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On a mailing list on the future of journalism that I’m a member of, a person recently sent an email about this article on DailyKos about where people get their sources for diaries on DailyKos.

Kos notes that less than 20% of the primary sources are from newspapers.  Other important sources include Advocacy organizations, Political trade press, Government, and campaigns.  This seems to reinforce the idea of blogs, at least DailyKos is an echo chamber repeating what they’ve heard from groups trying to push out their message.

Another stereotype of bloggers is that many of them are people that sit at home typing on their computers, but don’t actually get out and do primary research or get involved in local politics.  Aspects of this criticism comes out in the comments to Kos’ post.

The first comment, which was also the most highly rated comment observed,

"the thing about newspapers is they have reporters that go to the city council meetings, the school board meetings, the planning commission meetings, the high school sports events, the church easter egg hunt.  That is what we will be losing out on, that local coverage that doesn't come from alternative media.  It is that mundane stuff that affects people's lives more than ever changing cable news and blog chatter.

This generated a great discussion.  People noted that a lot of local newspapers do really poor jobs of covering local news, and small towns often never have anyone covering important meetings.

One person noted,

It's one thing to go to the meetings. It's another to read the agendas and build contacts between you and the councilors and other government types.

It's a huge time investment to do it right. It's a lot more than just an afternoon trip to an hour-long meeting.

Yet this is what local elected officials do.  If we want to have an effect, we need to spend the time reading the minutes and agendas of local meetings.  We need to spend the time getting to know our local elected officials and having meaningful discussions about what is best for our communities.  If we had more bloggers doing this, it would go a long way to dispel the notion of bloggers are armchair critics that never really get anything done.

So, what are you going to do to improve government and the local coverage of it in your area?

Originally posted to aldon on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:41 AM PDT.

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Poll

How often do you go to local meetings and report on them?

16%5 votes
16%5 votes
22%7 votes
32%10 votes
9%3 votes
3%1 votes

| 31 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Comments? Tips? (13+ / 0-)

    Links to good local coverage by folks here are greatly appreciated.

  •  I can fooly state (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    benny05

    that the Church of ineffable stupidity gets its sources from pretty much everywhere. our sermons simply write themselves, more often than not.

    Newspapers are a good start, but the intertubes provide far greater fodder and mudder.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:46:40 AM PDT

  •  well (0+ / 0-)

    it is becoming easier then ever to tell where someone is getting their information by their argument.

    the internet while offering the point of view of the established media also offers the truth.

    newspapers have always operated as a means of controlling the readers point of view.

    editorials and outright censoring by omitting parts of the story they report on, for example, is always part of their efferts.
    like fox news who has takin it even a step further by lying and calling it the "news", they were bound to fail as the younger generation was exposed to the internet.

    i for one cant wait till the day till newspapers go away.
    i realize there are many small papers with integrity and i hope the people will support them.
    but i see no lose in the ANY establishment newspaper going under asap.

    "but I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers. still crazy after all these years".....

    by JadeZ on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 07:54:43 AM PDT

    •  that is a problem. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Citizen, Dr Teeth

      self-fulfilling  research works OK in the law, but if you miss the really big issues that are against you, you end up with egg on your face.

      On the intertubes, there is no judge or moderator.  Even worse, rumors can go viral, and replace actual facts.

      What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

      by agnostic on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:02:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I did it for years... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aldon, Dr Teeth, realityworld

    ...but recently resigned, partly out of frustration, partly out of wanting to spend more time with my 10 year old.  Now most meetings are televised on our local government channel, if I want to to remain informed.  The personal relationships won't be there but frankly my 10 year old is more important.

    Oh, there you are, Perry. -Phineas -SLB-

    by boran2 on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:01:17 AM PDT

    •  Government Access Television (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      boran2, benny05, Dr Teeth

      Currently, my only official roles in our local government, besides being a member of my town Democratic Committee is serving on the Government Access Television committee and as the First Selectman's representative to the Public Access Third Party Provider.

      Government Access is very important, yet it is constantly being challenged by the cable companies and we need to fight hard to keep it.

      That said, I would strongly encourage people to watch their local government access channels are write blog posts and diaries about what they see there.

      Ideally, I hope to do a public access television show sometime about key parts of recent meetings on Government Access.

      I've also heard of various Democratic and progressive organizations looking at setting up their own public access shows.

