Via the Times Opinionator blog Steven Berlin Johnson opines (during a speech at SXSW) on how the Internet actually allows for the sort of comprehensive, local reporting it it tough to find in large newspapers.
When people talk about the civic damage that a community suffers by losing its newspaper, one of the key things that people point to is the loss of local news coverage. But I suspect in ten years, when we look back at traditional local coverage, it will look much more like MacWorld circa 1987. I adore the City section of the New York Times, but every Sunday when I pick it up, there are only three or four stories in the whole section that I find interesting or relevant to my life — out of probably twenty stories total. And yet every week in my neighborhood there are easily twenty stories that I would be interested in reading…The New York Times can’t cover those things in a print paper not because of some journalistic failing on their part, but rather because the economics are all wrong…We’ve never thought of it as a failing of the newspaper that its metro section didn’t report on a deli closing, because it wasn’t even conceivable that a big centralized paper could cover an event with such a small radius of interest.
But of course, that’s what the web can do. That’s one of the main reasons we created outside.in, because I found myself waking up in the morning and turning to local Brooklyn bloggers like Brownstoner, who were suddenly covering local news with a granularity that the Times had never attempted…The Times itself is now launching local Brooklyn blogs, which is great. As we get better at organizing all that content — both by selecting the best of it, and by sorting it geographically — our standards about what constitutes good local coverage are going to improve. We’re going to go through the same evolution that I did from reading two-month-old news in MacWorld, to expecting an instantaneous liveblog of a keynote announcement. Five years from now, if someone gets mugged within a half mile of my house, and I don’t get an email alert about it within three hours, it will be a sign that something is broken.