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Cracking the Local Market: It's a Great Time to be a Journalist

Chris Jennewein
By Chris Jennewein
Published: June 29, 2008 at 4:26 PM (MST)
This may sound counter-intuitive, even mis-guided, but I think we're in one of the best times to be a journalist interested in local news and politics.

We all know that traditional local media is in upheaval. Local newspapers are seeing significant declines in revenue; some are even losing money. TV and radio stations are under pressure. Internet media companies are gearing up for local forays, and startups appear almost daily.

It's tempting to think journalism is changing, but it isn't. What is changing are the traditional business models and technology. And where there is change, there is opportunity.

I think newspapers will figure out how to prosper in this new world after a period of turmoil. The "paper" part of the business may be relatively smaller, but the digital part will be much bigger. Most metro newspapers now have more online users than newspaper readers.

TV and radio will have to re-invent themselves. They will probably be more online than over-the-air, and more local than corporate. Broadcast Web sites will evolve from primarily promotional vehicles to credible news sites. Internet radio and TV will jostle with over-the-air broadcasting for audience.

This new world will be more fragmented, with a multitude of online publications in major markets. Ironically this future will appear much like the past. In 1900 there were 15 general circulation newspapers in New York City. Check out this chart from the New York Public Library. Replace those titles with modern niche publications like The Sun and popular blogs and you can create a similar list today.

Many of the emerging publications will be simple blogs. Some of those blogs will evolve and become significant news businesses in their own right. In fact, the next major online newspaper could be created on Word Press or Movable Type.

The common thread is that all of these new media entities will need journalists, especially those willing to do things differently. Traditional newspaper articles, still photography, radio reports and TV coverage will become increasingly passe. Journalists who can master short-form blog coverage and You Tube video will be in demand.

Most of this action will be local, because that's where the audience and advertising dollars are located. There's plenty of competition at the national level, but plenty of opportunity locally. So the future will be more fragmented, more local and more encouraging for journalists.

"Cracking the Local Market: The Inherent Difficulty" by Robert Niles
"Cracking the Local Market: What Suburban Weeklies Can Teach" by Tom Noonan
"Cracking the Local Market: Beyond 2.0's Wizards of Oz" by Tom Grubisich

Chris Jennewein also can be found at

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© Robert Niles. Read more in the column archive.