      It is a great way to reach people that don't spend a lot of time online.

  •  The local papers around here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aldon, MKSinSA, Dr Teeth

    actually do a pretty good job of covering all the meetings.  One aspect that I feel gets overlooked is the difference between urban and rural.  Yes, in a major urban area you're very likely to have a number of people who have the time, the inclination, and the ability to focus on an aspect of government to do investigative reporting.  In a rural area, you might have one or two people per county - if that.  For me to attend a county supervisor's meeting is a 60 mile round trip.  To go to a meeting that impacts the region?  It's a 150 mile round trip.  To find out what's being discussed in the next town over, which might have an impact on this town is a 44 mile trip.  It's not a case of hop on the bus, or take a quick trip down to city hall.  

    Then there's the problem of getting people to read my blog - and trust my coverage.  What seems to be getting proposed is the equivalent of a newspaper, with coverage in one place, except instead of reporters, we have bloggers.   To be honest, bloggers have not yet developed the mechanisms and standards we expect from journalists.   The element of "I'm reporting what happened" isn't there yet, at least in the public's mind.  

    I think that I have had enough of you telling me how things will be. Today I choose a new way to go ... and it goes through you!

    by Norbrook on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:16:51 AM PDT

    •  Urban, Rural and Suburban (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      benny05, Dr Teeth

      In my case, I live in a relatively small town, population around 10,000.  So, we don't have a town newspaper.  However, there are a couple of weeklies that cover events in our town, and we are near a larger city that still has a daily paper, so if something really big is going on in town, it gets covered there.

      More importantly, it is only a few miles to town hall so covering events is pretty easy.

      As to establishing credibility, I tend to think it happens more on a blog by blog basis, as opposed to trusting 'bloggers' as a whole.  After all, bloggers are a very large and diverse group.

      That said, I often encourage bloggers to subscribe to the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics, take the Poynter course on legal issues for online reporting and perhaps even take courses organized by Investigative Reporters and Editors, which now accepts bloggers as members.

      I'll be writing more about this in a follow-up blog post on my blog, Orient Lodge, later.

      •  Well, there's a definition problem right there! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MKSinSA, Dr Teeth

        You consider a town of 10,000 "relatively small".  I live in a county where the total population is under 7000 people, and the land area is around 1800 square miles.  

        I think that I have had enough of you telling me how things will be. Today I choose a new way to go ... and it goes through you!

        by Norbrook on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:28:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The definition problem (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          benny05, Dr Teeth

          Yet making it a dichotomy between Urban and Rural compounds the definition problem.  Calling a municipality 'urban' that has under 10,000 people might resonate in your county, but I suspect that in large parts of the country, a municipality with less than 10,000 people is rarely considered urban.

          That is why I brought up the additional gradation of suburban.  With that, it is probably worth it to consider exurban demographics as well when looking at different forms of media consumption.

  •  Neighborhood Organizations as a model (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cardinal, Eloise, Dr Teeth

    In Austin, Tx, from about the late '60s into the '80s and '90s, a movement composed of neighborhood organizations formed the backbone of a progressive coalition that elected majorities to the City Council beginning in the mid '80s.  THe genesis of this was partly in a disaffection with the local newspaper, the Austin-American Statesman and the TV stations.  What resulted was a person to person networking mechanism.

    The further away from the center of things, the more you depended on the media for information about what was going on and the less likely you were to vote.

    Networking in the old fashioned sense was based on a natural desire to maintain contact directly or through others that did.  That is the basis of all civic organizations.  

    What that says, in the internet era, is that the reliance on newspapers or TV reporters as information gathering specialists has to evolve towards a social system in which more people take on the role of being participants in the effort to figure out what is going on and foster dialogue about it.  The skills needed are there, largely.  The social conventions around the purpose still need to develop.  

    We are still arguing about the role of specialists instead of figuring out how to act as citizens.  

    There are some situations where interpreting the inner workings of a complex circumstance might involve more skill and a deeper involvement than the casual meeting-goer might have.  Usually, however there are a few people who do have perspective.

    The issue of expertise is problematic.  If you are a participant with real experience and really have a sense of the truth of things, you watch the coverage and realize that reporters don't usually have enough knowledge to be equal to the circumstance.  

    Reporters who get too close to what is happening may also get reassigned or may even get fired, because the organization has vested interests.  

