I read a blog post on 10 things about the future of newspapers which seemed to paint a clear picture of what news can and should be like in our current age. One of the key points was that newspapers need to be focussed on items of local importance because national news is pretty well covered already. It struck me that a local orientation to a newspaper could be a very valuable tool in building a community. At times it might seem necessary to “make news.” If that were done by using slow-news days to bring a spotlight on areas of the community that often go unnoticed (like local artists, or community projects) it might help people feel connected to each other in a more meaningful way.
Among the 10 things there is a heavy emphasis on embracing many things that might otherwise be considered competition by the newspaper – search engines, and online advertisements may seem to cut into the potential revenue that is needed to run the paper. Bloggers and other amateurs of reporting might be seen as competitors to paid reporters when they could be used as allies. In the current world of publishing there are also more opportunities for publishing in a variety of media formats (text, audio, and video) and through many different means of distribution (print, rss, website, podcasting, mobile devices). These same technologies open doors to allow more participation and interaction with the audience (comment boards as well as letters to the editor, even the possibility of allowing people to submit images, audio, or video in response to what has been published) so that the newspaper is really a vehicle for discussion instead of becoming a platform for declaration.
This gets me interested in breaking Lehi away from the publishing center of Utah County. Currently we have a town section that gets published weekly by the Provo Daily Herald. With a population of 30,000 there is no reason that Lehi should not have an independent community news organization. We should have no aspirations to compete with the New York Times, or even the Daily Herald, but there is nothing to stop us from controlling our own platform for local news coverage.
I will have to write about how a Lehi community news organization might be formed, run, and financed and see if the idea is viable.