointed with the GOP. Scandal after scandal, the failed Iraq boondoggle, the failure of the Bush administration on all fronts had left a bad taste in voters mouths. The paper itself had printed many critical editorials.

    So what was their endorsement in the 2006 elections? A straight GOP ticket. No kidding, not a single Dem on the whole thing, from district right up through federal level.

    This was not reflective of their readership, of the city/region as a whole, and probably not of their employees either. In fact, it wasn’t even consistent with their own political editorials. The public voted overwhelmingly Democratic in the elections.

    Why? Because the common wisdom was the Republicans are good for business. The CEO had obviously decided to believe the meme, regardless of any conflicting real fact-based evidence.

    I wrote them a very sharp letter rebuking their behavior, and I have a feeling I was not nearly the only one.

    We shall see how they do this time. If they come down with a straight GOP recommendation this time, they will have lost all cred.

    We are all seeing how good Republicans are for business. They ruined the market, are going to rape the taxpayer (yet again) to bail out the fat cats who got us into that mess, bogged the country down in a totally unnecessary and economy-draining war (after lying to us about the justification for starting that war), and are now trying – on purpose – to whip up racial prejudice and hate to use as political tools. They have brought unprecedented levels of secrecy to what is supposed to be an open government, had many of their top leaders indicted for abusing the powers of their offices for political ends, and presided over the biggest ballooning of debt and financial instability this country has seen since the Great Depression.

    I won’t begin to go into how many Republican business owners have seen their businesses lose profitability, how many GOP voters with good jobs who have lost them in traditionally strong industries (such as home-building).

    I would not be surprised to see them vote against their own interests once again because they want to believe, even contrary to overwhelming fact-based evidence, the old worn-out meme. Even after having their own individual careers ruined by their party of choice.

    The power of human denial to override and short circuit intelligence and common sense should never be under-estimated. You could probably propagandize people into voting to have themselves executed without any due process if you kept up the propaganda blitz long enough.

    They are not going to revive a strong subscription base as long as voters believe that the newspaper itself is part of the problem.

    And that’s exactly what a lot of readers think nowadays.

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