Wick Communications

Putting local up front

In journalism on April 6, 2012 at 9:11 am

Last week, Denver Post Editor Greg Moore announced to readers that his staff was moving local news to the fore in the city’s sole surviving daily newspaper. To which I thought: What took you so long?

The Denver Post was my hometown newspaper for many years. It always had a sort-of institutional “big newspaper” feel that was offset by its rival Rocky Mountain News. The Rocky was more likely to dedicate its first few pages to the news of the day in Denver. When the Rocky called it quits in 2009, it might have seemed as if the Post’s strategy – which included more prominent national and international news – had carried the day.

Not really.

A newspaper’s bread and butter has always been the news that is at its own doorstep. The vast majority of us can’t cover the war in Afghanistan or even the Super Bowl very well. The best we can hope to do on a big story like that is to parachute in and bring home a slice of the bigger story. But we can record the much smaller events that are many times just as important to the loyal readers who plunk down three quarters for our goods. It’s a little surprising to me that the Post is just now formally acknowledging this obvious fact by physically moving local news to the front of the paper. …

In his short piece on the change, Westword writer Michael Roberts points his readers to his own 2002 interview with then-Rocky Editor John Temple (who landed at the Washington Post.) In that 10-year-old piece, Temple makes a very eloquent case for a general interest newspaper that puts the needs of its readers front and center. Here’s what he says:

“… What I’m trying to do is to make a newspaper that really connects with people. A newspaper is like a city: It has many neighborhoods and all kinds of aspects to it. And when a newspaper’s at its best, it can be really important parts of readers’ lives, and people will find real value in it. I think newspapers can survive a long time if they do that. If they don’t, I don’t blame people for turning away.”

I like the image of a newspaper as a city. Local news is what happens on Main Street in that city. I would make that your primary neighborhood.

Clay

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