Local News Is In A Hidden Golden Age
New Haven Independent, May 23, 2019
By CCM staff
What is a city without its newspaper? That is the question that the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities tried to find an answer for on this week’s episode of The Municipal Voice.
In studio with us were Doug Hardy, the Publisher and business manager of CTNewsJunkie, and Paul Bass, Publisher of the New Haven Independent, to talk about the state of journalism in Connecticut.
If you read the reports, such as a study from the Columbia Journalism Review in Spring of 2017 that found that most people live in “news deserts,” or areas without a local daily newspaper, then you might think the outlook is dour.
Bass has an answer for that: “If you report on funeral homes, you think everyone is dying.” According to him, there are hundreds of new ideas being born every day. New ideas like spurning the traditional approach to both journalism and advertising.
According to Hardy, despite a 24/7 news cycle of running a media outlet in 2019, there are benefits.
“People flock to credibility,” he said, citing Christine Stuart, his wife, as an example of a journalist who built up that trust and built an audience around good, solid journalism as opposed to propping up a newspaper around advertising.
Next wave of journalism back to top
This speaks to what Bass say is going to be the next great wave of journalism: the paywall model. Although he says he’s not going to be a part of it, people have become accustomed to paying for things online. The New York Times for instance has hit many targeted milestones for subscribing customers, which will allow them to continue publishing great journalism.
As a for instance, he used Oakland, which has insufficient city hall coverage for a city of its size and population: “Pretty soon to get four good reporters in Oakland, you’re gonna need only 4000 people to pay 10 dollars a month.”
That coverage is important for towns. Hardy cited a report from ProPublica that said that towns without local news coverage see costs going up. But also that “coverage of a good school system is the best single thing you can get as a town,” continuing “People are lining up to buy homes in towns with top notch school systems.”
Because of social media, there’s a revolution of politicians who themselves are becoming news sources. Bass highlighted Hamden saying, “I watch Curt Leng, the mayor of Hamden; when there’s a storm, he’s out there showing what’s being done, getting information to thousands of people.”
While both agreed that this is not a substitute for authoritative news, it shows that enterprising politicians can effectively reach out to their constituents. The constituents might not always agree, but as Hardy says, it’s in their interests to engage with people who don’t agree with them.
It may be hard to look at the news industry and see a golden age, but that’s what Hardy and Bass have done. Those that cover the industry might only see large buyouts and bankruptcies and layoffs, but for every large company there is a CT News Junkie or New Haven Independent in its wake.