Drawing lines between corporate and local news

“Media insiders have understood for decades that newspapers weren’t dying — they were being murdered. Now we’re finally saying it out loud.”

We’re getting better at explaining just how catastrophic the corporate takeover of newspapers in America has been. Media insiders have understood for decades that newspapers weren’t dying — they were being murdered. Now we’re finally saying it out loud, and in ways that make sense to the general public. It’s a significant improvement from sounding like (or even believing) we’re all on borrowed time.

It’s great that we’re able to better convey this to news consumers and advertising partners or donors. But does it matter? Is it too late? What will the impact of this messaging look like?

Well, within the news business, it looks like individual reinvestment. Expats from corporate outlets buying small, community newspapers, or whole chains thereof. Start-ups in news deserts — or, more specifically, start-ups that target communities that have never been well served by legacy publications. Seasoned reporters jumping aboard online outlets with local focus and national funding support. And, perhaps most critically, collaboration across these formats where there once was competition — a tug of war that was waged by journalists but also only perceived by those journalists, not the communities they served. Iron sharpens iron and competition for scoops can be great, yes, but it’s almost always been the opposite in recent years as outlets scrambled to do more online with fewer journalists.

As a community paper publisher in a rural area, I’ve spent years combatting the perception that small pubs and local journalists are somehow lesser than the big guys. On the contrary, they are the builders of trust at grassroots levels, paving the way for a renewed appreciation for quality journalism.

Tony Baranowski is the director of local media for Times Citizen Communications in Iowa Falls, Iowa.

We’re getting better at explaining just how catastrophic the corporate takeover of newspapers in America has been. Media insiders have understood for decades that newspapers weren’t dying — they were being murdered. Now we’re finally saying it out loud, and in ways that make sense to the general public. It’s a significant improvement from sounding like (or even believing) we’re all on borrowed time.

It’s great that we’re able to better convey this to news consumers and advertising partners or donors. But does it matter? Is it too late? What will the impact of this messaging look like?

Well, within the news business, it looks like individual reinvestment. Expats from corporate outlets buying small, community newspapers, or whole chains thereof. Start-ups in news deserts — or, more specifically, start-ups that target communities that have never been well served by legacy publications. Seasoned reporters jumping aboard online outlets with local focus and national funding support. And, perhaps most critically, collaboration across these formats where there once was competition — a tug of war that was waged by journalists but also only perceived by those journalists, not the communities they served. Iron sharpens iron and competition for scoops can be great, yes, but it’s almost always been the opposite in recent years as outlets scrambled to do more online with fewer journalists.

As a community paper publisher in a rural area, I’ve spent years combatting the perception that small pubs and local journalists are somehow lesser than the big guys. On the contrary, they are the builders of trust at grassroots levels, paving the way for a renewed appreciation for quality journalism.

Tony Baranowski is the director of local media for Times Citizen Communications in Iowa Falls, Iowa.

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