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Ideas still flowing on how to save local news

News of layoffs and downsizing are common these days, the latest instance the Bay Area News Group that owns the San Jose Mercury News and several local Bay Area newspapers. Management claimed that layoffs were necessary to maintain the company’s profitability. The layoffs left the company with no K-12, higher education or health reporters, reduced coverage of city hall and no coverage for many smaller communities and neighborhoods. (sanjoseinside, February 9. 2018, by Jennifer Wadsworth)

Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times, February 7, 2018, suggests that local news enterprises can survive by shifting the main burden from ads to subscriptions. First writes Manjoo, “Have your reporters cover stuff that no one else is covering, and let them ignore stuff that everyone else is covering. Don’t do movie reviews, stock market analysis, Super Bowl coverage or anything else that isn’t local. Instead, emphasize coverage that’s actionable, that residents deem necessary and valuable for short- and long-term planning — especially an obsessive focus on housing and development, transportation, education and local politics. Package it all in a form that commands daily attention — probably a morning email newsletter — and sprinkle it with a sense of community, like offline and online networking events for readers.” Then charge $5 to $10 a month or more for access.

In the meantime, Google is trying a new app that allows citizens to use their phones to create news stories at the local town and neighborhood level. (Slate, January 26, 2018, by Will Oremus)

Columbia University researchers produced eight strategies for rescuing the home town newspaper. The strategies include focusing solely on original local news to the exclusion of national and international news and doing a few things in depth rather than covering a wide range of topics superficially. (Columbia Journalism Review, November 6, 2017, by Christopher Ali and Damian Radcliffe)

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