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The oncoming death of local news

By DJ Kelly January 29, 2009

Also available on the Calgary Herald’s Q.

This article by James Warren proves to be a very interesting read for those of us that like to complain there is so little local arts coverage in the Herald or Sun. (Or even those that like to complain there is not enough local coverage period.)

Newspapers are slowly dying because people are getting their news from the internet whether we like it or not. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It’s what I do. I read all my news online for free, usually via RSS; that’s how I find out what is going on – and quickly. Am I part of the problem? Is it the paper’s fault for having an outdated business model?

Maybe. Either way, it’s a reality. It’s happening and it’s going to keep getting worse.

But the big question that has been plaguing me for months is: What does this mean for local content?

Sure the Herald and Sun are trying to save their papers and cut costs, but the only way to do that is to centralize more of their work and streamline. The Calgary Sun for example had already moved the responsibility for the layout of the paper to Toronto. Recently the Edmonton Sun replaced their editor-in-chief with the editor-in-chief of the Calgary Sun, who is now doing double duty. We in the arts already are aware of the trials of getting an article into the one of the papers. Celeb focused stories straight off the news wire are always going to be less expensive than employing a flesh and blood writer to research and write specifically for that papers audience. The Herald only has two writers who have to write 365 days worth of performing arts articles. The Sun doesn’t even really have an Entrainment section – showbiz news/movie Friday hardly counts.

Even hyper-local weeklies are being hit. FFWD in Calgary has gotten thinner and thinner and I’ve been told in the past by a former editor the number of arts stories published all depends on how many pages of advertising are sold. I lost count of the number of stories in a year that they went through the trouble of sending a writer to an interview only to never actually publish the article because there was no room in that week’s paper. And in a world of instant news it certainly isn’t timely enough to leave for another week when the demands were equally as tight.

Yahoo News, CNN and others (including AP and Reuters) can produce content at a fraction of the price a local paper can because they can sell it to many papers or have readers from across the country read the articles. But does anyone other than a Calgarian care about a puppet festival going on downtown? How will that news ever make it to the front page of CNN? It won’t.

How do we fix this? How will we stay connected to local events once the local papers die? Are bloggers the right group to pick up the baton and make it all accessible?

And yes I’m aware of the irony I read this Atlantic article online after someone on Twitter pointing it out to me, and no I don’t anticipate buying a hard copy. I am the future – deal with me! (Seriously, how do we deal with people like me? We have to find a way.)

  • Anonymous

    The Sun has shared pages and sections, but the responsibility for layout of the paper, specifically sports and news, has not shifted to Toronto.

  • Anonymous

    The Sun has shared pages and sections, but the responsibility for layout of the paper, specifically sports and news, has not shifted to Toronto.