I have quit watching the national and local news shows. And I don’t take the local newspapers. They are just not that informative any more. They assume I have a 2-minute attention span, the IQ of a 5th grader, and are hooked on celebrity news. Sometimes it difficult to tell the difference between the national nightly news and Entertainment Tonight (ET).
The national news likes big disasters because they are photogenic, and the local news likes fires, shooting, etc. for the same reasons. Interviewing people in pathetic situations is the latter’s staple. Both love to give unneeded publicity to people on the fringes who commit violent acts. This publicity encourages future violent malcontents and people with mental issues; it gives them their 15 minutes of fame. In some respects, the news is partially responsible for many of the personal tragedies out there because of the publicity that they provide the instigator(s).
Recently I’ve heard about three Internet efforts that have the capacity to change the news business significantly. One is a local effort called “Salt TV”. According to Vince Horiuchi of the SLTrib: “The new independent local news cooperative, launched in beta version this last week (mid-July 2010), is expected to be fully functional next month.” It involves an unimpressive list of old news warhorses.
“Salt TV” promises more indepth reporting and a return to old-style journalism. While I applaud the effort, I wish they had a better list of participants. I just don’t see Terry Wood providing a hard-hitting, indepth story, but I hope he suprises me. The individuals they have signed up are big local names, but none are really noted for their reporting skills. But even if they only highlight a more positive side of the news, I will be happy; I certainly look forward to seeing stories by Kimberly Perkins. There has to be more to the news that just drive-by shootings.
The second effort is international and involves using the Internet for the publication of allegedly classified information. This effort seems particularly noteworthy because it provides more transparency on issues that are potentially important to the public. (Too much embarrassing information is hinden under an alleged need for secrecy. ) The website–wikileaks.org–has recently received a great deal of international publicity for its release of classified US documents concerning the war in Afghanistan. (This release has been compared to Daniel Elsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers.) Wikileaks has also received some local publicity by publishing parts of the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions (1999).
Accordint to Wikipedia, “Wikileaks is an international organization, based in Sweden, that publishes anonymous submissions and leaks of sensative documents from governments and other organizations, while preserving the anonymity of their sources. Its website, launched in 2006, is run by The Sunshine Press.” The website has received a number of newsmedia awards for its reports.
The third involves the reporting of micro-local news on the Internet. As news agencies keep cutting back on staff, journalists, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens have responded by creating websites to cover the local news they feel is underreported. Hyperlocal has become a familiar buzzword. The idea is to get residents involved in the reporting local news.
Sensing the potential of niche news, the Knight Foundation, has given out roughly $20M in grants since 2006 to help nuture promising sites. Most hyperlocal sites don’t have the budget for flashy graphics or searchable databases. Their content comes from local gadflies who care about both large and small goings-on around town. Some traditional news organizations have even begun partnering with hyperlocal sites and helping train their contributors.