    Citizens who do not have vested interests may have a better chance of sustaining an effort to get to the heart of the matter, even if they run the risk of becoming the target of a lawsuit.  

    Objectivity may be problematic, but sometimes it is a mask for avoiding the truth when it might conflict with advertising or financially powerful interests.  

    There is no prescription that can be formulated for what is needed.  But my sense, having watched the rise of the progressive coalition in this one city is that organically, citizens need some way of obtaining information rich enough to actually base serious decisions on and they will find a way to get it.

    Locally, organizations that offer the prospect of face to face information and experience sharing may supercede any news dissemination technology.  

    Blogging may however, evolve into a basic source of dialogue at regional or national levels.  News gathering specialists will be more and more important beyond local circumstances, especially where it takes experience and skill to find real sources.  THe question is how careers can be supported.  

    It may be that we need to look at better funding for public entities like NPR and PBS, or maybe even newspapers on the UK Independent model.

  •  I'm as big a blog (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aldon

    triumphalist as any mass comm scholar could be -- but I don't see them as being anywhere near ready to take the place of newspapers' coverage of local issues.  The unpredictability and capriciousness of volunteer, hobbyist city council reporters or document-dump readers is no substitute for full-time professional reporters.

    My only hope at this point is that the train wreck of uselessness we call Local TV "News" will improve as former newspaper readers rely on it, and as some of the better unemployed newspaper reporters bring their sense of news judgment to the TV studio.  But I'm not particularly optimistic about that.

    Lou Dobbs makes me puke tears of blood (and not the good kind).

    by cardinal on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 08:49:28 AM PDT

    •  The role of blogs... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cardinal

      I think, if we avoid thinking of the local media landscape in terms of 'either-or', we may find a much better role for local blogging.

      If bloggers step up to the plate and cover aspects of local meetings that local papers are missing, it does a couple things.

      First, and most immediately, it fills in the gaps.  We can, and should, do this right now, without local papers going away.

      Not only does it fill in the gaps, but, when done well, it raises the bar for local newspapers.  It challenges them to provide better coverage of local events.

      In both cases, we are all better off when bloggers step up and cover what matters to them, that isn't currently being covered by local papers.

  •  A real jouralist has a beat (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aldon, borges

    When you start working for a paper, you are assigned a beat.  Your job is to stay on top of maybe a school board and some department.  You have to submit an article frequently, though must probably won't be printed.

    I would very much like to see a blogging community form around journalistic principles.  It would mean bloggers would need to be willing to follow up with people directly.  If you can't confirm a fact, then you have to avoid stating it as one.  If you are going to refer to a study, you have to take the time to see how well accepted that study is.

    I read at least a 100 lies on the internet a day.  Some are opinions spun as fact, some are retold lies from a poorly researched source, and some are taken out of context from a valid source.  Blogging has its place, but I think it is a far stretch from journalism.

    •  The Blogging Beat (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tmo, borges, Dr Teeth

      First, let me comment about blogging being a far stretch from journalism.  I think that is an overly broad generalization.  Yes, much blogging has little to do with journalism.  Yet some blogging is much more journalistic than what we find in many local papers.

      As to having a beat, I highly recommend that bloggers find a beat that resonates with them.  As an example, I try to cover local board of education meetings regularly.  In my town, they happen once a month.  I've gotten to know the board members and talk with them regularly both before and after meetings as well as in between meetings.  I would love to see more bloggers doing this.

      •  Many years ago (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aldon

        When I considered myself a blogger, one big thing I would do was to share research with other bloggers.  Instead of trying to know everything, we had mailing lists set up for different subjects we had put some time into researching.  Another good resource was we also included book summaries in the mailing list.  So if you needed some depth on a subject, you could easily see if a book might contain some useful information.

        There were only about a dozen people on the list, but it made blogging far easier.  I have thought of trying to set up something similar with a wiki concept.  The problem is that you really need bloggers you can trust will do their fair share of homework.

        •  Blogger News Wires (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dr Teeth

          Mailing lists where bloggers share ideas and information are invaluable.  Recently, I set up a new list here in Connecticut.  

          In our state, we have 115 State Agencies, 169 municipalities, 151 State Representatives, 36 State Senators, and many advocacy organizations.

