Many of you are aware that the El Paso Times is up for sale. You also know that I am highly critical of the influence that Bob Moore has over what the paper reports and what it ignores. Because of that, I have had many conversations with many individuals about the news media in general, what the Internet has done to it and what the future may look like. Interspersed in those discussions is the challenge that I launch a news media vehicle that embraces what I believe the news media should be like. The fact is that I have attempted to do just that, many times and every time coming up short because of the lack of money to pay for quality reporting. As a matter of fact, my blog started out as one of those attempts. When I found myself writing the majority of the pieces it morphed into my blog.
The Internet has changed news delivery radically. It is my belief that the giant media conglomerates have come to dominate the international, national, sports and glamour news cycles. I do not see anyone capable of taking any market share on those topics. However, there is a significant hole that is ripe for the taking – the local news.
The problem is that most news stations and newspapers are still working in an analog world trying to deliver the traditional mix of international, national, sports and weather information along with local news features. Most individuals who are interested in news have already been informed about most news events across the globe through the Internet, either directly or indirectly. Those interested in sports are unlikely to rely on the local news sources for updates on their favorite teams. There are just too many online sports news to give a local source any opportunity to compete.
I realize that some media consultants continue to tout the weather as a source of eyeballs but I question the basis of their analysis because frankly those who rely on the local news for weather are rare and unlikely to be around for much longer. The weather is too much in flux to ignore more current and more reliable sources than the local weather news stations.
In trying to remain analog the news media outlets waste too much of their meager resources and are therefore missing the opportunity to remain relevant in today’s news delivery. The single most important thing that local news providers can deliver is locally sourced and locally focused in depth reporting on the local issues of the markets they serve. Rather than expand resources delivering the smorgasbord of news delivered under the previous scheme news outlets should instead provide in depth reports on local issues of the communities they serve.
Unfortunately, they cannot do that because their Achilles’ heel is the advertising monies they rely on to pay the overhead. As long as advertising is the revenue source then the news media will continue to fail.
If I had the resources, I would create a news center delivering news through a holistic and integrated approach. The first part of the delivery vehicle would be the reporter that would be tasked with not only understanding the local community they report on but would be given the resources to create in depth reports on topical issues of the community. They would be known the open records king or queen in the community they operate on.
The reporter would have the latitude and the support to spend as much time as necessary in investigation and research. Once the report was ready for publication the report would be published via multimedia vehicles each supporting and expanding on the complexity of the report. An online hyperlinked in depth report would provide the full scope of the research. That would be followed with 30-second sound bites via direct delivery through social media and smart devices directly to the readership. The 30-second bites would direct those interested in the topic to a longer podcast that could be viewed at the receiver’s leisure.
The podcast would not try to provide the full in depth report but would rather provide the executive summary of the results of the investigations with the appropriate hyperlinks to the sourced materials and the complete report. The source materials would be the video and voice interviews of the sources and links to the supporting documentation in its raw forms for those interested in understanding the bias of the reporter or the veracity of the information presented.
Different individuals understand and process information differently and thus infographics would also be used to condense complex information down so that the results could be further shared with a larger audience.
In essence, the print, the television and online news delivery would be merged into one vehicle delivering the news to the viewer in the format they are most comfortable in and at the time most convenient to them. The news cycle would evolve away from delivering news in sound bites at a specific time each day to delivering news as it becomes available to the reader at their convenience.
In many ways, the overhead for such a vehicle would decrease significantly when compared to the current way news is delivered while increasing the quality of the news. So what is the problem?
The problem is that quality reporters demand a quality wage to devote the time necessary to create in depth reports and this need for money collides directly with the interests of those that could afford to fund this type of endeavor. Quality in depth reporting eventually exposes the things that moneyed peoples aren’t interested in letting the others know about and thus this type of news vehicle could never exist.
However, it is not entirely bleak. As the news media continues to evolve, there are many intelligent reporters who want to continue reporting that are looking for a vehicle from which to do it from. Eventually they will realize that the not-for-profit tools being attempted right now are just as beholden as their corporate brethren are and thus are not sustainable in the long run.
For their part, the readerships are now demanding more from their news outlets as the Internet continues to fundamentally change the news landscape. The demand continues to grow for local news and the outlets continue to diminish. Thus, the void continues to grow.
Eventually, I believe that some of the professional reporters will band together and build a news outlet for the love of the news rather than for the promise of a paycheck. If the Internet has taught us anything is that it is a disruptive vehicle for the old and tried ways of doing things. I believe that although it will be a long and tedious process of little to no income eventually the readership of a news outlet, such as the one I envision, will engage the readership significantly to the point that the entity would be self-funded by the readership that would be devouring the local news outlet.
Wikipedia is a prime example of a crowd-sourced vehicle funded by the consumers of its product. You will notice that Wikipedia does not rely on advertising and thus is free to focus on what it does best.
I stand ready to provide a vehicle to the news reporter who wishes to be part of the future of delivering the news. It would only take a little faith and understanding that what the future of news delivery is, is focused in depth reporting on local issues that many consumers are so separately looking for.