Local news is good, be it delivered from community members’ blogs or in hardcopy on the driveway. In this week’s edition of the local newspaper, The Alpharetta-Roswell REVUE & NEWS, the publisher wrote an opinion piece entitled “Why newspapers still matter to you.” And yes they do matter, even to a ‘net-centric person like me. The REVUE’s just about the only publication that I read through cover-to-cover as soon as it comes. It provides a relaxed look at area happenings that I may have not otherwise stumbled upon, gives me a “heads-up” about things that may affect our community, and gives parents nice, scrapbook-worthy clips about things their kids’ organizations did.
It usually does, anyway, though this article was submitted and never ran. Probably just a lack of space not already spoken-for by an advertiser (something that’s not a problem on the Internet). As Hatcher once told me, “every picture I want to include is taking the space of an ad – and pictures don’t bring in revenue.”
Ray’s point though, is that he sees newspapers as a safe “anchor,” one “with a face that can be trusted to tell the truth … that you can recognize in your grocery store.” I’ve met Ray and his managing editor, Hatcher, but I’m pretty sure the rest of his ten writers are completely nameless and faceless to me. I suppose they’re all good folks, I just don’t know why I should “trust” those ten any more or less than the dozens of bloggers who’s sites I read every day.
Ray’s company delivers newspapers to about 75,000 homes, and according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project over 5% of Americans write on a weblog. Can you imagine if 5% of the homes here in Alpharetta, Roswell and Milton contained a writer as well as a reader? We could have over 3000 more “reporters” who’s occasional local news postings could be added to what’s created by Ray’s 10-person staff. I wonder how many of them would be someone I’d recognize at the grocery store. Ray asks “How can newspapers possibly compete [with the user-created Internet]?” I don’t think he should compete, but rather find ways to work together, to become an aggregator for his local community. Hey, I could even help out with that, having helped other companies use blogs as a part of their business.
As for “the truth,” well… I believe that there’s no publisher – of a newspaper, tv or radio station, news service, website or blog that has a monopoly there. As much as I like reading the REVUE & News, I wouldn’t want to rely on it — or any single source — to be the one and only place to get information. Every story is written by a human being, and everyone — no matter what medium we’re using to express it — has a viewpoint.