          It can be hard for bloggers to find the communications directors, public information officers and external affairs officers for all these sources, so I've set up a Google Group, CTNewsWire, where I've been encouraging communications directors to send their press releases and media advisories.  I've been encouraging bloggers to subscribe to this as a source for information.

          The reaction I've gotten from communications directors has been very positive.  They've been frustrated that as local papers shed staff, they have less people to send their releases too, and it can be hard to find bloggers to send releases to.

          So, this has helped both bloggers and communications directors and is being emulated in other states.

          I'd encourage each of you to look at setting up a similar bloggers news wire in your state.

          •  It would be nice if there was a database (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aldon

            Interestingly enough, I have been working on a piece for awhile about educational disparity in the northeast.  One of the cities I focus on is Bridgeport in your state.  They are probably going to close a few schools and layoff 30 some teachers in the coming year.  For what will probably only be a page of information, I have easily 30 pages of notes.  While most of this information would only be useful to someone covering the Bridgeport school district, there is also information about the economic, ethnic make up, and crime statistics of Bridgeport.

            It is sad that there isn't a place I can store these notes for someone, who needs to get a feel of Bridgeport for something they are writing.  Like I said there would need to be some mechanism for trusting a contributor to the database.  Maybe a random fact checking requirement for a user to maintain access to the larger database.

            •  Great idea (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dr Teeth

              One of the great advantages of the legacy media is that contextual information that reporters have.  As newspapers shed staff, that gets lost, and isn't getting replaced.

              To the extent that bloggers can find better ways of sharing context and background information, this can be ameliorated somewhat.

              I'm just not sure the best way to help something like this happen.

    •  Use to be. Ain't so much anymore. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      borges, Dr Teeth

      I've worked at a couple of newspapers. They weren't interested in quality coverage; they were interested in filling the news hole.

      I was expected to just crank out the stories - there was no time for developing in-depth coverage, building relationships, or filling in background.

      I've seen people saying "But without newspapers, there won't be any investigative journalism, and that's the lifeblood of democracy." We sure didn't see any actual investigative reporting where I was working - and from where I'm sitting, the investigative pieces published by major papers like the Times or WaPo seems pretty timid (think of all the bending-over-backward during the Bush years, including holding the Black Prisons story for a year at the Administration's request...)  

      Yes, newspapers are a good thing, but they're just one avenue for getting information, and like anything else in the capitalist system, they depend on a business model to function profitably. What we're seeing right now is the equivalent of horse-drawn buggy manufacturers railing against the automobile, instead of adapting.

      We're not ever going to return to the newspaper business as it was practiced in the '30s or '50s or even the '90s... any more than we're going to see TV return to the 3-networks days, or radio return to the era of the fireside chats. Organizations that learn to adapt will thrive. Those that don't will whine and moan and then go into receivership.

  •  Bloggers replacing daily papers, give me a break. (0+ / 0-)

    "...America can change. Our union can be perfected." President-Elect Barack Obama

    by Jack Dublin on Sun Apr 19, 2009 at 09:22:36 AM PDT

  •  A bit unfair in characterizing groups (0+ / 0-)

    While some advocacy groups are not trustworthy because of their slant on life, some do cover meetings that never make it into the press and supply that information on the web.  In WI we have issues with large animal agriculture coming in and leading to environmental problems.  The state papers do not go to or report on the WI Dept of Ag review board's decisions that affect rural communities.  

    In contrast, one advocacy group did report it, and then later followed up on further decisions.  Another group reported out on legal decisions that I used in a story and none of the info or links were in newspapers or readily on line.  Is that an echo chamber or is it getting valuable information out about the conduct of our state government boards and later litigation?

    I would suggest that just as blog is a label that spans great distances, I think all the sources they use have great breadth and various amounts of depth.  What is at issue (always on the web) is the track record of any source, and the reputation they earn in this sphere.  Much like DailyKos works on reputation and ratings, the best of the web can rise and become a valued source of information, while those that are not reliable fall by the way.

  •  used to be i could not spell elected official (0+ / 0-)

    the paper on the other side of the river does a better job of covering this county from the next state than our local repeat-republican-press-release odgen publishing rag does

    the move to get rid of the older more experienced reporters as "cost" is what hurts

    juz sayin'

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices--François-Marie Arouet

    by CA Berkeley WV on Mon Apr 20, 2009 at 10:30:35 PM PDT

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